As designers we have to come up with lots of creative ideas. Even when we’re tired and grumpy and need more coffee… or that might just be me. This week’s blog is about how to go from a blank sheet of paper and a deadline to a ‘Yippee’ moment – when you know you’ve got a good idea!

Nothing beats paper and pens for initial ideas. We’d never just start thinking straight onto our mac as you can’t do as many ideas as quickly. Using a mind map to think through all the elements of the brief so it’s easy to refer to, then sketching out lots of initial shapes, thoughts, layouts depending on the creative solution needed. Ahhh bliss. Good stationery is a must!

‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’ so the saying goes. Make sure you’re always filling up your inner creative reserves by visiting art galleries, museums, looking around wherever you are, reading visual magazines and generally just paying attention. I’m always taking pictures of interesting manhole covers in the pavement or great colour combinations made where the roof meets the sky – my photo feed is very random! These are all images (either mentally or digitally) that could spark an idea. See our instagram account for a lot of my images.

The right side of the brain is more visual and intuitive. It has a more creative and less organised way of thinking (read more here). But how to tap into it? We actually had classes on ‘right brain thinking’ as part of my degree. They were brilliant and it’s definitely the learning that’s stayed with me the longest. It can be tapped into by allowing your mind to wander unchecked. The easiest way for me to do this is to go and do something else, like a walk round the block with no podcast or music in my ears and just allow myself to look around and not think about anything much. It gives the brain space to create. It also tends to happen in the shower (and on the loo)!

It’s good to know what the sector and the competition look like when designing a brand or piece of communication so you can ensure you stand out or fit in as appropriate. But ideas come from everywhere. We’ve got bookshelves full of visual reference materials which we flick through to get inspiration. That might be a colour combination, a shape, a style or a layout. A couple of our favourites are the a-z of visual ideas and Information is beautiful. I also collect printed bits and pieces too which I stick in a sketchbook (or throw in a drawer with the intention of sticking them in my sketchbook) for reference and ideas.

We find it quite impossible here to be creative when we’ve got lots of little jobs on our to do list. We find it best to spend an hour or two clearing the decks of small, pressing amends and sending them off to clients before we can sit down, with a chunk of time ahead of us and come up with some great ideas.

Once you’ve cleared the decks turn off your notifications and ideally move away from your computer. Once you are in ‘the zone’ any distractions pull you away from your creative thinking.

When we’ve got a big new project to work on we schedule time in the week to step into our meeting room with our paper, pens and reference books and have a good hour of idea generation. Bouncing ideas off each other is invaluable and always results in better ideas than working alone. It’s often impossible to know who came up with which idea because they’re so collaborative. After about an hour have a break, little often comes from slogging on when your brain isn’t fresh.

The easiest one by far. And we’ve written a whole blog post about this one here.

Written by Jo

Joanne Grubb, JG Creative Owner and Creative Director.
Email me with your top tips for finding your Yippee moment at