The Need For Good Ideas

They underpin our work, our industry – in fact, when you start thinking about the need for good ideas, it’s hard to know where to stop: Good ideas run our lives. But how to come up with them? That’s another story.

With the notion of Slow Down To Speed Up fresh on our minds, we wanted our latest studio chat to open up the discussion to some of the team at BEAR. In this blog we discuss the need for brilliant, considered ideas versus flashes of inspiration, and how we, as a creative design agency, come up with the good stuff.

So without further ado…

A nose for a story, a head for a good idea

In a sped-up world, having the time to consider a decision is a rare commodity. With everything at our fingertips (no trips to the library or people to consult if you don’t want to), ideas are very easy to come by. But having an instinct for a great idea is rare. And having the confidence to develop it is also a skill that’s hard to come by.

How do we come up with ideas at BEAR? Roberto believes it’s about being receptive:

“We have to understand what a client wants to say. Beyond that, ideas can come from anywhere. Study, research or everyday life. The important thing is to be open and switched on to ideas.”

Step away from the Mac

Lizzie believes taking herself away from the Mac is key – and we heard this unanimously across the design studio:

“The best ideas seem to come when I am walking around, in the shower or just falling asleep.”

Is it time to step away from our screens? Most likely. But there’s also a case for thorough research and strategising once you know there’s a good idea at hand.

Laura said that she’s found that strategy can help spark thinking that leads to ideas:

“Researching a company’s needs, customers and market landscape means you’ll have a clearer view when you do get that flash of inspiration. Thorough discussion and understanding of the designers’ creative mindset is an incredibly effective way to form an idea.”

Arguably that’s where inspiration and a great, workable idea differ. Inspiration can create the idea for you, but giving it time to germinate is key. Working piece by piece on a concept that answers the brief is also a possible route to a well-grounded concept. No, that’s not groundbreaking. But so often it is tempting to go off course when creative minds are at play.

Those flashes of inspiration might feel a lot more rewarding in the short term, but they’re not what serves us for years to come.

Standing the test of time

What makes something a good or even great idea? Laura says it’s all down to sticking power:

“Whether it’s a brand identity, advert or product innovation – when the idea or concept stays with you, and you find yourself thinking about it days, weeks of even years later, you know it’s a good idea.”

Laura also pointed out that tapping intro trend watching ahead of time can be an incredibly helpful resource:

“At BEAR it helps us to think differently and challenge the way we approach something.”

Ava added that allocating time over to research is vital, even if you’re working to deadline:

“As a writer you trade off quick-fire inspiration every day. In previous jobs as a journalist I couldn’t show up to work without having ideas to pitch, but presenting bad ones would land me in more trouble than nothing at all.”

“These days I am all about strategy. It’s vital to know which sources to use as research, as well as being aware that the best ideas don’t exclusively come to you in the middle of the night. Thinking through a problem and taking as much time as possible to build a solution has given me much better results.”

It’s all in the execution

“I think our work on the Oakland brand is a great example of how the strongest ideas often stem from the truth,” Lizzie posited.

“Oakland has an incredible family bond to their business and generations of success by way of proving the quality of their service. This was where we took our inspiration from.

“As simple as a family tree is, that’s where our brand language began,” Lizzie explained.

“Sometimes the best ideas do have an effortless feeling about them, but only on reflection – hindsight is 20/20,” Sarah explains.

“The execution of these ideas can be far from effortless, especially if you’re trying to push the boundaries of your technical abilities or using the idea as a way to explore a new approach to your practice. All ideas develop over time, and the most successful ones have many iterations and lives before they’re finalised.”

Who’s good ideas have the team at BEAR been admiring recently?

With a decision on Brexit imminent, Rob pointed to HSBC’s Global Citizen adverts with Richard Ayoade by JWT:

“It’s got fuck all to do with banking but it’s so provocative in the current climate. Seeing that campaign for the first time was a real “Wish I’d done that” moment.”

Kim said podcasts and books are key for inspiration: “I find it easier to dream a bit more when you’re not digesting content visually.

“I’m inspired every time I listen to a new episode of the How I Built This podcast, because every episode reaffirms that amazing projects and businesses can come out of anyone that works hard (and has a bit of luck behind them).”

When the good ideas don’t appear

What about when the good ideas just don’t come?

Rob advises going solo is often the way: “Sit alone to think – anywhere. I find if I focus and apply myself I can problem solve. Group sessions and collaboration definitely help but if that’s fruitless I go it alone.”

And when it comes to gaining inspiration, Rob believes it’s all around us: “I genuinely take in what’s around me. Of course, creative blogs, websites and other agencies provide inspiration, but for me it all comes back to being switched on.”

Meanwhile Sarah stands by blowing the cobwebs away with a walk through town: “There’s a technique called the Dérive which I always find really useful – it’s effectively an unplanned walked through a space (usually urban) – and using this to trigger an idea or an aesthetic to be explored.”

It’s also important to have a filter: constant bombardment of inspiration can lead to little room to come up with your own.

Instagram: help or hindrance?

Asked if he thought technology, social media and specifically Instagram was quashing our ability to be inspired, Lewis said:

“Yes and no. Before Instagram it was much harder to find inspiration and resources but now with it being so readily available it’s much easier. However, I feel it is then harder to have a unique idea. Although it is great for being inspired.”

Lizzie added: “The amount of design on social media can be overwhelming: there’s so much, it’s hard to take any of it in.”

“I think it’s very easy to argue that technology and social media numb our brains making it difficult to come up with new ideas,” says Kim.

“But in our everyday lives it also allows us to share and inspire each other, which can lead to exploring new creative ideas or simply trying something new – all great catalysts for inspiration.”

“And after all, some of us do love being bombarded. Especially when we have the knack of spotting a diamond in the rough,” adds Kim.

Cut from a different cloth

One aspect we could all agree on is that there is plenty of myth-making in the ideas arena:

“I heard some good advice once about branding,” Ava said: “that just because you have a good name for a business, doesn’t mean you should set up that business. I think that’s a maxim that’s also true of inspiration: Just because you’ve had a wacky, great or even paradigm-shifting idea, it doesn’t always mean it is the idea you should present.”

“It’s tempting to be led down that flash-of-inspiration route, but more often that not, it’s strategic thinking that will get you the tangible results you need.”

The perception that good ideas come when you least expect is possibly a facetious way to see the world. Sarah told us the greatest myth she perceives around inspiration or ideas is the notion of the lone genius, “coming up with a world changing concepts by sheer force of self-possessed brilliance” – she elaborates:

“The truth is, there are no new ideas – if you want to believe the post-modernists (and Anish Kapoor, who famously states that “all ideas come out of other ideas”). But, there are new ways of thinking about old concepts, collaborating with people from different backgrounds from yourself to form new approaches, and having different experiences which change the lens through which ideas will be viewed” Sarah added.

“The notion that anyone can have a knack for good ideas is bollocks” Rob tells us.

“Believe me, I’ve tried to open the floodgates in so many previous designers but many just want to design and consider that as ‘ideas’ and it’s not. In a nutshell, you have to be cut from a certain cloth!”

“Some ideas come easy. But in my experience (and taking time to hear others and their experiences), it’s hard work to realise great ideas. So often you have to dig deep and as the clock ticks it’s very stressful. But when you get it right, it’s all worthwhile.”