Ideas help your work stand out.
They can make your illustrations come to life.
It can breathe new energy into your creativity.
However thinking of unique and captivating ideas can be a challenge.
Unfortunately when you’re tasked with thinking of an idea, you can bang your head against the wall. Desperately trying to figure what that ‘great idea’ is (which only makes things worse!)
I’ve definitely been there, but a great idea is worth the effort.
Within today’s blog post I will be sharing three expert tips and tricks to help you think of mammoth ideas. You will discover techniques that I use within my own idea generation, which are all taken from my personal experience. This can help your own work, idea generation and creativity.
So why should you even bother?
The importance of idea generation
Ideas help you think of conceptual illustrations, add appeal to your designs and help your work standout.
I love thinking of conceptual ideas as this adds another dimension to my illustration work.
Of course an illustration or design’s aesthetic is important, but a great idea is what everyone should strive for.
Particularly important within the world of graphic design – an idea should be your first point of call. It’s from ideas that you justify your reasoning, with the actual design work coming right at the end of the process (working within the Adobe Creative Suite or working on the final design for example).
That’s how important ideas are.
Like the brilliant late Robin Williams said, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world”.
If you take a look at my editorial illustrations, you can get a grasp of what and how ideas play and important role within my work.
I’m not saying I’m perfect with my own idea generation, but I believe I have a solid foundation.
Ultimately it comes down to adding more appeal to your work with great ideas.
Good ideas help differentiate your work from another, as you can take your commissions to the next level. Everyone can have the same illustrative style for example. However not everyone can think like you do – you are totally unique!
Clients don’t higher great advertising agencies because their work looks nice (which makes a big difference of course). They’re hired because their ideas behind the work are out of this world.
So what are the three things to help you think of conceptual ideas?
Researching & getting to the heart of your brief
Before you put pen to paper, you need to work out exactly what your brief is asking you.
If you don’t understand a brief then you’re probably going to come up with an idea which isn’t in line with what the project requires.
Get to the heart of what your project needs and what you need to achieve. Dissect a brief so you are confident about what’s required. This is my first point of call as it helps eliminate any issues down the road.
Read and re-read the brief, ask the client for clarification, or ring them. Just so you completely understand the brief at hand.
This is such an important step, so don’t skip this part!
The next is researching, and understanding a theme if you don’t already know about the subject.
Your objective is to know the subject inside and out. Write notes, look at your brief again, and understand what you (and if you have a client) wants to achieve.
The researching phase helps the process of idea generation. As you can look back at your notes and rethink your ideas accordingly.
It’s from this solid foundation that you can have confidence in your ideas.
Create mind maps to boost your ideas
Mind mapping always starts within your sketchbook, layout paper, or just on scrap pieces of paper.
This usually begins with the subject in the middle of the page, which branches out into new words and ideas.
Let’s say your project is Christmas related. You would write Christmas in the middle of the page, and think of as many ideas words and themes along the subject.
Record every word or thought onto paper (no word is crazy or silly!).
Below shows you a mind map that I created for an editorial illustration, resulting in developing the illustration’s composition.
This helps think of words, themes and new subjects which you might not have previously thought about.
From here you can circle or highlight favourite words from your huge mind map and start to work on a separate mind map.
If we go back to our example of Christmas theme, and you like the idea of Christmas tree from your first mind map, you can start a new mind map from the word Christmas tree – thinking of ideas that stem from this.
Ideas like green, spiky, decorations, baubles, tall, fat, and so on.
Hopefully you can see how different ideas, words, and entirely new subjects generate from this process, which I do with most of my projects that I receive.
That’s how important mind mapping is.
I always start in my sketchbook and use mind maps to think of new and inventive ideas.
Mixing between the visual and written word
The next tip is mixing between the visual and written word.
I usually go back and and forth between sketching and writing ideas within my sketchbook to help me think of ideas and concepts that I might not have thought about.
But why does this help?
Sometimes it gets too overwhelming to only stare at words on a page. You can become stagnant in your thinking process, as words can only do so much.
Pictures offer new ideas and thoughts about a subject that you may not have previously thought about.
Sketching and the written word is an important vehicle in your disposal, which I highly recommend mixing between. It’s important that your sketching is quick – as you don’t want to waste time on detailed drawing at this stage as it detracts from what you’re meant to be doing – thinking of ideas!.
Looking on Google images can help you can discover new shapes, new ideas and concepts that the written word does not offer.
Below shows you 2 moodboards after my initial mind maps for my Animal Farm project, an example of switching to the visual world.
It can really help your creativity!
This should be a quick process and should be used sparingly (remember that the focus is on your paper and your ideas – not on the computer screen!).
So if we looking at the theme of Christmas again, and like the theme of Christmas baubles, you can enter this into Google Images to help you discover new ways of coming up with that image. Maybe it’s the baubles string, the shape or how it sparkles that you’re inspired by.
Take this and record your thoughts onto your paper again, and see if you can come up with more ideas and concepts.
I find this a great exercise to help me think of new ideas.
Bonus: Quick thumbnails & sketching
The last tip that I personally use heavily is the use of thumbnails.
It’s a crucial weapon in my utility belt, as it helps me think of new compositions, ways to sketch a particular theme and helps me pull an idea apart.
From your mind maps, looking for visual cues from Google Images and playing around with lots of ideas, the next step is quick thumbnail sketches to help elevate your idea.
These often appear in the form of quick thumbnails and sketching out possible ideas.
Check out this great blog post by Tutsplus to help you create effective thumbnails.
So if we go back to our Christmas theme again, we have picked out words centered around the Christmas baubles idea, you can start developing this piece even more with quick thumbnails and sketches.
If you have a Christmas illustration brief, it would be a good idea to produce thumbnails, playing with the image composition.
This process (like all previous tips), should be quick and to the point.
It’s about developing the idea into something which is strong and really pulled apart – not focusing on detailed drawings at this stage.
Within this process, this is where I can see the idea coming to life a bit more. I meticulously sketch and thumbnail to get further thoughts, compositions and ideas onto paper.
The more pulled apart your idea is, and the more thought has gone into it, the stronger your idea generation and ideas will be.
How do you think of outstanding ideas?
I’ll love to know how you have thought about great ideas.
What’s your best idea that you have thought about?
Is there a idea process that I’ve missed?
Comment me below with your thoughts!
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and discovered a few ideas to help you think of great ideas for your next project. It’s certainly helped me with my commissions!
If you’re unfamiliar with myself, I’m an illustrator and designer and have my own portfolio which you can take a look at! I’m active on social media too (links below), do give me a follow and say hey! I’m available for commissions, so if you have a project that you want to discuss with me, get in contact to discuss your next creative brief!
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