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Top 5 Ways to Spark Your Initial Creative Design Idea

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

‍Image Credit: ®  issaronow | Fotolia

For so many, great change-making design ideas seem elusive. Just how does one find that initial spark that launches an entire project around a game-changing idea? Really, it can happen in unlimited ways, but the following five idea generating methods are the most common that I have experienced, and seen other designers experience as well.

· THE VISUALIZATION IDEA: This way of sparking an idea is derived from an initial glimpse into a unique design solution that evolves into an entire vision. What may begin as a simple or different way of seeing or doing something, can turn into an entire vision where that one change impacts a person's life, a community, a culture, and so on. To achieve a visualization idea simply "see" the world uniquely to uncover its untapped potential. Then, evolve what you see into a vision that becomes scalable.

· INTER-CONNECTION IDEA: By juxtaposing two or more seemingly unrelated things, you can come up with an unlimited number of new ideas. You can juxtapose objects, narrative, people, or even research findings. Be open to what other ideas get sparked. You may be surprised to uncover how great this exercise is to "free" your thinking. Just remember that this is an exercise in creative thinking – and it can help you to even see design problems differently. 

· RESEARCH-BASED IDEA: There are times when you must do a lot of research to uncover necessary information that sets the groundwork for your design idea. But it is important to extend beyond the research findings for your actual design. In other words, how will you create a unique and research-based design idea? To achieve a research-based idea, many have found great value in conducting exhaustive research, and then doing something entirely different. The mind will seem to spontaneously spark an idea (after having had time to process the groundwork carried out). Timing is an important factor in design idea generation.

· BRAINSTORM IDEA: There are times when an iterative process to idea generation works best. To achieve the brainstorm idea, simply write, draw, or design all variations and sparks of ideas you may have (even if they are only partial ideas). In the end, you will have a collection of ideas from which to choose, to grow upon, or to converge.

· PROBLEM-BASED IDEA: Once you are given (or find) a design problem for which you would like to design a solution, it is important to analyze the challenge properly. From there, you can spark a creative idea that solves for this root problem or challenge. To achieve a problem-based idea, it is important to study the challenge from different perspectives, and to even ensure that the problem you were given (or found) is indeed the root problem. Your design idea will then be generated as a direct solution arrived by digging deeply into the design challenge.

In the end, it is important to try different or combined methods for sparking your creative design ideas. This can help you to more easily "turn on" creative idea exploration and captivation in a timely manner. So often, designers need unique and creative ideas fast, where solutions are expected by clients or review boards quickly. By getting increasingly in touch with your own creative process, you can improve your design formulation skills.

The five idea generation methods above are seeds to get you started on growing your own creativity to significantly and quickly improve your design works. I invite you to see how many other methods you can add to the list for evolving and personalizing your own creative process.

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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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