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I’m Jacob Cass, the founder of JUST™ Creative. I’m a multi-disciplinary graphic designer, working with clients all around the world. My specialty is logo & brand identity design. JUST™ Get in touch.

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How To Boost Your Creativity

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Boost Your Creativity

I have previously written an article on how to be creative however, it didn’t tell you how to boost your creativity.

Below are some great ways of stimulating your brain to get great ideas – fast.

Change Your Environment

Decorate a wall with old product packages, put up king size posters of your favourite designers, rip out pages of a colour catalogue and pin them up, find music that inspires you, create interesting lighting by sticking distorted paper in front of the lamps and – if you own the place – redecorate in an inspiring manner. Alternatively, cover the walls with paper and let yourself go with paints and brushes. It is a fact that decorating a work environment with flowers increases the generation of new ideas by 15% (Roger Ulrich, Ph.D., Behavioural Scientist, Texas A&M University, 2004).

Why, Why, Why Technique

Why Why WhyAsk ‘Why?’ several times until you explore undiscovered parts of the problem you’re working on. You’re creating an advertisement. Why are you creating an advertisement? Because they need one. Why do they need one? Because they’ve got this interesting product to show off. What makes the product interesting? It glows in the dark. Why does it glow in the dark? Because (:). Suddenly, you’ll find yourself with more information to spin around.

Use Different Mediums

Got process colours? Go mix them and paint something. Draw something. Take whatever ideas you’ve got, redraw them by hand, and see if they turn out different. If possible, cut it into pieces and put it together another way.

Write Your Own Brief

Write your own brief, and include as much information as possible. Try to define the problem clearly. If you’ve got one from a client, rewrite it in your own words.

Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats

  1. White – State the facts and figures
  2. Red – State the emotions.
  3. Black – State the negatives. Use judgment and caution.
  4. Yellow – State the positives.
  5. Green – Ideas that come by seeing things in a new light. Suggest alternatives, proposals, provocations.
  6. Blue – Sum up what has been learned. It controls the debate. To see it in action.

To see it in action.

What if? Technique

If you’re stuck half-way in a design, let your mind wander. What if this was seen mirrored? What if these two switched positions? What if I inverted the whole thing? You could also go further by making stories and creating characters. What if this illustration could come over and give its opinion? Sounds too much like an acid trip for me, but some people have success with it. What if it was (put in whatever adjective you can think of)?

Use mind maps

Brainstorm, preferably with a partner, and draw a mind map. There is nothing that is as effective as mind mapping, as it has a tendency to grow and grow as you explore the topic. This can of course be combined with other techniques. Mindomo is a great web based app. Freemind is another good alternative, written in Java.

Don’t be critical

You can’t both be creative and critically judging at the same time. These are two difference processes that should take place in two different phases of the process. Write down everything, no matter how badly you’re trying to tell yourself it sucks. Get it down. There are no bad ideas, just bad decisions.

Criticism belongs later in the design process, when you’ve got so many ideas and concepts that you can begin being selective.

Osborn’s Checklist

Apply the following check list and see if it generates any new ideas or perspectives. Try to avoid being held back by assumptions of how things should be done.

Put to other uses? As it is? If modified?
Adapt? Is there anything else like this? What does this tell you? Is the past comparable?
Modify? Give it a new angle? Alter the colour, sound, odour, meaning, motion, and shape?
Magnify? Can anything be added, time, frequency, height, length, strength? Can it be duplicated, multiplied or exaggerated?
Minify? Can anything be taken away? Made smaller? Lowered? Shortened? Lightened? Omitted? Broken up?
Substitute? Different ingredients used? Other material? Other processes? Other place? Other approach? Other tone of voice? Someone else?
Rearrange? Swap components? Alter the pattern, sequence or layout? Change the pace or schedule? Transpose cause and effect?
Reverse? Opposites? Backwards? Reverse roles? Change shoes? Turn tables? Turn other cheek? Transpose ‘+/-’?
Combine? Combine units, purposes, appeals or ideas? A blend, alloy, or an ensemble?

Force associations and connections

Pick a random word from a dictionary, a magazine, a website or wherever, and try to force connections between the word and the problem you’re solving. This could and should be combined with mind mapping and sketching.

For further creative techniques visit MyCoted.

What other methods do you use to get ideas fast?


