Approaching Creativity - A designer's thought process

It started with a simple question. “Could you write a blog?” I was asked. “pick anything that takes your fancy. How about something that informs people a little bit about what it is you do in the ‘Creative department’.” “Of course”, I replied.

Then, after reflecting on what I had just agreed to do, I questioned whether I was the man for the job. I am not a natural scribe. Apart from the odd ‘headline’ or presentation setting out the approach to a brand, I feel more at ease expressing myself through a visual language.

Once I had digested the task ahead of me, I opened a blank document and began to think about what I was going to write about… and so I stared at the blank document… and stared… I wondered if this was what was known as ‘writer's block’. Then, after a while cursing the openness of the task (what on earth should I choose to talk about?) a thought occurred… Why not treat it like a creative brief. After all, it is just a question that requires an answer.

Where do you get your ideas?

Here in the design team, before we even begin to commit pen to paper (or should that be mouse to screen!) we listen to the Client and look for the concept – our design starting point. This is particularly important when considering a strong brand identity and fundamental in allowing us to express the client's personality and create engaging and stand-out marketing solutions.

When approaching a design, it can be too easy to become restricted in your method by going about the process in a way you have ‘always used’. This isn’t necessarily a conscious decision to the approach, but rather a way that we have settled into working, allowing our brains to follow the same routes to reach a solution. Dr Simone Ritter said “even just changing the way you make your usual sandwich can help boost levels of creativity.” Altering your routine can alter your way of thinking and make you more receptive to new ideas.

There is no such thing as a completely original idea anymore, but there are interesting points of view and ways of thinking that can influence your practice. For example, Bob Gill, one of the founding partners of Fletcher/Forbes/Gill (the forerunners of The Partners), said:

“…think about the brief and come up with an opinion that will inform your design approach. If you’re designing a logo for a dry cleaners, don’t sit at your computer, go to a dry cleaners!”

And not just a literal direction either – I am influenced by the music I listen to, the Art I go to see, architecture I notice, sometimes when I am talking to people something they say can trigger the ‘lightbulb’ moment and I have to get out my notebook and draw it.

Keep creativity lively – reconsider your approach on a routine basis – think the Enigma code – each brief will need a reset before you can move forward and design a bespoke brand presence for each individual client.

Being continually aware of approaches, trends and shifts in design practice is also essential for us in a creative team. Know your market! Work by designers such as Stefan Sagmeister, who famously ‘suffered’ for his artform.

Stefan Sagmeister
Stefan Sagmeister

Morag Meyerscough (who works directly in the communities she is representing) is useful to be aware of and may inspire a new way of resolving a brand dilemma that may not have been previously apparent.

Morag Meyerscough
Morag Meyerscough

Or within the mainstream such as the recent airbnb rebrand from DesignStudio that aims to change the way people travel, creating a community of people that feel the same sense of belonging through travel, hospitality and sharing encapsulated in the ‘Belo’ marque that anyone can draw.


Above all, creativity isn’t magic, there is no silver bullet. In the main, it all usually boils down to good old-fashioned hard work. The hardest part is starting. So now I have unlocked my writer's block, I’ll leave you with a quote on how to arrive at the solution to any problem from a wise old sage….

“Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.” ― A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner