Idea Processes: My Thesis Continues!

TWO posts in as many days! I’ve been feeling extra-energized this week, so I pumped this one out on my lunch break. Looks like someone’s been eating their Wheaties.

This post is a continuation of my thesis and revisiting some of the main ideas. Today we’re talking about:

Idea Processes.

Within a creative working culture (and advertising specifically) all work is focused on one thing: the idea. Creatives and non-creatives alike have an absolute lust for ideas. However, being entirely reliant on such an ephemeral resource can cause many problems!

What happens when ideas aren’t to be found? Do ideas stem solely from inspiration? Are ideas the product of a moment of clarity, or can they be manufactured? Is it possible to train oneself to routinely channel ideas?

One of my favorite thinkers on this subject is James Webb Young. James [yes, we’re on a first-name basis now] believed that there is a way to stimulate creativity and produce ideas with routine success. In A Technique for Producing Ideas, Young outlines five steps that not only lead to finding that illusive idea, but can also streamline the process and allow for more creative flow. This is what these steps boil down to:

1. Gather Raw Materials.

In this stage, it is important to become as knowledgeable as possible in the problem presented. Leave no stone unturned, and do your research.

2. Digest the Information Gathered.


Make new connections between seemingly disparate things. Turn things over, flip them around, make new relationships from old connections. (Image via Reardonk)

3. Get away from the problem.

Drop the subject entirely. Young recommends listening to music, going to the movies, reading, doing anything to take your mind off the issue. This step lets the creative unconscious work over the problem.

4. The “aha!” moment.

This step is a result of the synthesis of raw materials, leading to a new solution for the problem. This is the stage in which the idea strikes, often described as a blinding moment of clarity or a sort of “aha!” feeling.

5. Shape and refine the idea.

This is when the idea is applied practically to the situation and either sinks or swims. This also is often the point at which you return to the beginning of the process!

Extrapolating that third step, it’s obvious that setting and  fun can be vital components of idea processes.
How can advertising agencies engineer the space for this kind of creativity to strike?

Creative Spaces and Working Places

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my senior thesis project, which had the above title. It was mainly concerned with working atmospheres, and how to foster creativity within the relative rigidity of the corporate environment. From time to time, I’m going to use this (blog) space to suss out my thoughts and explore the topic further.

J-School collaborations take place anywhere- even the streets!

My initial interest in this topic developed from my coursework within the advertising department in the School of Journalism. When it comes time to show work in advertising classes, students pin their work up to a wall and everyone offers critiques. Groups would explain their work and the process of producing it, and I realized that what I was seeing was the result of creative team collaborations. The teams that were able to meet regularly were more successful, but more importantly, the teams who looked like they were having the most fun almost always came up with the most creative ads. The group dynamic was incredibly important for producing quality work. I began to wonder how this process of making work fun would translate into the professional setting at advertising agencies. How do you produce creative and interesting work every day in an environment rife with deadlines, reports, intense competition and high expectations?
This is when I began to wonder what role physical spaces might play in creative work flow.

Psychologies of Space

The physical environment in which a person works has a profound impact on their work habits and what they produce. In arguing for a more open plan office, many architects, designers and employers agreed that the high expectations on creativity in advertising offices requires a space that allows for collaborative areas and relaxed atmospheres.
The potential impact of physical surroundings on creative work is infinite. Small, cramped office spaces tend to lead to small and cramped ideas. There must be a strong interaction between the collaborative nature of advertising, the process of getting  ideas, and the physical space where this all takes place.

Stay tuned for more rambling thoughts and snippets.