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88 JUST™ Creative Comments

  • LaurenMarie - Creative Curio Reply

    Hi Jacob! You have some great articles here (and I applaud you for your posting during the holidays… got a bit lazy myself :( ) I have not seen that Osborn’s Checklist before, but I’ve applied many of those questions to my work, especially when creating a re-design. Those can always be difficult because the client is so use to the way things look now.

    I would also add to your list de Bono’s How to Have Creative Ideas. Great book. I wrote a small review about it on my blog quite a while back. Have you seen this book or practiced any of the exercises? They don’t necessarily have to do with design, more developing your “creative muscle.”

    Thanks for this food for thought! And Happy New Year!

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Hi Lauren,
    Sorry about the late reply, as you probably know, I have been overseas on holidays and I’ve just had a chance today to catch up on things.

    I agree about Osborn checklist, I haven’t actually used it before but once I get back to Uni next month I am sure that I will.

    You would probably get along very well with a classmate of mine called Asgeir Hoem from Norway (www.asgeirhoem.no) as he loves De Bono and has read many of his books.

    I read the review you wrote however didn’t do the exercise because I read the comments first- oops. But anyway, just another thing to tryout while I am at uni.

    HNY to you too :)

  • LaurenMarie - Creative Curio Reply

    Wow, you go to school with Asgeir? I’ve seen him commenting on many of the blogs I read. How funny!

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Yes, Asgier is in my class in half of the subjects that I study, hes a good kid, talented too, I think he will do well.

  • David Airey Reply

    Great to see Ed de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats mentioned.

    It’s a superb book, and Ed’s a fantastic author.

  • Nitin Reply

    Hi Jacob!

    Nice article.though from today i follow ur steps i do forward this to my frnds to read this….

    One mistake i found in this article
    the line that says

    “should take place in two different phases of the process. ”

    “s” is not bold….here? any specific reason??

    nice article

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Thanks Nitin. No, no reason, guess it was just a small mistake.

  • shashika Reply

    good article cass

  • Truly Ace Design Reply

    I think changing one’s environment can be a big help. Also exposing oneself to a lot of new and fresh visual stimulations.

    Sometimes when I’m out and about, I take photographs of interesting things that I look at later on.

    I don’t get enough of new visual stimulations though, I never have enough time :(

    But whenever I do, I find it really inspiring, so I really should try to make more time.

    I like the sound of that ‘What If’ strategy also, I may give that a go, sounds as though it leads to abstract thinking, which has got to be useful.

    Truly Ace Designs last blog post..Cheap Logo Design

  • ri Reply

    Some wonderful tricks that I will add to my quiver. Thanks!

  • Ryan Reply

    This is great. I think something can be said for a biological approach to enhancing creativity as well, that is, influencing creativity through supplements and diet in addition to cognitive approaches. I recently wrote about 6 natural ways to increase creativity:
    SAM-e, NADH, fine-tuning your diet to maximize energy and productivity, identifying your most effective stimulant(s) such as cocoa, green tea, red wine, coffee, etc, honing in on the optimal “window” each day for creative work, and then recognizing and encouraging your desire for creative work.

  • Steve Constable Reply

    Some people are just born with a deep need to create. Do you ever see something you would like to change visually? That drive is there. But you can wear out that drive too. Don’t push too hard. When the bear wants to come out of the cave it will. ;)

  • Melissa Reply

    That article makes me want to take on the world and make a logo out of it lol.

    Im really into logos and i find it interesting that in my time of dire need for inspiring thoughts i come across your website.More specific your article.Im definitly going to put it to use and the way things are going my logo is on its way to being the best!

    shot jacob!

  • Rudi Reply

    Thx for the tips man, i’ll waiting for your next tips :D

  • stephen hill Reply

    hey, i think we all suffer with that stumped feeling once in a while, going back to basics always helps, on a sunny day in the garden certainly gets the brain going again!

  • ??????? Reply

    ???… ??? ??????? ? ???? ????????? ??? ??????? ?????? :)

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  • eugen m Reply

    weed is also good for creativity! :)

  • Alex Reply

    For me, one of the worst things I can do is NOTHING (sit in the same spot for hours just waiting for divine inspiration). I have to stay active. Change my environment. Approach the problem from a new angle. Take a long break. Then I go at it again.

    Great post.

  • Konveksi Jaket dan Kemeja Reply

    Great tips to improve my creativity. Especially with change the environment : D

  • maria Reply

    i have read some of your article in other blogs and I just love your tips. thanks :)

  • seragam kerja Reply

    great tips to improve my quality…. love your article. thanks for sharing guys


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