How to Kickstart a Design Project – Brainstorming 101

Every creative process commences with the search for inspiration. To follow up on my previous post on inspiration, let us talk about this process of research. Inspiration can be derived from daily life around us, nature’s beauty or from other interconnected artistic mediums. What we are going to focus on here is research from the oodles of inspiring content on the interwebs. The process of brainstorming is the initial step of researching. When we begin our quest for inspiration, we need not have a specific path, but a general direction. Pablo Picasso is reputed to have quoted “You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea.

The Process

Defer judgement

Don’t dismiss any ideas. Nothing can kill the spirit of a brainstorm quicker. Learn to delete negative feedback from yourself or from others during this process. The key to this process is not to decide for or against any ideas or concepts. There is a Zen saying that goes thus “In the landscape of spring, there is neither better nor worse. The flowering branches grow naturally, some long, some short.

Encourage wild ideas

The whole point of brainstorming is to come up with new and creative ideas. Think out of the box, allow ideas to come to you unhindered and unbiased. A life without ideas is an unfulfilled existence. Having ideas is important, but to express them, share them and implement them is what makes a difference in this world. Be not afraid seemingly bizzare and wild ideas. Oscar Wilde once said “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.

Combine and improve ideas

No “buts”, only “ands.” Ideas at this stage only serve to complement and supplement one and another, so add them up without much care as to how they will shape up. On the matter of arithmetic (adding ideas) a quote by George Bernard Shaw come to mind “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

Go for quantity

Aim for as many new ideas as possible. “Human history is, in essence, a history of ideas.” Thus spake H.G. Wells the man who came up with such incredible ideas as ‘The Time Machine‘, ‘The Invisible Man‘ and ‘The War of the Worlds‘. This initial phase of brainstorming is no time to be minimal and selective in one’s approach.

seeds - multiple=

The Moodboard

I strongly insisted that you make a moodboard when embarking on a new project. A moodboard is the practical application of the brainstorming process outlined above. Collect inspiration including textures, colors, positioning and various other design attributes of the project under research. This is the raw material that will form the basis of your magnum opus design! Moodboards display related media, research and inspirations inorder to gain a complete understanding of what you are trying to envision. Remember you need not limit yourself to a single one for any given project. Explore concepts, color palettes and typography all in a noncommittal way with a bird’s eye view of your vision before you start designing.

The Technique

If you wish to indulge in old-skool technology, I’d suggest arranging a haphazard collage by pasting images of inspiration, doodling and sketching on charts or more conveniently on a Moleskin for the convenience of portability. This ambient collage of imagery, screenshots, color swatches, words & shapes serves to convey the emotion of your intended design. Then again it can be a big poster, a digital PDF or even a montage of associated imagery.

One of the tools used can be Evernote. Simply start a new notebook in Evernote and clip everything you find relevant on the interwebs. Don’t edit, just add as detailed above. Once you have the necessary reference material, you can use any software from your favorite stable to create a collage that you can share as a PDF with your design team.

Conclusion: The Beginning

Strangely enough, the conclusion of the brainstorming process is merely the beginning of your journey of design. Now that you have the requisite raw material and inspiration to match, unleash your creativity and indulge in creating your own design in keeping with the objectives laid down by you at the start of the process. Feel free to share your thoughts on your initial process and post links to sample moodboards you may have created.


Leave a comment

Ritesh Reddy

Dr. Ritesh Reddy, PhD aka Reddy2Go is a Creative Generalist, who uses the magic of the written word and the allure of the visual medium in conjunction with bleeding edge technology to creating communication collateral for the New Media. He believes in the power of the individual & inspires independence through the Freelance Firestarter. In the spirit of selflessly sharing knowledge with the community for the betterment of society, he does not charge any fee for the same.