Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Come Up With Creative Solutions

Here's a quick thought I had when someone asked me the question, "How do you find creative inspiration?" After taking some time to think about it, here is a process I use that seems to work consistently:
  • Understand the problem first. Although I can be creative without a particular problem to solve, the purpose of solving a problem creatively is to solve a problem. Then do it in an unexpected way, or in a manner that creates a sense of surprise. So it goes without saying that I spend my time upfront understanding the problem—from different angles. I do this by asking, "What would the solution mean to the client? What would it mean to whomever the client is speaking to? How would I define the problem in a simple sentence? What do the words mean?"

  • Break the problem down. After understanding the problem as best I can, I look at the elements that make up the problem, such as the wording used to describe the problem, why the client wants the problem solved, and the context the solution should exist.

  • Determine the boundaries for the solution. What are the limitations, costs barriers, and legal restrictions? Good solutions have good boundaries. Being creative means knowing your boundaries, and exploiting the areas you have the freedom to explore.

  • Give it a rest. Take a break from the project at hand, and do something else, or let your mind wander. Sketch and draw wacky solutions. Try to imagine unrelated things, and how they can be made to relate to each other. Read. Look at website designs. Explore different color combinations. Visit a museum. It's in these times you are feeding your creativity, and your brain has the space to explore solutions. Let it happen.

  • After all that, come back to the project and take a disciplined approach:
    1. Sketch.
    2. Develop promising solutions.
    3. Run them by the client to ensure you are on the right track.

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