Chapter 28: How to Have an Idea

Blog / February 25, 2020

This is an excerpt from Rethink the Business of Creativity.

There are many books and websites full of useful tips for generating ideas. This book is not one of those, but we felt like we’d be remiss if we didn’t include at least a couple of our go-to idea-generating tools. So here are two that we’ve gone back to time and time again. They’re incredibly simple, incredibly effective, and were involved in much of the work we’re most proud of.

The first is 1 + 1 = 3. You’re familiar with the idea that the whole is stronger than the sum of its parts, but this works especially well when you combine two seemingly unrelated things.

Don’t be afraid to smash together words, images, concepts, or objects and see what you get.

We often use other tools in this section, like Fast & Loose (Chapter 29) or the 1-or-100 Rule (Chapter 30), to look at lots of unrelated things in the hopes of finding a winning pair. Fridge plus passport equals passport-operated beer fridge. WestJet plus Vegas equals giant roulette wheel on desert floor you can play from a plane. And so on.

The second tool is called Be the Ball. It’s perhaps the simplest path to creative clarity, and is particularly useful in design projects. It’s the key to unlocking those “Wow, it’s so obvious, how did I not think of that?” ideas. To Be the Ball, you adopt the subject or theme of your project as its visual language. For a butcher client, we made business cards that look like salami and hang in string netting like cured meats.

To stop people from driving drunk, we made drink coasters out of sheet metal from car wrecks.

You get the idea.

Throughout this book you’ll see a bunch of examples of the power of these two simple formulas—definitive proof that sometimes the best insights are the simplest ones.

Rethink the Business of Creativity is available in-store and online from Indigo or Amazon as well as bookstores across North America. Find out more about the book and why we wrote it.