So you have to design some marketing collateral. Easy. No problem. It’ll be done by the end of the day. Right?
Starting any creative process usually starts with a blank piece of paper or an empty document. It can be a daunting thing, especially when ideas aren’t forthcoming.
Whether it’s creating something fresh yet corporate, totally original or an entire rebranding exercise everything starts with an idea.
Where do you begin?
Some creatives out there doodle. They sit there and sketch for hours. They flick through books or magazines or wake up with a 4am miracle.
There is however an easier way…
What’s Your Why?
Understanding what you’re trying to achieve with the material you’re designing is a pretty important thing to consider.
There is mandatory information you will need to include like the logo, web address, maybe a date or location but beyond that how do you want your audience to feel about the design?
But understanding the ‘why’ goes beyond what you want someone to do – because that’s always more or less the same, which is buy something.
Whether you’re promoting an event or trying to sell a game, recognising how you want your audience feels about it is an important first step in the creative process.
Why should someone attend? Why should someone play that game? Why will that piece of technology change their lives?
It keeps you focussed on the benefits – the emotional aspects – rather than the features or the ‘what’. The ‘what’ is functional and logical and…boring.
It’s much harder to distinguish yourself from the pack when you focus on the cold hard facts of ‘what’ rather than the emotional benefits of the ‘why’.
The more you practise this way of thinking the easier ideas will form because a product or a service starts to mean something.
As cliché as it sounds, inspiration is everywhere. In a world of 7 billion people original ideas are hard to come by but the human brain has a remarkable capacity from drawing inspiration from what has come before.
Depending on what you’ve been tasked to design, getting out in to nature may be the solution you need. Or wander around your local town or take a trip to a large city. Find somewhere to sit and let the creative parts of your brain loose.
You’ll also see plenty of advertising. Billboards, bus shelters, bus sidings, shop windows, banners, posters, screens… We become inured to advertising in our day to day lives: our brains are programmed to only register the most impactful or most interesting designs.
Taking yourself ad-spotting if a great way to re-engage with the medium and draw inspiration from all the communications that flood our high streets every day.
Thanks to Google and the advent of Social Media it’s never been easier to see what incredible designs are being dreamt up around the world.
Platforms like Pinterest can offer you a near limitless source of inspiration and ideas. Need ideas for a billboard? Just do a search. You need to promote a fundraiser? See what others have done.
However, more so than wandering the streets, you need to remember that all important ‘why’ at the heart of your quest for inspiration. It will help shape your thoughts as you carry out searches.
An idea will spark a raft of sub searches so without that core idea in your mind you could spend hours searching and not actually be any closer to a firm idea of what you’re creating.
Whilst competitor research is obvious and shouldn’t be ignored it also shouldn’t be over emphasised. You’re not trying to do the same thing as everyone else. You’re far better off looking at brands you admire that occupy a different space entirely. What are they getting right?
The biggest benefit of scouring the internet for ideas is the fantastic variety of design styles. The grab below is a simple search for the movie Interstellar on Pinterest. As you can see there’s a fantastic array of styles, designs and techniques.
They are all promoting the same movie but all focussing on different aspects, communicating different emotions which say as much about the artists as it does the movie.
Remembering the focus of your work, your ‘why’. Keep your audience at the heart of your endeavour even if it means walking away from a really cool idea. It’s only a cool idea if your customer’s say so.
Whatever the project there’s always inspiration out there and an important part of being a successful designer is absorbing it as much as possible.
The learning should never stop.