Everyone is seeking a competitive advantage today. Beefing up your company’s creativity just might be the best way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Creative thinking can unlock successful problem solving and innovation, spur growth and create greater value for companies. Being in the business of environmental graphics, creative thinking is the key to Thinking Caps Design’s (TCD) success. So we put together a short list of five practical and fun ways we approach creative work that might help you fine tune your own creative approach
1. Your Customers Are the Best Source of Inspiration
Creativity draws on both the right and left sides of your brain, so the first step is to analyze your customer environment. Tremendous inspiration is found in customer interaction. TCD gathers information on what issues customers want to resolve, how they tackle their challenges, and what they believe could potentially make life better. We consider their history, culture, values and the identity they project. This is the raw material we use; putting it into our brain’s hopper so it can churn and cook a bit as we search for new patterns that can form a basis for our design work.
TCD’s Creative Director and President Julie Wolf already knew Arizona School for the Arts well when we accepted a project to help design a visual identity for a welcoming entryway to their campus in Central Phoenix. She was active in the parent association and experienced the school’s commitment to rigorous academics and its focus on performing arts. But the school’s brand was mostly unknown. Placing the school’s identity and mission front and center was our solution with a series of photographic panels capturing students passionately engaged in their art. The campus signage became the marque from which to build community awareness and proudly tout the talented student enrollment.
2. Get the Creative Juices Warmed Up
Want to get the creative brain synapses firing? Try warming up with a dose of physical activity. A link exists between physical activity and creative thinking so take a walk, do some jumping jacks beforehand or try a yoga pose before putting your ideas to paper.
A technique we use at TCD is to create mood or inspiration boards. TCD uses these for most projects to present examples of designs, color palettes, textures, words and photographs that help define the direction of the project and solicit input from clients. The site Pinterest is an example of a digital mood board that anyone can create.
Sometimes we conduct word mapping exercises. A word map is a visual tool that helps build associations that are helpful for naming or identity projects. You begin with a key word in a circle and draw a line from this node to another word that comes to mind and circle that result. As you continue branching out, new opportunities for linking ideas are discovered. TCD was invited on a project to help name a community in North Scottsdale for home builder Taylor Morrison. It was the site of an iconic bar and grill known as Greasewood Flats where motorcycle enthusiasts and others would often gather. The property was previously owned by a prominent family that operated a historic blacksmith shop in Scottsdale. This unique combination inspired the name IronHorse that was just perfect for this location. This link was further bolstered when we repurposed wood from the Greasewood Flats as a building material in the entry monument.
3. Bring Different People Together
Too much comfort can be bad for creativity. One way to shake things up is to step outside your comfort zone and involve different people in your process. Collaborating with different team members brings news eyes to a challenge and leads to fresh solutions. TCD wanted to stretch itself once by entering a design competition called This Is Phoenix with the Arizona chapter of the American Institute of Architects. So we invited Tiffany Halperin of Urban Culture Design to join our collaborative team and the result was a project design that both extended our creative boundaries and placed 2nd in the competition overall.
4. Feed Your Brain Habitually, Then Give it a Rest
Creativity needs to be encouraged and nurtured. Turn off the technology for extended periods and feed your brain with reading topics that are unrelated to your industry. It might simply be reading about exciting travel destinations or a how to book on building your own solar cooker, but the important thing is to exercise your thinking in a variety of ways. We use music in our studio to accomplish this too. Listening to music can trigger memories and associations, while improving your mood, mental alertness and creativity.
Clearing your mind is the most important step, so put aside the worries and negative thinking. Start living in the present moment and you’ll see an instant change in your creative outlook. It’s at this stage that you often experience that “aha” moment and all that research you’ve completed starts to pay off.
5. Eat Chocolate
There is some pseudo-scientific basis for the idea that nibbling on chocolate, especially dark chocolate, induces creative thinking. Isn’t that wonderful? It’s said that chocolate is a chemical powerhouse that boosts the production of endorphins and other mood improving chemicals while improving blood flow to the brain. To be honest, devouring chocolate is not part of TCD’s creative process but we do occasionally have some on hand after holidays and it comforting to believe it might go to good use helping our clients innovate and express their own creativity.