The Creative Process: Back to the Drawing Board

Mike D'AgrumaMost of the time, a designer’s creative process remains the same regardless of what the project is. Web, mobile, newsletter, logo – it doesn’t matter. Everyone has a certain way of doing things.
But regardless of how people work, the creative process should always start the same way – with a full understanding of the objective. The whole point of the creative process is to develop effective design solutions. To effectively do that, a designer should always take time to consider the purpose of the project and what the client’s objectives and expectations are.

Then he should take all of that information and go back to the drawing board.

I mean literally go back to the drawing board. A sketchbook is an ideal place to layout initial ideas after considering a project’s goals. It’s a great way to get thoughts on paper and see how layouts will work.

Since I’m a visual person, sketching is a normal part of my creative process. It usually only takes about 10 minutes to put down an idea that will serve as the basis for the design aspect of an entire project. That doesn’t mean my first idea is my best, though – that’s rarely the case with any designer. But no one knows until they explore others. That’s why sketching can become such a vital part of the creative process. It only takes a few minutes, and gets numerous ideas out of your head and onto paper.

Sometimes, sketching doesn’t help. Sometimes, the ideas just won’t come. People hit creative walls. It happens. That’s why it’s also a good idea to look at what others are doing. There is a lot of value to keeping your eye on what’s going on in your field and replicate strategies that work. It can be as much a part of the creative process as anything else.

Nothing is ever completely reinvented and there is always a tendency to feel the need to develop everything from scratch. Even the greatest innovators rarely do that. Steve Jobs once referenced a quote by Pablo Picasso to say as much: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

That doesn’t mean to “steal” in the traditional sense. To become a better designer, programmer, writer, whatever, it’s necessary to look at what others are doing or have done to find new ways to innovate. That’s why we take art history in design school – to study the old masters, learn their techniques and incorporate them into our own style.

When it comes to the creative process, everyone has a certain way of doing things. It’s a unique and personal thing. However, there are ways to get more out of your ideas. Taking them back to the drawing board is one of them.

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