Coming up with ideas for your blog is like coming up with ideas for anything creative. The biggest thing you need to know while brainstorming techniques for your blog illustration is that your initial burst will more than likely not be your best.
The way our consciousness works is that the five senses absorb things all day, every day. Our subconscious is being bombarded with information, and when we sit down to do creative work, our concepts are works in progress; they take time to come together.
In addition, they’ll probably be built on the thoughts of someone else. It’s inevitable.
Also, know this: Most people spend so much time seeing art – even if they’re not aware it’s art – that to not have at least a shred of preference is like saying you don’t like any particular kind of food. Everyone has tastes when it comes to the consumption of creative work.
“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.” – Ira Glass, “Taste vs. Ability”
Refining your brainstorming techniques is one way to bridge the gap between ideas and good ideas. Here are a handful that can help you accomplish whatever task you’re setting out to do – even picking images for your blog.
First, set a timer (I use Online-Stopwatch.com) for a short span of time, say 10 to 15 minutes. Now, as soon as the timer starts, think about your project and, without stopping, write down all of the words that pop into your head in a stream of consciousness onto the paper. At this point don’t judge yourself or overthink what you’re writing down. If you think “hamburger,” write down “hamburger.” No matter how silly the word, write it. Don’t analyze what you have written – that’s for later. Write the word and move on to the next. Fill your paper up with words.
Doing something like this can be like a psychological cleanse to your system, which can allow you to see all of the cliches and thoughts your psyche is currently attached to.
Writing furiously during this time can actually allow you to distance yourself from your thoughts in order to analyze them, which is what we want.
Now that you have the word list, go through and circle the words that jump out at you and form bigger ideas inside your mind. Imagine that this is Survivor, and instead of voting people off of the island, you’re kicking off ideas. When you have all of the good ideas remaining, try and connect them. Draw lines in between the ones that have associations. Try and figure out the ideas that will lend themselves to good illustration.
Looking at Others’ Work – Consciously
Tumblr has become my favorite ally in the battle against bad work. Tumblr’s entire search engine works on hashtags. That means that anybody who tags their work as “#creative” or “#art” can be found through the search. With 30 to 50 million estimated Tumblr users, you can really get a feel for the state of creativity in the world by looking at the entries marked with such hashtags.
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This is incredibly powerful for me – akin to taking a potent shot of pure art.
If you don’t like Tumblr, a similar thing can be done by searching for imagery on Google Image Search, but the lack of pointed results there is what gives Tumblr the edge. Oh, and if you like hashtag searching, install Instagram on your phone and search for hashtags through there for inspiration.
Going for a Walk and Looking at the World
One of the first tenets you learn in art is to look at the world rather than interpret it. We spend most of our lives trying to turn the world into something we can understand.
Imagine you’re in an art class, and the instructor puts a coffee cup on the table and tells you to draw it. Nine times out of 10, students will draw a coffee cup that looks like it came straight out of a cartoon. They fail at drawing the coffee cup right in front of them. That one that has unique lines and backdrops. The cup that will never exist in the same way ever again. They don’t draw that cup – they draw the one inside their head. The cliché. And there’s a big difference between seeing the coffee cup and drawing a generic coffee cup symbol.
So, go into the world and stop interpreting all of the symbols and imagine you are an alien from another planet coming to Earth for the first time. How would you see everything around you? As you’re looking at everything with fresh eyes, let your mind routinely drift back to the goal of your project. Have you learned anything new?
Drawing With Friends
Try this: Invite a friend over. Sit them down and put a piece of paper in between the two of you. The purpose of the assignment is to create something you’re not attached to. Without talking, take turns drawing.
When your friend is drawing silently, watch them. Put your hands behind your back. I would suggest not trying to draw specific symbols, but instead draw abstract lines that represent what you’re feeling. Trying to divine what someone is feeling without their verbalizing it is a truly eye-opening experience. Look at the way they grip their instrument; the way they interact with your lines. How does it feel if they do something that you didn’t intend? How easily can you give up on being in control?
How does this out-of-body experience help you understand your own project? What would the drawing be like if you were doing it with the consumers coming to your blog? What would they draw?
[Tweet “Our lead illustrator’s favorite brainstorming technique? Doing the dishes.”]
Doing the Dishes
When I can’t seem to get through an idea, I do the dishes. I don’t like to do the dishes. It’s something that takes a lot of time and little creativity. But through the act of being successful at something like the dishes, the mind is free to wander and make positive associations with the feeling of accomplishment. Honestly, this is when I do the best brainstorming.
This also happens a lot in the shower for some reason. The key to choosing an activity like doing the dishes or taking a shower is to pick a physical activity. It needs to be something that gets you out of your brain. It’s no good to try to brainstorm from reading a book or watching TV – those require attention from your brain. When you put your mind out of your head and into your body, it has brief moments of freedom from the ego to make associations that can lead to brilliant innovation.
Whether you’re a designer a blog manager looking for ideas, these brainstorming techniques will work. Try one this week and let us know how it goes!