Boost Your Creative Brainpower

Searching for inspiration? Here’s how four accomplished creative professionals come up with all-star ideas.

Generating ideas for new projects can seem daunting, and getting started is frequently a huge part of the battle. Feeling stuck? We talked to Gail Anderson (cofounder of Anderson Newton Design), Will Miller (partner and creative director at Firebelly Design), Andrea Pippins (founder of Fly and adjunct faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art) and Ron Thompson (cofounder of Italic Studio) about how they tackle the idea generation process. Based on a wealth of experience, here are their tips:

When it comes to idea generation, beginning is often the hardest part. How do you kick-start yourself?

Anderson: I collaborate with my partner, Joe Newton. It’s great to have someone to commiserate with. He is probably more polite than he needs to be, but it’s good to know that there’s someone there to shoot down my bad ideas as needed. We do a lot of pencil sketches and have copious notes scrawled everywhere, so we typically don’t rush to the computer right away. Both Joe and I really enjoy dissecting a project together, so it’s fun to just sit at our desks and talk about all the possibilities.

Miller: Many times, we push ahead by looking back. Past projects provide many opportunities for good ideas that began to take shape but might not have come to fruition. We also ask ourselves what we’ve seen out in the world that’s exciting — a special print process, a certain type of binding or an interaction we weren’t expecting. If it’s something of interest to the studio and makes good sense for a project, we’ll try and find a way to explore it and make it unique.

Pippins: I typically start writing down words that come to mind when thinking of the topic at hand. It’s usually in a list form or a mind map. I use those words to refine my research for inspirational imagery. I love going to the library to do research, but I also use online resources. I build private mood boards on Pinterest for projects, and collect images that I can use as inspiration and reference throughout the process. Then I start sketching. Most times, those thumbnails are scanned in and used as a base where I build the final design or illustration.

Thompson: Luckily, we don’t begin any project in a vacuum. We have a starting point that is spelled out in the client brief. After listening to our clients talk about the problem they’re trying to solve, we’ll do a deep dive with them to learn all about their industry and their product. This initial research gets us in the right frame of mind for developing our concepts, from which all other ideas and visuals will flow.

Read the rest of the interview here.

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