Creativity is quickly becoming the next currency in the business and design world. There are millions of places to outsource non-creative work, and it’s only the truly creative people who are not afraid of being replaced or outdated.
Despite what many think, creativity is not decided at birth — and there are a few very simple and logical ways that you can become more creative simply by practicing and using certain methods.
Here are a few of those methods, along with some tools that can help boost your natural abilities. Put these to use and watch your work become more creative.
Research & Isolation: The Starting Points of Creativity
No matter what type of creative work you are doing, it is necessary to start from one or two places — either you research and evaluate the competition, or you isolate yourself in an attempt to do something entirely new.
Research: The Backbone of Creativity
Creativity is often referred to by the cliche ‘thinking outside the box’. Many people miss the simple fact that in order to think outside the box, it can be very helpful to know what this proverbial ‘box’ actually is.
In other terms, being creative is frequently defined as doing something new or different. In order to do something new or different, It’s often necessary to fully understand the current status quo — so that you can break out of it. This is why research is a very valuable part of becoming more creative.
Isolation: Also The Backbone of Creativity
Though research is a valuable part of being creative, intentional isolation can sometimes be equally valuable. In many situations, fully understanding the existing market, design trends, or whatever else can unintentionally taint your perspective on the creation of something new.
Isolating yourself during the design or creative process can occasionally yield fantastic results, as you might create something radically different from anything else already out there. A word of caution, though: many creatives over isolate themselves. Isolation is not necessary to create something new, and researching and understanding the existing space is often a far more productive way to be creative. Try both isolation and research, try combining them, and see what works best in your situation.
Creative Methods: How To be Systematically Creative
Despite seeming vague and mysterious, creativity can actually be very logical in many cases. Here are a few methods for being creative:
1 — Combination and Synthesis
Combination and synthesis is the method of being creative by examining ideas from several different existing works, and combining them into something new and different. Many people frown on looking to others for ideas, but in reality almost every creative work is influenced or even directly related to something already out there. This method, combination and synthesis, is probably the most frequently used form of creativity. Side note: you’ll have to do your research if using this method — isolating yourself won’t work :-)
2 — Intentional Rebellion
Intentional rebellion is a method often used by people who want to appear distinctly creative. It involves researching the existing market or design space, and then intentionally doing something completely different. This method can often produce greatly creative works, but be careful of ignoring very important paradigms simply in the name of creativity (aka, building a website that is creative but entirely unusable).
3 — Sequential Addition
Sequential addition is a creative game where you start from an idea, either one you’ve produced in isolation or one you’ve found by research, and then slowly build, add to, or change the idea in small steps until it no longer resembles the original starting point. This method is useful in trying to imagine the future of a certain type of work or design, and then from there create something that is ahead of the majority.
4 — Outside Influence
Outside influence is the idea of being creative by looking to radically different sources for inspiration sources that are completely unrelated to the work you are doing. For example, if you normally look to other websites for blog post formats or ideas, try looking to magazines instead. Or, even more radically, try adapting a television formula into a blog post. Such outside influences can often provide a very new and interesting jolt to your creativity.
5 — Selective Perspective
Often times when your creativity seems to stop flowing, the idea of selective perspective can help get you started again. Using this creative method, you want to look at your design or project from a very narrow point of view, and imagine how you would finish the project based on just that perspective. Then, you simply repeat this from a different perspective, and try to come up with a new idea yet again. Finally, you can compile and integrate your various points of views into a single, optimum result.
6 — Create and Compare
Create and compare is a strategy based around the idea of isolating yourself and creating something from scratch. Often, when you create something without even looking at the competition you’ll come up with very good ideas — the problem is that it’s easy to overlook other very good ideas that are already in use. With this method you begin entirely in isolation and then compare your ideas to the existing space afterward, when you can make subtle additions and changes without worrying about contaminating your own ideas.
Useful Tools to Amplify Your Creativity
Defining and deciding upon your favorite creative methods is one step towards becoming more creative. Another big gain can be made by integrating the right tools into your creative process. Here are a few that you might take a look at:
1 — Visual Thesaurus
This is a very good twist on the idea of a thesaurus. This tool can be incredibly valuable to writers and even designers in creating new ideas. Check it out →
2 — Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a great way to logically create new ideas, and it’s also invaluable for recording and defining new ideas you’ve already had. There are a number of great programs out there, this list should help you get started.
3 — Prototyping/Sketching
Sketching and prototyping are a designer’s two best friends. If you don’t already have one, get yourself a good notebook that you can easily write and draw in. As for prototyping, I recommend using whatever medium or application you are familiar with that you can work in very quickly (frequently Adobe Illustrator, for designers). Check out this article for more info.
4 — Inspiration Galleries
Sometimes all it takes is a good creative jolt to get you started, and galleries of other people’s work can often provide just that. A few that come highly recommended are Smashing Magazine and Creattica.
What’s Your Take?
Creativity can be a very personal thing — something that needs to be explored individually by each person. What techniques have you found to boost your creativity?
Do you have any tips for others who are looking to become more creative?