You can brainstorm in a number of different ways. Here, I talk through of my favourite brainstorming activities.
The first step of any creative project is to brainstorm for a “solution”. Design is all about solving a problem, and often the first idea isn’t the best. You can brainstorm for any number of topics, from the overall concept to the presentation of data. All that matters is creating a thorough and diverse picture of the options, to make choosing and refining easier.
There are countless ways to begin brainstorming. And the method you chose will depend on your learning and thinking style, the project type, and ultimately, the client. Sometimes, I’ll brainstorm in a way that makes sense to me, then repurpose that data into a different presentation style for someone else. There are really no rules to brainstorming. It’s all about idea generation.
The only pro-tip I have for brainstorming is to relax and make mistakes. This is just the beginning of the process. Things will change and evolve, but they have to start from somewhere. Also, try to use pen on paper. It’s a lot more freeing than the rigid structure of a computer, so you might come up with more “out-of-the-box” concepts. And you can always type your best ideas up after the fact.
The classic way to brainstorm is a mind map. You’ve most likely come across this before, probably as early as primary school. It’s a really easy way to visualise data, and break one big topic down into smaller branches. Mind maps are incredibly popular, and rightly so for several reasons.
Using a mind map forces the categorisation of data. By starting with one broad topic, then breaking it down into it’s key components, then exploring each of these as well, you’ve begun a heirachy without thinking about it. While redesigning the Shelley Bassett website, I also took the time to restructure how posts would work. This involved brainstorming a heirachy of blog categories.
By starting with the key idea, my blog, then breaking it down into the main topics I wanted to talk about, I had immediately created the top level or parent categories for my site. Every branch out then became a subcategory. When doing a structure for something like a blog, it might also be helpful to use a different colour and list some of the potential blog titles, just to create an idea of what belongs at each level.
Creating multiple mind maps can also show you the depth of an idea. When faced with the challenge to create a website that … The resulting site was UrbanGreen.Garden, but there was some extensive brainstorming to get there.
Because of the depth required in the site, a number of topics were explored. But placed side-by-side, it’s obvious which idea was going to be chosen for the final website. Here, taking the time to brainstorm multiple ideas ensured that the best fit was found for the project.
If you’re a more visual thinker, Pinterest might be a good solution for you. I’ve spoken about where to find these visual ideas before, but not how to use them to develop a project. Collecting them together can be a big chore, and if you want to keep the sources to return to them later, you might end up with a big messy list. For an early stage brainstorming tool, Pinterest can be a godsend.
Take my Pinterest account for example. I have boards dedicated to a bunch of different things I’m interested in. Some of these might spark inspiration for new projects, some might help me to refine an idea. It’s just a really easy way to visually brainstorm, and see how other projects have come together.
A tried and true method of brainstorming is just to list things out. You saw this in action with my goals for 2018. When it comes to what I want to post on my blog, I have a running list of ideas. And I’m constantly adding things to the list. This ongoing style allows me the freedom to brainstorm without being tied to topics or semantics. Any idea is acceptable, the content written later will determine it’s place within the structure.
It’s also okay to mix random points with those already in a heirachy. Due to the free form nature of a list, it’s fine to include any type of bullet point, just get the ideas down!
The only crucial part of brainstorming is that you choose the method that works best for you and the project. Don’t be scared to try new methods, or use several methods for one topic. You never know what you might discover.