The creative process can sometimes feel frustrating. It can be very easy to get deterred by the task and end up wondering around in circles and over think everything until there is nothing left. The thing is, everyone has a tendency to get lost with out a map. Of course the navigation can become second nature with practice but that does not mean that there is no navigation.
I came by an article entitled Saving the Spark: Developing Creative Ideas written by Mark Boulton and published in Graphic Design in 2008. Reading this article really made me think about how I work as a designer and artist. I was already following some of the steps and others were done subconsciously but I was much more productive when I was conscious of steps Boulton lays out. The article broke down the process in a series of steps and guidelines, to making the process a bit more manageable. I re-read the article and “summarised” it. I basically added in some of my own experience as well. The article is still highly worth reading.
- Identify the “Idea Brief”. Basically one or two sentences that identify the problem/question that needs to be answered.
- It is now time to start answering the Idea Brief. This process takes time and plenty of work so please allow yourself that. A very effective way to do this is through a Brainstorming Session. Keep in mind, at this stage the more ideas you get out the better it is. The point is to get as many ideas out on the table as possible so that you have plenty of things to consider and play with. Depending on what you are working on and how you work best you may opt to write down the ideas or record them. If you are working alone (for a school project or something) be sure to document everything that comes comes to your mind. If you are working within a team setting or for a client, it is important to make sure the team dynamic is benefiting the project instead of against the common goal, namely coming up with the best solution. Boulton suggests the following elements to be crucial in a successful and productive Brainstorming Session. The following can also be helpful when working by yourself as well.
- The project team (unless you are working alone on your own project): Having the key stake holders (the client) as part of the initial Brainstorming Session is important as they are more likely to receptive to future developments and also because you can weed out ideas that don’t work for them earlier on in the game.
- A Good Facilitator: An impartial person who is trained in creative facilitation should be a part of the Brainstorming Session. They are basically in charge of ensuring that the conversation and development progress goes smoothly and in a timely fashion while giving everyone a chance to speak up.
- A Running Order: To keep everything on track. The running order is a check list and guideline of sorts for the facilitators. An example of one is:
- Attendees introductions / ice-breaker: To help everyone feel comfortable in the setting
- Reveal the Idea Brief—the aim of the day: Everyone has to know what the problem is before they try to solve it.
- The rules of brainstorming: To keep things orderly and productive.
- All ideas are equal
- We’re here to have lots of ideas
- No judging
- Analyse the ideas later
- Everyone’s equal (no pulling rank)
- Have fun
- Keep to time
- One idea at a time
- First Burst: Ideas start being shared.
- everyone gets a chance to say what their ideas/and thoughts are about the project. These ideas tend to be “primitive” in that they are only the initial stepping stones for the final result. The ideas also tend to be the most obvious solutions to the Idea Brief.
- it is important that the group does not get hung up on a particular idea or direction at this point. All ideas are welcome and equally important.
- Stimulus—the Four Rs: The facilitator is actively engaging members to expand and explore on the ideas brought about during the First Burst. Again it is important not to get stuck on or analyse a particular idea. Moving forward is important. The Four R’s is one method used by facilitators.
- Revolution: Turning ideas on the head. For example what if a four legged chair had no legs?
- Re-Expression: Putting yourself in the shoes of the user of the product. For example if you were a young mother, what would you be looking for in an everyday shoe?
- Related Words: List words that are related to the subject at hand and see how they can play on each other’s strengths. For example running and healthy eating: What elements of running can promote healthy eating?
- Random Link: Forcing a link between two completely different things that offer their in order to come up with one product that offers both benefits.
- The last step of the brainstorming session. The facilitator reads every Idea out loud and allows for everyone to rate each idea. The best ideas get passed on to the next stage which is usually focused more around a central idea. It is more controlled rather than a free for all brainstorming session.
These steps are very helpful in group environments but can be used for personal projects as well. They will help you move forward with your ideas rather than getting stuck, over think an idea to the point of killing it, and/or becoming frustrated with your self or your team members. If you would like to read the article the above points are based on please click on the flowing link Saving the Sparkle: Developing Creative Ideas