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Pasquale Cardinale

Get out of my way

A few months back Greg, one of our founding partners, asked me what I thought was one of the more exciting moments of being a branding designer. Take a look at our conversation here.  For me, the most exciting moment is when everything comes together. The creative turning point.

It can happen at any time. When you find that perfect image, or that impeccable italic font, or when you expertly master that Bezier curve. It sets everything in motion. It becomes a brand. And that’s exciting. It’s when I turn a blank piece of paper (or computer screen) into a brand.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. Take another look at the video. The first 20 seconds. Did you catch it? Those were gremlins I was talking about. Ugh. They are dreadful. They are the self-doubt, the frustration: those are gremlins. Actually, they are my gremlins. And they are pleased to meet you. Here, let me give you the expert definition of a gremlin from Rick Carson’s “Taming Your Gremlin.”

“Your gremlin is the narrator in your head. He has influenced you since you came into this world, and he accompanies you throughout your entire existence. He’s with you when you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night. He tells you who and how you are, and he defines and interprets your every experience. He wants you to accept his interpretations as reality, and his goal… is to squelch the natural, vibrant you within.”

We all have gremlins. They’re always there. And as part of the creative process they get in the way. Our gremlins are constantly yelling in our ears. They make us second guess our decisions, challenge our talents. It’s a constant battle. No, gremlin, I’m not the worst designer in the world. No, this color is not “so 2009.” Well, yes, these jeans are a little tight, but that’s the style and no, they do NOT affect my creativity!

As a designer there is a constant inner dialogue that’s happening that can hold us back from our own creativity. We displace time and creative energy when we battle our gremlins. They taunt us, invoke fear, break down our confidence, and even sometimes inflate our egos. Instead of working through creative problems with a clear mind, we’re self-doubting every decision. So how can we “tame our gremlins” so we can allow are true talents and creativity shine?

Here’s my take on how to tame your gremlins:

  1. Be aware of your gremlins. Get to know their motives.
  2. Take a break and breathe.
  3. Experience your emotions. If you’re scared, be scared; mad, be mad.
  4. Understand you have choices. You’re in control. Not your gremlin.
  5. Make a change. Try different tactics in responding to your inner dialogue.
  6. Visualize your concerns. If you miss a deadline, what really happens? The world won’t implode.
  7. Repeat steps 1-6. This process is ongoing and never-ending.


If you don’t learn how to deal with your gremlin, he will have control and you’ll be limiting your potential. When you become the master of your gremlin you’ll increase your satisfaction and fulfillment. Work will be much more enjoyable. So go on, introduce yourself to your gremlin. Although, he probably won’t be very pleased to meet you. He just lost control.