How does the creative process work? Do ideas just float down from somewhere in the sky and you pluck them out? Believe it or not, there really is a method to the madness. Well, at least there is to my creative madness…here’s how it works for me.
Research & Ingestion
When faced with a design dilemma I immerse myself in my subject whether it be packaging for wrinkle cream or a logo for a home improvement product. I go into what I call my “ingestion and research” mode. Even when I’m not “clocked-in” I’m subconsciously working on the design problem at hand and searching for its’ remedy. In this mode, I’m ingesting information, categorizing it, and working through a plethora of possible solutions. By nature I love to observe the world around me and pull in ideas from everywhere — client input, nature, music, magazines, the playground, the grocery store, crafting, my travels, TV, book stores, interactions with friends and family, the internet, life experiences, reading books, people watching at Starbucks, the cityscape, on walks, or whatever—you get the picture. Inspiration comes from everywhere. During “ingestion”, another method I employ is brainstorming related words to spark my imagination and get my creative juices flowing. Often I’ll write pages of words that relate to my subject, which in turn, helps me to: organize my thoughts, evolve an idea, purge the excess from my head, and have a list to use later for reference, etc. I also like to research what the client’s competition is doing to see what’s working and what’s not in that particular market segment.
While I’m marinating and fully submerging my mind during ingestion—EUREKA! Ideas start popping like little kernels of popcorn in my head and I rush off to my sketchbook or a computer to get them down before they are lost in the creative abyss. Often the best ideas come to me while I’m in the shower, relaxing with the family, or otherwise disengaged. If I feel stuck, I find it best to step back for a little while and revisit it a little later with a clearer and uncluttered mind. In this stage, I have all the pieces, they just need to put together in a way that is new and fresh. One needs to be open to ideas in this stage. From this rush of ideas, there are a few golden nuggets that will need to be refined when executed.
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Below are some logo sketches I did in 2019 for a log primer product Sashco was developing this morphed into what is now Colorfast. Even though these ideas didn’t make the cut they got us closer to the ultimate solution. Doing this work helps one think through different scenarios and solutions to get to the one that fits.
After those few golden nugget ideas have formed, I translate them from a sketch to a more refined digital concept on the computer, where I refine and flush them out, and tweak them, again and again, to make sure they work, filtering out some ideas and letting the créme de la créme concepts rise to the top. (See the related post Alpha Hydrox: Logo Development to see this process plays out.) During the execution stage, I have some rough draft ideas to present to the client and then we collaborate and hammer out the details. At this point, it’s important to get your client’s input to either confirm you are on the right track to move ahead or decide whether or not a different avenue of thought needs to be pursued. After this point, you refine the concept and then revise until the client is happy.
I find that I use this creative process whether I’m tackling a design problem or trying to come up with ideas for how to renovate the bathroom. With a little practice, you can apply it to whatever your current predicament is as well. You are creative, you just have to unleash it.