quantity breeds creativity

create many variations to find the best idea.

As an art teacher, one of the biggest frustrations I have with students when they first come into my class is their inability to come up with more than a couple ideas on a project. They start out with a simple idea and then jump directly into the work without taking the time to consider other options or explore deeper concepts. Even though there’s a cultural push to ‘think outside the box’, most students don’t know how to do it, although most of them have a strong desire to be different and unique. They haven’t yet learned to step out of their comfort zone and explore multiple ideas.

I usually start out my classes at the beginning of the year with time dedicated to creative play. We experiment with many different approaches to generating multiple ideas quickly including methods for both groups and individuals. I like to emphasize the importance of spending lots of time at this stage because good ideas are the foundation of good design. Skipping this step, at best, leads to a well-illustrated pile of crap.

a few ways to generate ideas

  • doodle
  • collage
  • mind map
  • make lists
  • listen to music
  • random madlibs
  • create mashups
  • talk to people
  • take a walk
  • do research
  • sleep on it
  • PLAY!

The idea generation process is definitely focused on coming up with ideas, however random or silly, without judging quality or appropriateness. You should definitely be open to whatever bizarre concepts come to mind. And most importantly, WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. At this stage you can’t rely on your brain to remember all the crazy, quirky, funky, or even boring and mundane ideas that arrive. Keep going until the trickle of ideas has run its course, then try a different method or take a break and come back to it. Chances are you’ll find a completely new river of ideas where you least expected. From there you can even start combining multiple ideas to create even more ideas.

We call this a Divergent process, where all of your ideas can diverge in multiple directions. Instead of thinking of your process as a straight line, it is better to think of your process as an explosion.

Eventually you’ll need to start analyzing your collection of ideas and start refining to pull the gems out from the rest of the pile. That’s a different process and a different post for a later date. Good luck and happy brainstorming!

The main article that inspired this post comes from stepcase lifehack , which highlights reasons why it is important to come up with lots of ideas. You’ll also find a great linked article on thinking outside the box. I also found this great page at squidoo with lots of information and ideas on how to get started.

mister chad
mister chad
teacher . artist . human

I make stuff and show people how to make their own stuff.