5 Ways to Find Fresh Perspectives & Escape the Expected
By Kiana Denlinger | March 25, 2015
Ever find yourself stuck in a rut, searching for a spark of inspiration to ignite your enthusiasm and creativity?
As a graphic designer, I spend no shortage of time searching for solutions to my visual communications conundrums. When I’m in a rut, I find that gaining new perspectives is invaluable to building and maintaining my arsenal of innovative ideas.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a “creative” type, it’s rare that a fresh perspective can’t help you tackle challenges. Here, I’ll give you the inside scoop on five different methods that I use to switch up my point of view. I hope that by sharing them, I can help even the self-proclaimed “non-creatives” out there uncover good ideas.
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1. Let the world inspire you
Keeping an observation notebook is a wonderful way to discover new perspectives. Use a little book to capture all kinds of inspiration and give yourself space to play around with what you’ve captured. Later, you can develop the more promising notions.
How I do it:
With camera in hand, I go for a walk and ruminate on the details of my problem. I make a list of things that I want to find, but I also photograph unexpected gems that strike me and seem like they could say something about the issue at hand.
Next, I take to the web to scour visual inspiration sites like designispiration and Pinterest. If I want to create ad concepts or ideas for copy, I turn to AdWeek and other sites featuring good ads. I’ll even scan my favorite blogs while continually asking myself “What do I like? What could apply to what I’m trying to do?”
Once I’m satisfied with the amount of inspiration I’ve amassed, I put my findings together in a centralized location. There are several apps that can help organize this content. Personally, I like gomoodboard because its functionality allows me to easily upload, comment on, edit and share my ideas. It’s also easily accessible to both clients and coworkers.
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2. Talk to a Random Person
While there’s more to this method than running up to someone on the street and bombarding them with questions, it’s still a simple approach that can yield a variety of perspectives. This method is especially useful for informing targeted local campaign work or learning more about a specific locale or demographic.
How I do it:
This method only works if people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, so I always consider what I can do to put them at ease. Are my subjects into casual chatting or more formal conversation? What do they wear? I present myself in a way that fits with their environment and comfort level.
Once I have a set of questions and a strategic approach, I find people! While you can literally approach people on the street, you can also chat with the person in line behind you at the grocery store, the person sitting next to you on the train, or even a friendly new face in the lunchroom. There are unique perspectives all around us!
There will be times when you don’t grasp what someone is saying, and there will be times when those you interview exhibit disinterest, frustration or impatience. In these situations, shrug it off, stay calm and maintain your focus. Remember: You don’t need ten great interviews – you only need one person to say something that gets your wheels turning.
3. Talk to Yourself (Kind of)
It can be easy to get stuck in your own head. After all, the only person whose internal dialogue you listen to is your own. One way to get a fresh perspective even if you can’t turn to other people is to pretend to talk to other people. I swear I’m not crazy – this is a real technique that really works.
How I do it:
I think about the challenge at hand and then think of someone who could offer a unique or informed perspective on the issue. The person could be a historical figure, a celebrity, an industry guru, a politician, a child or my Aunt Shirley. Then, I start a conversation with the person in which I have to speak for both sides. We hash out disagreements, question one another’s assumptions, and give each other advice. Just by pretending to have a different perspective, I find I’m often able to form ideas that Kiana-as-Kiana couldn’t have conceived alone.
This fun method of communal ideation does double duty as a team builder. Begin with an idea or concept written or doodled on paper, then take five minutes to formulate new thoughts around that idea by free writing or sketching. After five minutes, give your thoughts to another team member and ask them to build on your ideas for the next five minutes.
How I do it:
I find that co-creating exercises work best when you have at least five participants with clear minds and a desire to laugh and have fun. New ideas don’t always come easily in “serious” conversation, so I take a light-hearted approach and remind participants to record every idea, even if it’s not realistic
Everyone writes on the big idea for five minutes. After five minutes, we pass our ideas to the next person and we keep going until everyone has contributed to every idea. At the end, I ask each participant to read their papers to the group. It’s always interesting to see co-creation generate independent perspectives.
5. Force Connections
Creating forced connections means combining two or more seemingly unrelated ideas into one cohesive concept. This can be done through sketches, conversation or writing.
This method can help different departments and individual stakeholders find shared perspectives and can also help anyone generate ideas that aren’t black or white. You can use this technique whether you’re designing a campaign, running a brainstorming meeting or writing copy.
How I do it:
I usually begin identifying key concepts in initial conversations with clients and internal team members. I make sure to take notes so I can keep these crucial themes present and make creative connections later on. After initial briefings, I make a list of these themes, a list of the visual references we can draw on and a list of deliverables.
While making the lists I think about who the audience is, what the forced connection needs to address and what problems it needs to solve. When I’ve completed all three lists, I begin sketching or free writing to combine different items from each list. For example, how would the concept of energy efficiency work in a magazine ad with cubism as a visual reference? I keep at it until I have several workable ideas.
Not all connections are successful, and you might create some that are absolutely absurd! Honestly though, in my experience, it’s easier to pull back on the wild ideas than to push the bland ones harder.
These methodologies have helped me when I’m bored with my ideas and can’t seem to break out of my typical thought patterns. Do you have ways of shaking up your thinking and refreshing your perspective? I’d love to hear more about it in the comments below.