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From Pad to Pixels – Design Brainstorming 101

By on November 3rd, 2014 in Design

From Pad to Pixels

Did you know that behind every successful design project is a pile of unused ideas, concepts and sketches that didn’t make the cut? It isn’t that these unused ideas are necessarily bad, but rather they might not have been the right fit for the project at that given time.

To some, unused design concepts may seem like a complete waste of time and energy, not to mention the waste of a few good ideas. But, not me. As a designer, I feel that by developing these initial ideas, I’m not only able to drive the creative process, but doing so actually pushes me to arrive at better final product. It is very important for designers to explore every idea individually before heading down any one specific path.

For me the process is quite simple. I meet with my clients, listen to their requests, and ask questions to further learn about their needs and goals. At this point, my brain begins to run wild with all sorts of ideas and sometimes to the point where my mind jumps to a new idea before I’ve actually completed the previous thought. One would think that in this digital age that this brain storming session takes place in front of monitor with a keyboard and mouse. Well, the truth is, I still prefer to begin each project with a sketchbook… nothing beats good ol’ pencil and paper.

I begin by sketching. I sketch shapes, colors, fonts, keywords, ideas… you name it. I sketch everything. Even if it doesn’t make sense or if I am unsure as to where the thought is going. If it comes to mind, it goes on paper. It is only after my brain-frenzy is over and I’ve organized my ideas that I begin the transfer from pad to pixels. I begin creating digital representations of my ideas, moving and rearranging elements, fonts, and colors. My goal is to explore every possibility.

3 Brainstorming Tips for Designers

Ready to get started? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when brainstorming design concepts:

1. REMEMBER: Jot everything down! In this initial phase, no thought is unwelcome. Now is not the time to be a critic. Set your mind free to wander and this will help you travel down a path that you didn’t see ahead of you!

2. Write down associated words that are relevant to the topics in your project. Consolidate ideas to see if words flow together to create any ideas.

3. After you feel you have exhausted these stages, now you can step back with a critical eye and narrow down your ideas. Get rid of the concepts that are overdone or cliché, and keep the ones you feel are worth expanding on.

I’ve been designing long enough to know that what works for one designer may not work for another. Starting off with a sketch pad first and transitioning to digital is a process that works for me. How about you? Do you have a different method? I would like to hear it! Leave a comment below!