6 Strategies for Sparking Fresh, Original Ideas

One of the most challenging things I dealt with while working in-house was keeping my ideas fresh. To counter staleness, I created several strategies to jump-start my creativity. I hope the following suggestions inspire your generation of fresh, original ideas.
—Shannon Stull Carrus

Learn by Example
If you have a short amount of time in the office, sometimes the farthest you can venture from your desk to hunt and gather creative inspiration is by simply searching the web.

shutterstock_167761616 inhouse blog 2-5-14Photo from Shutterstock

Here are a few sites that provide great inspiration that could also spark your next big idea:

  • Ads of the World: featuring some of the best concepts from around the world. Search for work in your industry and find a wealth of fresh ideas with a global perspective.
  • Logo Lounge: a subscription based resource that provides great inspiration for logo design. Logo lounge allows users to search by style, color and theme.
  • Deviant Art: an endless source for art in every medium and style.
  • The Ad Feed: a great blog featuring noteworthy ad campaigns that inspire.

Forget Your Mood Board. Create a Vision Board
Create a board with the path you envision your work taking. Arrange all the pieces that need to come together. Ask yourself which team members will work on the assignment, what should be the end result and what are the various elements that need to come together to arrive at that desired end result? Is it higher-quality photography, brighter color palette or buy-in from your superiors? Arrange all those thoughts and ideas onto your vision board to get yourself and your team thinking of ways to solve the problem.

Talk to People Outside Your In-house Team
Sometimes talking with people outside your team who perform a totally different job function than yours at work are the best resources for new ideas. Ask them what they like about your current marketing initiatives as well as what they don’t like and explain why. This can be a very enlightening conversation as long as you are able to keep an open mind.

Practice Sensory Deprivation
Though it seems counterintuitive, I find that sometimes my best ideas come from turning everything off, literally. For example, I’ll work in the dark in the middle of the night when my tired brain isn’t tempted to jump from one website to another website and I can’t chat up an office mate. I think sometimes being tired prevents me from self-censoring, allowing more ideas to bubble to the surface. I don’t recommend this method for everyone for obvious reasons but when I’ve been in a bind, I’ll admit that some of my best ideas have come from practicing sensory deprivation.

Finding Creative Inspiration at Home

Can you get out of your office and work remotely for a day? Sometimes changing your surroundings can help you break free of your daily routine and release a host of new ideas. Consider generating ideas in these different locations:

  • Lay out a blanket in the park to sketch and brainstorm.
  • Take your laptop to your favorite coffee shop (or bar) to generate some different ideas.
  • Go to a local bookstore like Barnes and Noble and park it for a few hours. Peruse niche magazines on design, fashion and technology. Read up on handmade printing techniques, tactical design and retro advertising. When you find a few inspiring periodicals, purchase them and add them to your library.
  • Work from home in your pajamas.
  • If none of the ideas above will pass the approval process mustard, take a walk during your lunch break.

Searching for Creative Inspiration While on Vacation
I always seem to find the best inspiration while on vacation. Traveling is my favorite hobby and I enjoy discovering endless ideas while getting lost in a new locale. To me, there is no better way to shake things up and get inspired by meeting new people, strolling through interesting stores, eating in different restaurants and learning local secrets.

If you don’t have enough vacation time and your company operates in several different cities or countries, consider asking your manager if you could work out of one of those locations for a week or two. You’ll get a whole new perspective on the company’s operations. It will also be a great way to jump-start your creativity. You’ll make new friends (and allies) in the process.

Recently, I left Florida to work out of an agency in New York City. I juggled not only my clients but also jumped in and helped my host agency when they needed a hand. It was an incredibly inspiring experience! What do you do to stay inspired? Share your tips and tricks for keeping your ideas fresh and your creative work awesome.


ShannonsquareAbout In-HOWse Guest Shannon Stull Carrus
Shannon Stull Carrus is a principal and Creative Director at WHOISCARRUS, a full-service Orlando advertising agency. She has experience on both agency and in-house teams in various roles including: copywriting, art direction, and creative direction. In her spare time, she is working on a new time-tracking software for the staffing industry called ClikClok.
HOW Design LiveLearn even more about how to keep your creativity fresh and other issues that are important to you at HOW Design Live 2014. Be sure to register by February 11 to save $300.