An idea can change your life
I need you to design a shoe.
Any shoe. It doesn’t matter what fabric or colour you choose. It doesn’t matter who you’re designing it for. It just needs to be a shoe. Simple enough? Great, now go ahead and start thinking about this shoe. Think about how you’re going to design it. Think about what will really make your shoe unique. What is it going to feel like when one wears it? What occasion is it appropriate for? How might you style the shoe with a good outfit? Consider all aspects of your design before you continue reading.
Are you done? Perfect! Now do you have a fair idea of what this shoe is going to look like? I’m sure you do. If you performed the task like I asked, I’m fairly certain that most of you were able to visualize the final shoe in your head. The next step is to take that design and throw it out the window. Sounds weird? Don’t worry, it’s not.
What happened here is a very common mistake that’s committed when developing a design. The second we hear a brief, we start to create mental images of the final design. But hold on, where’s the research? The brainstorming? The exploration of different concepts?
Yeah, but all of that comes later.
That’s where we’re wrong. An idea only becomes unique when it is different. And how do you know what’s different if you don’t first know what’s the same? If you believe that your mind is capable of creating something out of thin air, you’re mistaken. All your mind does is replay your past experiences and tailors it to suit your present situation, just like in the shoe example. The mental image of the shoe you created isn’t a unique idea. It’s just a culmination of all the designs your brain has seen, filtered down to the ones it remembered. You haven’t designed a novel shoe, you’ve just reworked existing designs. And that’s hardly inventive.
We believe that ideas are better if they come to us faster. Because the quicker you get an idea, the more time you can devote to making the final product. But great ideas don’t just happen, they’re made. They are a product of time, effort and plenty of research. Take any big invention in the world and trace its history. You will find that the idea was a mere seed; what made the invention a success was the process that went into executing it.
So how does one go about developing a design? Well, the first step is to consciously NOT think of the final design at the beginning. I say this because when you visualize something that you like, more often than not, everything you do after that is an attempt to bring that singular concept to life. You will find yourself making decisions that lead to your original vision, thereby causing you to limit your options. There is always the off-chance that your first idea is what you end up with ultimately, but make sure that the path you take to reach there is the right one.
A good way to design effectively is to spend sufficient time absorbing other ideas. There is a popular misconception that for an idea to be groundbreaking, it must be entirely novel. However, in reality, every idea is inspired. Each day we digest a plethora of information that gets stored in our memory for later use. If you think about it, our minds are quite similar to Siri - consistently marinating information and shelling out answers to the questions we ask it. Except that the voices in your head can’t become British at the click of a button. But hey, that’s an idea!