Where do ideas come from? Are designs, inventions and creations discovered in a flash of genius? How do you have that ‘Eureka!’ moment?
Of course, there are times when someone is unexpectedly struck by an idea that pops into their heads. It can happen when you are walking, running, in conversation or even in the shower. Isaac Newton supposedly discovered gravity after pondering why an apple fell from a tree. David Bowie quipped that writing one of his most famous songs Life On Mars? was ‘easy’ after the melody came to him whilst travelling on a London bus. And Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the Romantic poet, wrote his poem Kubla Khan after waking from an opium-induced dream…but I’m definitely not advocating that approach. So, what happens when you are a designer who needs to produce work on a regular basis?
Good ideas don’t always happen when you need them to, and unfortunately, you can’t just make them happen. However, you can set yourself up to be ready for your next great idea by following a clear design process.
Here I’ll discuss the steps that will help lead you from problem to solution.
To find the correct solution, you need a clear definition of what the problem is. At this first step, a designer would usually gather as much information as they can about a client’s expectations, who their target market is, what the tone of voice is and what deliverables are needed. This fundamental information will allow a brief to be created.
It’s great to come up with a good design that you think is amazing, but if it doesn’t solve the original problem for the client, then it’s really pointless.
Brainstorming can be fun. You should delve into the depths of your imagination and gather everything and anything that comes to mind. Try to get past the obvious solutions to find something that will be truly original. At this stage, there are no right and wrong answers. Sometimes a good idea can come from the most absurd suggestions. For instance, I’m sure some eyebrows were raised the first time someone suggested that meerkats would be great at selling insurance!
Also, don’t trust your memory. Get your ideas down immediately before you lose them. Record everything, gather information, make sketches, doodles and scribbles. Some people prefer to document their thoughts with paper and pen, Post-it Notes or moleskins. Others prefer digital apps such as MindApp or Moodstream where you can store mindmaps, images, text and audio. Find which one works best for you. Be inspired!
Now it’s time to focus your thoughts. Start researching and reviewing how you are going to find some solutions. Research your competition, create moodboards, look at the market and look for inspiration in unexpected areas too. You should be researching some of the many ideas you generated whilst brainstorming. This will help you develop potential results.
Once you are satisfied that you have brainstormed and researched the project sufficiently, you should begin to make decisions and develop your ideas into prototypes. You can start by developing and testing a few different concepts visually as sketches and mock ups. Then pick one or two of your strongest solutions to work with further on-screen.
Remember: when you are trying to find a solution, some stages may need to be revisited more than once, such as research, prototyping and asking for feedback.
At this step, the designer will send the final designs to the client for feedback. It’s important to have clear and honest communication. Take their opinions into consideration and make changes accordingly. Often there are many rounds of revisions before you and the client are satisfied with the final outcome.
This is also a time for reflection, to give yourself time to step away so you can return with a fresh perspective. If you are unhappy with the final solution you may need to revisit some of the steps in the process again.
So, in summary, when a good idea comes along it can hit you like a bolt of lightning. However, if you work in a creative role, you cannot always wait around for a good idea to show up. Using a design process will help you harness and cultivate your creativity. There are no hard and fast rules; and what works well for you may not be the best approach for another. Find a process that you enjoy and let your imagination flow!
Mary is a Graphic Design Manager, based in Learning Pool’s Derry office. She manages a great bunch of lively and talented creatives, who are responsible for all design outputs across the business. The team pride themselves on producing high-quality designs, innovative solutions and engaging content. Mary has been working in Learning Technology since 2013, prior to this, she worked extensively in the Arts, Events Management and Community Art projects. One of her proudest achievements is winning the prestigious Derek Hill Award for Art and Design in 2012.
In her own time, Mary loves art and music. She’s an avid gig-goer and record collector.