Von Glitschka’s presentation, Creating 5 Alarm Concepts, is one of the better sessions of the HOW Conference. His talk was well organized and well thought out.
He started by stating that not all design problems require a “homerun” that sometimes the answer really is as simple as a sign saying “2 hotdogs for 99¢.” A hit is a hit, the point is whether or not your solution works.
But when we are called upon to come up with a complex concept, a 5 alarm concept, what do we do to generate those ideas?
Loading the Chamber
First, according to Von, it is important to load the chamber by which he means to fill your head with ideas gleaned from outside the design field. He was careful to mention that we must also look outside of the world of design as it will deepen our well of inspiration. Instead of just one source of inspiration, we will have many. It takes dedicated and purposeful focus and as designers, we should be great thinkers. It is very easy as designers to concentrate on the look rather than the project as a whole.
One area this manifests itself is in the eternal battle between Marketing and Graphic Design. Many times each side is looking at something different while assuming the other should see things their way. He offered 4 points that we designers should keep in mind when talking with Marketing:
- Reaching the audience appropriately. Concentrate on solving their problems, not the company’s.
- If someone’s comments sound negative, step into their shoes. Don’t take the criticism personally, rather try to see where they are coming from.
- Understand the realities of investment and return of investment for your client. Realize that there are real business goals behind this project that must be met. If the design doesn’t bring in business, there probably won’t be business for the designer.
- Educate the client, help them understand. Sometimes, you must help them realize that they are not the final audience. Move them from thinking about what they like to what the audience likes.
He continued to say that we should dig deep into the client’s head to help develop a solution. He spoke of research as an ongoing process throughout the life cycle of the project rather than a stage near the beginning.
Gathering Conceptual Triggers
Research involves many facets, but the point of all of it is to collect “conceptual triggers” which he equated to matches. The more matches you have, the more concepts you can illuminate.
He lists 2 types of conceptual triggers:
You can collect these “matches” anywhere if you look for them.
Reading, Von says, is equivalent to thinking with someone else’s head. Through careful reading of a wide variety of sources, we can expand our knowledge across many disciplines (be a good thinker). Great design is not an island unto itself. Sources include books, magazines, blogs, etc.
You collect matches just by traveling. When you are someplace new, you tend to notice things more clearly. Von Glitschka collects textures by photographing interesting textures he sees. You also meet new people and see things you never have before such as animals, art, nature, architecture, history, food and festivals.
He uses the example of Petra, Jordan which was created by Bedouins who were on the move much of their lives. When the created Petra, they incorporated design elements from the areas they had traveled through to create something entirely new and different. His exhortation to “be a Bedouin” means to source your various experiences into your design making something new and interesting.
Travel can be done where you are as well. Visit places you haven’t before, make a habit of noticing things around you.
Harvest your inspiration
We are often inspired by thoughts, visuals, and words. To capture these, we must have a plan. He suggests always keeping a pad of paper or some other way of recording the ideas.
When doing this, keep these things in mind: Embrace the rabbit trails, work with simple tools like pen and paper, and find an environment that is conducive to this type of thinking.
Here are some techniques to begin:
Not just a simple list of words, but words that relate to the subject in different ways. Look at the diagrams pdf in Von’s presentation to get a better idea of what he’s talking about. Basically, though, it contains 8 categories: metaphors, facts, historical, slang, emotional, personification, hyperbole, idioms, and puns. Thinking of your subject, fill in words or phrases in each of these categories and then select ones that seem to have some type of connection or suggest a creative solution.
Everywhere I went at the conference, it seemed the speakers were talking about mind mapping. The process basically goes the same way you may have learned pre-writing in school. You begin with your subject in the middle, and then write down everything you can think of that has to do with it. Branch off of those ideas to new ideas and so forth. Peter Samis has some examples on his website. You don’t necessarily have to draw images with it, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Although the above were the two ideas I liked best, he also listed others that may be of value to you and your workflow. Again, download the presentation to get the whole story.
This was one of my favorite presentations. Von Glitschka is both entertaining and knowledgeable and shares that in a comfortable, easy-to-digest way. I see these ideas fitting into our culture here at Mutual by using his brainstorming ideas in creative team meetings. I think that we use these techniques on both personal and team levels to produce more ideas faster. I especially like his ideas concerning finding an environment that stimulates creative thinking and humbly suggest we create some type of Brand library where we could house books, magazines and other appropriate materials in a warm and inviting area that would lend itself to creative thinking.
Finally, I would encourage everyone to spend time reading and traveling, gaining new experiences or “matches” to utilize when creating new concepts.