I’ve been thinking a lot about the creative process. Especially now when we’re hip deep in the development of a favorite campaign, the Kansas State Fair. We had our first major brainstorming and, without spilling the beans, it was wickedly wonderful. Five creative types came together and soon had ideas zinging around the room, ricocheting off the walls. At the end of two hours, we’d generated 100+ ideas. Not all of them pretty. Now the real work begins, crafting those into a campaign that has legs, charm and the power to raise eyebrows.

Our Process Helps Us Get There

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to help us break through the mundane to something pioneering. I’m amazed by how many people think ideas just come to creative types in the shower, or in a bolt of inspiration. But there really is method to our madness. Questions must be asked and answered. Research plowed through. Competition scrutinized. And crummy ideas generated right along with the good.

We also have our wall. Which we love. When we’ve got something good, or a nugget of an idea, it goes up. The wall provides a place to collaborate. To create independently. To come together for feedback. It serves as a platform for solid, multi-voice critiques. Then it’s back to the drawing board. Repeat as necessary. Voila!

After almost three decades of doing this for a living, I find myself obsessed with the methodology behind the development of breakthrough ideas. This compulsion has led me to assemble a wide-ranging collection of wisdom, aphorisms, quotes, philosophies and anecdotes. I recently heard artist Wendell Castle lecture at the Ulrich Museum. His thoughts were so similar to those I’ve collected and developed over the years, I decided it was high time to assemble my own creative bucket list.

15 Tricks to Turn

  1. Ideas are funny little things; they don’t work unless you do. Don’t sit around waiting for inspiration, get to it.
  2. Put pen to paper. Ideas happen when your pen is engaged. Drawing, doodling, noodling, daydreaming, require a free-range brain. No judging.
  3. Lose the fear of being wrong. You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.
  4. Mistakes are the portals to discovery. The lessons they teach you stick for a lifetime.
  5. KISS – keep it simple stupid. Coco Chanel said to look in the mirror before you leave and take one thing off. In design and life, reduction allows the true idea to be seen.
  6. Brainstorm and collaborate. Get your ideas out into the universe so others can build on them. Give voice to your ideas.
  7. Seek criticism not praise. Approval is easy, but an honest opinion is priceless. Ask what’s wrong? How can I make it better?
  8. The dog that stays on the porch will find no bones.
  9. The only way to get a killer idea is by starting with lots of ideas. Generate quantity not quality. Edit them down later.
  10. Frame your thoughts as questions. They become the answers.
  11. If I see an idea that makes me nervous, I know we’re covering new ground. If it’s offbeat or surprising, then it’s probably useful.
  12. Stretch like spandex. If you’re not trying new things, you are going nowhere.
  13. Don’t hoard your ideas. Give them away and more will come back to you.
  14. Tell stories. Write in an active voice. Use verbs. People connect with people.
  15. If you hit the bull’s eye every time, then the target’s probably too close.