Quick thinking: five ways designers can get to ideas faster

Written by: Hugh Roberts
Published on: 25 Aug 2015

Creative planning is not maths or physics. We aren’t uncovering immutable laws of the universe or logical truths. We are telling stories; concepts that resonate with our audience at that moment in time.

In the creative process, ideas (and the way we express them) need to evolve over time. The right expression of the right idea at the right time. Just enough to provoke and inspire. Not overworked or undercooked. Judging the timing of an idea is just as important as the idea itself.

As creative people we need to be confident to have early ideas and to share them in different ways. We need to be fast and agile. So without further ado, here are some metaphors about getting to ideas early and expressing them quickly. You might even call them tips.

The sketch
Also known as the prototype. We need to go on a journey from character studies, to pencil compositions, to a more painterly creation. Dare I say that we are not in the business of oil paintings – watercolours are more fit for purpose in our fast-moving commercial environment.

The hunch
TV programme Columbo is compelling because we all know who the villain of the piece is, but we can’t quite nail why or how or when. Our detective has a hunch and he pursues it relentlessly (“just one more thing”). Like Columbo, we must listen to our intuition. We wrap the solution in tighter and tighter circles until we nail our quarry!

The napkin
Surprise yourself by revisiting your hypothesis at unexpected times. A fresh perspective will come from a fresh environment, or even a couple of glasses of wine. If you can’t get your idea on the back of a napkin it’s not simple enough. If you daren’t explain it over dinner it’s too boring!

The saturated solution
Remember chemistry lessons? It doesn’t matter what you drop into the super saturated solution, a beautiful crystal will emerge around it over time. Be unafraid to drop a nugget in to the right environment (lots of talent, commitment and passion) and a beautiful result will emerge. It’s not where you start that matters, it’s the fact that you have started.

The storyboard
Remember that it’s a story. Use storyboarding techniques to think about the sequence, structure, and interaction of your ideas. Don’t sit in the director’s chair before you know how the movie ends!

Hugh Roberts is brand strategy director at Design Bridge.