How to be a good designer

How to get more ideas
How to be more creative

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Your post is a little ambiguous. I can only assume you are wanting tips and tricks on how to get ideas and be creative. It is all a bit open-ended a question. The glib answer is have the requisite talent, in the first place, get an education, then some experience.

How to come up with lateral and original ideas, is something you have to work out for yourself. Everyone has different methods of putting their head in the right place for ideas to come.

For me, it’s about research and reading, understanding the problem in an analytical way. Once that’s done, I think about it for a bit and get all the cliché solutions out the way. Once that’s done, I think some more, then go for a short snooze, then often as not I’ll either have the idea, or an avenue to explore.

This is not everyone’s chosen method. For many people it is about getting outdoors into nature, or doing something completely different (playing a bass guitar does it for me too). The going for a walk thing is a very common method.

As to how to be creative. You have to be creative in the first place, but it is a muscle you can exercise and become more adept with practice. If you don’t have it in the first place…

That’s about the secret of the universe. It’ll be cheap at a hundred quids a word, so with 18 words, you’re giving away 1,800 quids.

That’s the whole point. Without the high horses, graphic design is a trade, much like a plumber (but with much less pay). Unlike a plumber, you have to be born with something: the ability to see things, understand things, and associate things.

Next is an education, and everything else as @sprout said.

As often happens, @Sprout’s comments are very close to my own.

I’ll also add that education, natural talent (as @Eriskay mentioned), curiosity, and passion are necessary.

Once those prerequisites are in place, a full understanding of the problem is necessary (as Sprout noted) — client goals, restrictions, expectations, budget, branding, time frames, intended audience, competitor successes and failures, etc. A complete understanding of the problem’s parameters is needed before an effective and targeted solution to that problem is possible. I’ve found solutions often spring directly from my understanding of the problem in a deductive reasoning sort of way.

When I’m stuck, and a solution isn’t obvious, I’ll often lie down and let my mind casually wander around the problem as I pick it apart, deconstruct it, and put the pieces back together into a solution. When that doesn’t work, I’ll take a walk, go for a motorcycle ride, or sleep on it overnight.

I hesitate to mention this, but decades ago, as a university student, many of my best and most creative solutions to design problems occurred while coming down from marijuana-induced highs. For various reasons, I no longer do this, but at the time, it definitely helped. I think it had something to do with the drug breaking down some of my mental silos and linear thinking, which enabled me to see connections and recombinations that otherwise weren’t immediately apparent.

For me, my logical mind would often get in my way, so one of my favorite go-to methods was simply getting out and driving my car . My logical brain would be occupied, determining whether the stoplight is turning green, yellow or red and whether the other cars at intersections were going to stop. And that left my subconscious mind wide open to create.

Whenever an idea crossed from subconscious to conscious I would pull off to the side of the road, write down what I was thinking of on my note pad and continue on.

Some of my best ideas came to me this way. I remember several times ideas would come streaking out of the clear blue that eventually lead me to securing some of my biggest clients!

Here’s an example of my “Driving Creative” method. When I started my Advertising Agency in 1982, I had the opportunity to secure a $750,000 (in today’s dollars) account, the second largest shopping mall in St. Louis.

The account called for an ad campaign that addressed an emphasis on Fashion, the reason people need fashion, a problem getting repeat customers.

So I went driving. With these goals in mind, after about 25 miles, a full blown ad campaign came rushing into my mind—BAM!!! With this slogan as the base—“The Compliments Will Keep You Coming Back!”

I drew up the TV Storyboards, Jingle, Radio scripts, And graphic style. I presented it, and GOT THE ACCOUNT!

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The other method I use sometimes, once all the ground work has been done, is to take a hot bath. It works, but always makes me smile when clients ask ‘how do you come up with your ideas?’

I’ve been tempted to add it to an itemised invoice, but never quite been brave enough.

1-hr hot bath, including three drops of lavender essential oil: £XX.XX

20-minute cat-nap, followed by a cup of Nilgiri fine tip leaf tea and a ginger biscuit: £XX.XX

Yeah… perhaps not!!

I always enjoyed Mad Men — the cable series about 1960s New York Ad agencies. The creative director, Don Draper, had a sofa in his office where he would lie down and close his eyes.

I suspect lots of viewers without agency experience assumed the guy was just lazy, but I knew better. Relaxing and letting one’s mind wander is often an essential part of the creative process.

He also had a lot of booze in his office. Just sayin’. :wink:

Seriously, though, I would not recommend alcohol as a tool for creativity.

One beer can help relieve stress that’s getting in the way, but downing a glass or two of Scotch probably isn’t a good strategy for innovative thoughts. :face_with_diagonal_mouth:

Much as I like to imbibe, work and alcohol is never a good idea.

Work is already something I enjoy.

It’s funny but my “Driving Creative” idea came from reading a SHERLOCK HOLMES book where he was about to face Dr Moriarity, his Nemesis with a short time frame to come up with a solution. Right in the middle of the Delimna he turned to his side-kick and said, “Watson, let’s go to the theater!”

Right in the middle of the play he was watching, he shouted “Eureka!—Watson, I have it!”

Problem solved. And my idea was formed as well!


I had to stop watching Mad Men, unfortunately, because all the smoking hit me so forcefully that I actually felt sick to my stomach while watching it. :cry: (I feel that way if I smoke more than one light cigarette)

To be a good designer, focus on:

  1. Education and practice.
  2. Mastering design software.
  3. Staying current with trends.
  4. Effective communication.
  5. Problem-solving skills.
  6. Attention to detail.
  7. Adaptability.
  8. Ethical considerations.
  9. Time management.
  10. Networking.
  11. Continuous learning.
  12. Passion and creativity.
  13. Self-reflection and critique.

I’d concur with most of that, apart from keeping up with trends. They are meaningless.

Problem-solving should be higher up the list

Ditto, I agree with others. If creativity doesn’t come naturally, then you have to practice it by trying to be a problem solver and being innovative. Being exposed to different environments, people, literature, all creative forms of art, and things does help, though, with ideas.