Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Five Step Brainstorming Process

I have been creating conceptual illustrations for about fifteen years, and solving design problems longer than that. To generate ideas, over time I have developed this five step process which has worked well for me:
  1. Immerse yourself in the material. Whether it is a book jacket, magazine illustration, or corporate brochure cover, I take time to really focus on the text. The amount of time will vary, of course, depending on the project. I like to spend enough time so that I can comfortably state the theme of the piece in a couple of sentences.
  2. Free associate. Before I actually start drawing, I spend about twenty minutes making a list. With the content from step one fresh in my mind, I write down any word that comes to mind. These could be visual elements, verbs, or adjectives. Don't edit, just write.
  3. Make many thumbnails. Next, drawing on your free association list, create eight to ten rough thumbnail pencils. Try different combinations of list items. Often for me, adjectives from the list will conjure up visual images. It is important to really push yourself at this point, but still without judging, and don't worry at all about the quality of the drawing. The goal at this stage is quantity. I allow about forty five minutes for this step.
  4. Take a break. Let your unconscious do some of the work, while you do something else. Take a walk, take a shower, I like to play my guitar. This break could be for half an hour, or it could be overnight.
  5. Edit the thumbnails, refine sketches. Okay, this is really two steps, but a five step process sounds so much better than six. Usually, when I come to stage, I have fresh ideas for the thumbnails, so I add to or modify them as needed. Then, I choose the two or three best thumbnail ideas to work up into tighter sketches to present to the client.

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