Working on Your Working Method

So the second part of our first day back was all about developing your working method into something useful and cohesive rather than a pile of scribbled nonsensical colour and words.  I am the latter, so I was eager to get hold of a few more tips on how to make my mind a more organised place to explore.

Obviously initially as a designer you will be given a brief (hopefully), one which will outline the needs of the client with some background information and some content that you can use as a kickstart to get your creativity going.  The next stage is obviously research.  I really love this part, I think it’s just as valuable as the finished outcome otherwise you’ll end up with something that probably looks great but something that misses the target in a big way.  If you don’t know your client and know what they do then you can’t expect to create exactly what it is that they want.  Research research research.  Have a look at what they’re about and what they stand for, and see what their contemporaries are doing in the field to have a look at what you’re up against and what the market has already asked for.  As much as it’s useful to look at other companies for ideas, it’s important not to recreate what has already been done.

Next, the creation of ideas.  By this point you should have a wealth of information and research to dip in and out of in order to keep yourself on the right track.  Wildly creating ideas which don’t have any roots will simply float away like an untethered balloon.  Next stop is experimentation.  Try out A LOT of things.  See what works but more importantly see what doesn’t.  Experimenting with your ideas is an important part as it has to be done still with the client in mind and all that research really comes into play when you finally look at what it is you’ve been creating.  If you’ve lost track of the client and the brief, then by this point it’s likely that you’ve created the wrong thing.  A pretty thing, but the wrong thing.

Refining your ideas is important at this later stage, as it helps to cut away all the fluff and unnecessary crap that you’ve added along the way but now you realise how superfluous it is, whether it be colour choices or the demographic you’ve been aiming at, everything should be hitting the mark by this point.  Making your work clean and crisp and within the parameters of the brief is what you’ve been paid for, so by this point it should only require a trim here and there and not an overhaul.  If you did your research correctly and your ideas were done mindfully, then on to the next step: execution.  Now your work should be as strong as it can be, with any final changes requested by the client or any subtle changes dealt with.

And just like that, you’re done.  You’ll probably look at it again and want to change it, or wish something was different, but you’ve been paid now so move along.

To get us more in tune with our creative selves, Ian wanted us to explore several methods of creative thinking techniques.  The techniques were mind mapping, Six Thinking Hats, SCAMPER, Lotus Blossom, Brainstorming (classic), the Checklist (five Ws and H), Lateral Thinking, Metaphorical Thinking, and Random Word.

We were put into groups and tasked with presenting one of the methods.  Our group was given mind mapping, so we set to work on researching what this was.  Obviously as a human being in Britain most of us are pretty familiar with mind mapping, so having to try and explain this to a group of fidgety first years sounded exciting…  Simple as it seems, one difference we found was that mind mapping is often started with an image rather than a word.  It is used to visually organise information using both images and words, centred around an initial concept then leading onto other related ideas.  A rather dapper looking chap called Tony Buzan coined the term ‘mind-mapping’ at some point, and we found a great YouTube video where he discussed its merits.  We considered just showing this video which required minimal effort on our part and we suspected that Ian probably wanted us to engage with our task in some way.


Visually similar to brainstorming, mind mapping has more structure and is more about quality rather than quantity.  With brainstorming the idea seems to be make quick word associations and scribble madly as words pop into your head.  Each ‘branch’ of your mind map will then in theory be followed by smaller twigs of related information.  Colour plays a role in mind mapping, as it’s used to highlight branches and information related to that branch.  The basic premise is to create something brain-friendly full of succinct information that has real structure and genuine thought.

Ian’s closing thought was that as designers we will go through our studies, and later, our careers, acquiring a set of tools that we can store in our graphic designer toolbox.  His point was that while you can learn to be a whizz on Illustrator, or have some pretty enviable Photoshop talents, our tools are not limited to pens, pencils and Adobe software.  We have a different set of abilities in our arsenal as designers, including thinking creatively and many different ways of generating ideas.


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