Testing the Limits of Creativity

creative2Define “Creativity.”

It’s a lot like defining art or design. There is no perfect definition, but you know it when you see it. Creative teams often use brainstorming sessions to fuel the creative process. One of my favorite books to push the creative brain cells is Creative Stuff: An Activity Book for Visual Thinkers, written by David Gouveia and Christopher Elkerton. What I love are the games and puzzles. It’s like kneading your brain and getting it good and flexible in order to begin creating.

The book is $25.99 at MyDesignShop.com, but for $14 dollars more, you can invest in The Creative Exercises Value Pack, which includes Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills; the Graphic Design Exercise Book; Creative Grab Bag: Inspiring Challenges for Designers, Illustrators and Artists and an OnDemand DesignCast – Using Brainstorming Methods: Creative Bootcamp Part 1. If sold separately, the cost would be just under $175, making The Creative Exercises Value Pack a great deal at 77% off.


brainstormingSam Harrison, a contributing writer for HOW Design offered nine tips on solo brainstorming. I’ve excerpted five here.

1. Feed the mind. Before you bounce into brainstorming, break out of solitude. Get outside. Look around — small scenes can lead to big ideas. Walt Disney came up with the idea of Disneyland while watching bored kids and tired parents dawdle in a dilapidated park.

2. Make time to brainstorm. .”Every morning between nine and twelve, I go to my room and sit before a piece of paper,” says writer Flannery O’Connor. “If an idea does come between nine and twelve, I’m ready for it.” With deadlines on our backs, most of us can’t spend three hours waiting for muses. But we can carve out small chucks of time here and there. Make appointments with yourself to brainstorm. And make those sessions short, fun and furious.

3. Judge not. Opening a meeting one day, Sam Goldwyn, the legendary filmmaker, told his staff, “I had a fantastic idea this morning — but I didn’t like it.” Sound familiar? Probably. Because, like Goldwyn, we’ll have fantastic ideas one moment and then the next moment convince ourselves that they are utter nonsense. Catch yourself judging your own ideas and slam on the brakes. Brainstorming isn’t the time to evaluate or edit ideas. That comes later. Focus on quantity, not quality while brainstorming.

4. Go nuts. “Learn not to be careful,” photographer Diane Arbus told her students. Post that advice when brainstorming with yourself. Go beyond safe ideas. Move past the weary and welcome the wacky. Sensible thinking usually proffers predictable answers. Non-sensical ideas often lead to sensible solutions.

5. Create mind maps. Mind maps — also called word maps and semantic maps — are great for single-handed brainstorms. Take a blank sheet of paper. Write your topic in the center and circle it. As your brain makes free associations, follow along with your pen, jotting down words and connecting them with circles and lines. In 20 minutes, you’ll have a page crammed with ideas.

Find the entire list on HOWDesign.com.

[Disclaimer: I mistakenly identified the author of the inspirational piece in my enewsletter yesterday as Sam Simmons, not Sam Harrison. I can’t apologize enough for this mistake.}

Better brainstorming is just one way you can boost your overall creativity, and is just another resource included in The Creative Exercises Value Pack. With five creative exercise must-haves packaged together at one low price, you’ll unleash brilliant thoughts that are sure to inspire.


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Retail Value: $174.98
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Stay Thirsty, Stay Foolish. The Story of Vitaminwater

Alex Center, senior designer at the Coca-Cola Company will present at this year’s Dieline Package Design Conference at HOW Design Live. Center will discuss the challenges in an overcrowded marketplace where it is harder than ever for brands to make that connection. He’ll share his experience working on the Vitaminwater brand, which taught him that storytelling, consumer collaboration, user experience design, brand personality and tapping into culture are some of the ways to design for people. Register Now.