Having an idea is not enough
We all have tons of ideas. Actually, we get new ideas every day. The problem is that most of us don’t know what to do with them – and a lot of our ideas get lost along the way, we simply forget them.
Having an idea is just not enough. You need to make that idea happen. You need to pick the right idea from 100 ideas, shape it and develop it.
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I’ve discovered that the best way to stop losing ideas is to write them down. I personally have an agenda, but you can use whatever: a piece of paper, a post it, a notebook, a Word document or whatever comes in handy for you.
Once you’ve written that idea somewhere and you marked it as “to do this week” or you’ve given it a determined period to be processed, you can get it out of your head. You might not know, but it’s much easier to concentrate on your current tasks and to get them done, if you don’t have 20 ideas running through your head.
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The information in this article refers mainly to a design process, but you will see that you can apply these tips on other situations as well.
As a designer and a creative professional, you have lots of ideas. You need to take those ideas to the next level. In this case, the next level is to put your ideas on paper. So you need to elaborate sketches. This doesn’t mean that you must have really good drawing skills – you will create rough sketches, which are quick and cheap.
The purpose of sketching your idea
The purpose of sketching your ideas is to help you explore as many ideas as possible in order to trash the bad ones, leaving you with a couple of good ideas that could evolve in a solid design.
Another purpose of drawing your ideas is to make them visible. Having a sketch enables you to discuss your idea with others, to compare your sketch and to get feedback. This is not such a time consuming activity, in comparison to creating the rough design on your computer. You can do as many sketches as you want. Experiment!
When and where to sketch your idea
An idea can pop up anytime and anyplace. I personally always carry a small notebook and a crayon in my purse. I often get ideas while riding the bus home from work. Whether you’re at home, at work or on vacation, if you are inspired by something and get a fabulous idea (that’s how you’ll see it at the moment), just grab a piece of paper and sketch it – it will only take a minute or so!
That’s in the case you get unexpected inspiration. But what if you NEED to come up with some ideas? Well, in order to be creative you have to be relaxed and positive. So if you are feeling over stressed, go do something you like, relax for 15 minutes and come back with a clear mind.
Techniques – How to generate and organize ideas
If you find yourself stuck and you don’t know where to start, you could use some help. Turn to these well known and (possibly) effective techniques:
This is probably the best known and most effective technique that all sort of professionals use to generate ideas by involving other people. Everyone shares their thoughts on the matter and they have constructive discussions – without being judgmental. 10 small ideas can lead to 1 great concept.
This technique is also called “brain-writing” and it’s a little bit different from brainstorming. Each team member must write down their ideas on paper and after a couple of minutes they pass it on to their neighbor who builds on those ideas. At the end of the process, the most interesting and relevant ideas are selected and discussed.
This involves creating a tree diagram with words, tasks and sub-tasks related to one main idea. This is a great way of both generating and organizing your ideas.
As you may have guessed, gap filling is about identifying two important points (like the starting and the end point) and finding the right ideas that may fit in between them – closing the gap. You can also list all the things you think are necessary to fill the gap and afterwords you can fill the gaps between those things too. It can build into a mind map.
Harry Brignull is the guy “responsible” for this technique and you can read more about it in “The Boxing Glove Wireframing Technique”. As he describes it, this techniques requires you to sketch every web page on a post it and at the end to draw a the journey the visitor takes through all the post-its. It’s called Boxing gloves because you are limited by the size of the sticky notes and you can only draw the most important elements – it will make you feel like you are wearing boxing gloves.
Now these are merely some suggestions, each of us has it’s own way of coping with his ideas. The most important thing is to try to make happen as many ideas as possible.
Your turn now.
Which of the techniques above you find more practical? Which other techniques do you use to generate and organize ideas?