Skip Navigation

“I’m just not creative,” a client will say. “You’re a designer, can you help me think of ideas?”

5 ways to get creative

All designers hear this – from clients, friends, even family members. The thing is, most of us wouldn’t say that we are exceptionally creative either; we just know the process of reaching out and finding those good, creative ideas. The best part about this process? It’s no secret. Yesterday, we listened to an Ellen Lupton “webinar” about this process, and came away with some great ideas for clients to spark their own creativity:

Visual brainstorming

Brainstorming can seem daunting: I remember being confused about what exactly my teacher wanted me to do back in kindergarten. While there’s no correct path, Lupton suggested lots of quick, little sketches to get your creative juices flowing. A sketch of a tree can lead to a sketch of a squirrel to a sketch of an acorn – you get the idea. By sketching a lot very quickly, you will start to form ideas you didn’t even know you were thinking about.

Visual brain dump

Similar to the visual brainstorm, the visual brain dump gives you a time limit and a goal number of sketches. Do 20 sketches in one hour, for example; the limits you give yourself put the pressure on and help reach an idea quickly.

Make lists

Just start writing. Any word that is at all associated with your subject is fair game. Try themed lists, picture lists, or make your sketches into a list.

There’s no wrong way to come up with an idea. If you’re stuck, however, give some of these a try. You might come away with something extraordinary.

Action verbs

Is your initial idea cliché? Maybe you’re designing a logo based on the phrase “apple of my eye”. Spice it up by reimagining it with action-oriented words. Stretch the apple, magnify the eye, multiply one of them. Melt, soften, freeze, squish, squeeze it: all verbs that help transform a bland idea into an original one.

Everything from everywhere

This might be the craziest idea-getting process of all: you can get inspiration from everything, everywhere! Really open your eyes and look around. There are thousands of colors, patterns, even full-fledged ideas sitting right before you. Turn on some music, take a walk through a garden, or browse a magazine; if you pay attention and use all your senses, an idea could come out of nowhere.

For additional reading on Ellen Lupton’s design thoughts, read this previous blog entry by Hannah.

Avatar photo