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How to have good ideas

Whether you’ve got that fresh start feeling or you’re just looking to gain a new perspective in your work, supercharging your ideas is a sure way to energise your creativity. Ideas are at the core of excellent creative work, and as Nick Eagleton, Founding Partner of Saboteur and a course leader of D&AD masterclass ‘Art & Science of Ideas’ says, “No one is going to give them to you. You’ve got to go and get them for yourself.” 

While the online course offers an immersive deep dive into finding, developing, organising and implementing great ideas into your practice, here’s a few topline takeaways of practical, actionable things you can do right now to help kick start your idea generation.

Get digging

“What makes a good idea is when you really mine into the soul of a project, and without that mining there is no idea that is good enough,” says Vanessa Eckstein, Founder and creative director, Blok Design, who recommends deep thought and inquisition to really interrogate your ideas. “From there, a great idea just brings it to a level of sublime...without that mining, without that thoughtfulness, there is no good idea.”

Allow those silly thoughts

Julie Seal, Creative Strategist, Facebook and Instagram Creative Shop, leans into the fun of idea sessions: “My favourite way of coming up with ideas is saying all of the stupid things that come into your head to another person – ‘let’s do nan-vertising’, ‘let’s shave the logo into chihuahuas,” etc. – then one of those stupid thoughts might trigger a reference or some other stupid idea from your creative partner, and you can follow that wormhole into the stuff that’s fun, or amusing, or intriguing, or exciting, and an interesting idea is usually at the end of that.”

Stop aiming for perfection

Tony Davidson, ECD at Wieden+Kennedy London, warns of the paralysing nature of perfectionism: “I have perfectionist tendencies, which is actually dangerous because you’re worried about whether something’s good enough or not. I think it’s interesting to try and break that down and try and not care as much. It’s a really hard balance because there’s a time when you really need to care – and that might be around the craft of some sound – and there’s other times when you don’t need to.” 

Let go of rationalising

And while data is a science “you’d be daft to ignore,” says Davidson, creativity isn’t bound by logic, sharing this anecdote from his creative practice: “I think a bit of data came in on the Old Spice account, an insight that more women than men buy their deodorant, and that was a massive turning point for the creative team, so off they went and it was “Ladies…” [If you’ve seen the ad you’ll know the voice] presenting to Ladies. But I would argue that “I’m on a horse” [a stand-out line from the campaign] is as important as that – and you can’t really rationalise that.”

Set your bar high

Don’t be intimidated to immerse yourself in enviably good work; allow it to raise your game says Nick Eagleton: “It takes courage to constantly surround yourself with great work because you’re always thinking – yes, even seasoned creatives who seem so confident – ‘That’s too good’, or ‘I wish I’d done that’, or they just make your own ideas look a bit crummy. But don’t be disheartened, it’s how you set your bar high, how you know what great looks like and how you feel part of this amazing club of people who want to have ideas good enough to change the world just a little bit. 

(What better place to start immersing yourself in creative excellence than then D&AD annual? Check out the digital annual here.)

Start Doing

Sometimes connections happen and an idea is sparked, and sometimes that doesn’t happen and in those cases, says legendary ad man Patrick Collister, just start doing and see where that leads you. “You just start, something happens, and then bit by bit by bit you work into it.” He thinks you can learn to have ideas and this is an exercise in strengthening your creative muscle.

For more tips, and a more in depth practical exploration into the nature of ideas, D&AD’s online, do-in-your-own-time course ‘Art & Science of Ideas’ is designed to help you to find and work with inspiration and ideas in your own work, elevating your practice and helping you to land good ideas more frequently. Check it out here.

The curious of mind can also find other courses to maintain, grow and nurture their practice in a range of ways, from short-form copywriting to social strategy. Explore the course schedule here.

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