9 Ideas For A More Creative And Effective Brainstorming Process

Scribbles - Doodle - Abstract - Chicken ScratchesDo you doodle? Do you have to draw abstracts when you are talking on the phone on anything that’s handy? Does your mind work better when the idea takes form on that discarded napkin? Then take a moment with me to see how you can’t possibly live without thumb nailing.

Thumb nailing goes by many different names too. I prefer doodling, but scribbles, chicken scratches, roughs, epiphanies, or just plain thoughts come to mind. For better or worse, these instantaneous thoughts that fall onto the nearest scrap of paper can be the start of something great.

Thumb nailing is simply rough hand drawn sketches we draw out for our own amusement or the very first glimmer of a project idea. Most of us are truly embarrassed to show these to our friends much less a client, but they are the foundation to all well thought out projects. As some of you know, I wake up at all hours or just don’t go to bed when I am in the groove of a project, as I am sure a lot of you do too.

By writing these ideas down, I capture the essence of the thought I want to hone later.

I don’t usually spend a lot of time working on scheduled thumbnails. These are project ideas I need for a paying client. It has gotten to the point I can whip out four or five in about the same amount of minutes. The true misnomer is that these take time, and they don’t! However, you have to practice.

I write everything down, mainly so I don’t forget something, but I really do write lots of random ideas down for later use. You never know when something will come in handy. But how do you get started creating thumbnails? Picking up a pencil is a good start.

  • Find a comfortable work space. Find a place you can focus on the ideas swirling around in your head without distractions. For some this can be a busy restaurant and for others sitting under the shade tree in the back yard. It doesn’t matter as long as it is good for you.
  • Be prepared. Have something to write on and with. My chicken scratches tend to have lots of eraser marks so I use a couple of nicely sharpened pencils and colored pencils. I also carry and use an artist’s eraser for sketching. They are very inexpensive, and leave no black marks if you happen to get an older pencil that has an eraser that got hard.
  • Focus. Sometimes I am blessed with ideas just falling out with no provocation, but not usually. Think about what you want to accomplish for this client. Go over notes from any meetings or phone calls you might have. Many times this will spark an idea you may have forgotten about.
  • Don’t discard any idea as not good enough. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I hated an idea but included it and it was the one that got picked by the client. It is not up to you and sometimes it hits the nail on the head.
  • You don’t need to create a masterpiece. That comes later. Don’t be embarrassed by stick people and squiggle marks for location. I pre-empt my thumbnails by telling my clients I am not an artist, I am a designer. Most business people know and understand the language of doodles and fully expect you to show them a concept first.
  • Don’t touch the computer. It is a really easy fallback and can end up costing you a pile of money. By focusing the concept on paper, you will be able to define the points the client wants to draw out. It is so easy to simply go to the computer and start creating and wake up six hours later with an idea the client will hate. You don’t get paid for those hours. Wait until you know what you are creating, then start. It is a better use of time management skills.
  • Create ten to fifteen thumbnails. Remember, this is only about ten to fifteen minutes of time used. From these, choose the six strongest ideas. Which ones send a clear message? Are colors a factor? Does the message change tone if you change background/foreground colors? Does the eye follow where you want it to go? Placement of photos and slogans as well as a logo is important too. All of these will change the thumbnail.
  • Don’t be afraid to create. I have been known to be sitting in a meeting with a client and have a great idea as they are talking. By quickly sketching this out, I can show them the concept to see if I am on target.
  • Be adaptable. Sometimes, you will have a client that likes one part of this thumbnail and wants to include something from another. That is perfectly fine. Quickly sketch it out and show it to them.

By working this way, you don’t lost any time, your productivity increases, and quite possibly, you make more money. How has thumb nailing worked for you? Are you a doodle maniac or petrified to show off your talents? Please share your ideas with the rest of us! :)


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