Brainstorming in Technicolor
This past August, when I was first invited to give a series of lectures and training forums in China, I spent only a short amount of time perfunctorily researching my would-be hosts, before gladly accepting the invitation.
Not only, I reasoned, would I have an opportunity to exchange ideas about design, branding and creative strategy, but I could also experience the country, its people and culture in a way that would be impossible on a more casual visit. So, with e-ticket in hand, I began to plan my lectures.
In past years, I’ve taught graduate-level broadcast and media design, directed creative and production staff and managed countless projects and accompanying clients. I knew it would be a challenge to arrange my schedule around an extended trip abroad, but saw it as the perfect opportunity to hone my communication and teaching skills without the conveniences of a common language and shared culture.
With the help of the web, even the smallest brand can have international reach. As such, designers and marketers are increasingly taxed with developing globally appealing and impactful brands. In China alone, over 2000 television channels and innumerable consumer products, fashion labels, travel destinations, celebrities-in-the-making and services are being devised, introduced to the market and promoted daily.
With this in mind, I could think of no better topic to cover first than brainstorming. Creative teams use this process of collective effort to transform the contributions of individual team members into stronger and more innovative solutions. I wanted to share a few thoughts on how to keep that process energized and fruitful. Anyone can toss around ideas in a meeting, but they’re not likely to be productive if doing so becomes repetitive, uninspired and boring.
Simply put, a brainstorm is a meeting of minds where everyone involved understands what must be accomplished, but they also know that they can’t solve the problem alone. A skilled communicator and facilitator is put in charge to both direct the group towards a solution and challenge the feasibility of its consensus approach. Many ideas are generated and a final bull’s eye direction is chosen.
For designers, more specifically, the brainstorming process is an indispensable tool that enables creative improvisation. Unique visual ideation is developed through the free association of images, colors, shapes, textures, patterns, words and thoughts and is done in conjunction with the development of a written concept, not as a secondary accompaniment to it.
A brainstorm conducted by designers is the plugged-in, deluxe, surround-sound, Technicolor and widescreen counterpart to the acoustic, words-only variety. And, because it is unique in this way, it requires equally dimensional solutions for energizing, refreshing and maintaining effectiveness and momentum.
A few days after arriving in Shanghai, I was asked to attend a meeting at HaHa TV, a dedicated education and entertainment channel for children. The producers and designers there were hard pressed for new ways to incorporate China’s Expo 2010 into a series of station idents and they hoped I could provide a fresh perspective.
Perfect timing I thought, let the brainstorming begin.
© Markus Horak, 2010