Start a Creative Routine: The Secret for Never Running Out of Ideas

By Naomy Quiñones @qnaomy
Image: Dan Siman-Tov @d.simantov

Learn to create a visual board of ideas through which you can plan and figure out which types of creative opportunities you would be interested in

Creative routines are an essential part of the artistic practice providing structure to the process of artistic development. 

Creative routines also benefit creatives by ensuring they are investing the required time to their artistic practice to promote growth and improvement. Although creating a new routine can seem a bit complicated at first, the process is easier than you think. All you need is time, patience, and discipline. 

1 | Start by Making The Time 

I like to schedule a couple of hours of uninterrupted analysis and mood boarding at least once a week. This time allows me to freely explore creative ideas and concepts outside of the worries brought upon by clients and projects. 

Other popular ways I’ve seen people organize themselves is by scheduling half or one hour daily for their artistic practice, instead of one big weekly session. It really depends on whether you work better in small sprints or in one long session.

2 |Observe and Collect

Begin growing your image collection by searching for new additions every single day. Save all the images that inspire you in the same folder without any type of additional identification or keyword logging. Do not sort nor organize the files yet. 

Stop the daily search once you have reached a preliminary goal 1,000-1,200 images.  Image searching can be done every few days from now on, but no less than once a week.

After reaching your first image goal, open your folder in Adobe Bridge or your preferred file viewer. It is important that the program chosen can show large thumbnails and offers various sorting options. This example is my actual personal fashion photography research folder aptly called “Today”, because it is filled with images saved that same day.

As you can see, I started classifying the images by the type of location (Inside / Outside), and have several thematic folders such as Experimental (for niche photography techniques), Commercial (only for advertising) amongst others. It’s going to take a lot of trial and error to get a nice system going.  Just try whatever comes to mind first and if it doesn’t work, change it.

3 | Dump your ideas and references on a visual board 

Start dumping your favorite images from the board. There doesn’t need to be any particular method or criteria for choosing the images.  Simply select the ones that seem the most appealing, and throw them to the board. Please, and I cannot stress this enough, do not think a lot about what you’re doing.  Just do it intuitively.

After you have a considerable amount of images on the board, start organizing the images in different arrangements. Group them whichever way makes the most sense to you. The grouping logic of these images can be just about anything, from a feeling to a color scheme to a topic, or visual framing. Trust your gut feeling

Let the board talk to you. 

Do not think about it. 

Flow with the board. 

Feel the board. 

Be one with the board.

Here is an example of how grouping different ideas can jump-start personal projects. The topic of this particular brainstorming session was artistic nude. By organizing the images intuitively I arrived at two particular treatment styles or creative approaches to work with.

4 | Categorize, Group, Reflect

After some time you should begin seeing groups emerging from the chaos. The result will be a fairly large imageboard with anywhere from three (3) to ten (10) rough mood board drafts scattered throughout the space. Once I am fairly satisfied with the product from the new grouping arrangement, I proceed to separate each of the groups and create individual visual boards for each of the drafts. These drafts are labeled, listed, and organized in a special ideation board where I keep all my rough ideas.

The benefit of having a couple of these boards around is tremendous. I always look prepared when I get approached for a new project. Since I have an organized catalog of ideas I’m interested in, I am able to provide a couple of concepts with visual examples very easily and fast.

For example, on this board, I just threw visual effects and experimental techniques I found interesting. Since I have them organized here, whenever I want to reference them I can just go back to this board and grab the examples I want without having to hunt down for pictures. This lets me turn in creative briefs very fast since I already have an updated reference of what you want to explore before a new project comes along. It’s also very common for me to reference back to these mood boards when developing a project with a client, as a way of showing them different examples of possible creative solutions. 

Creating a visual catalog of concepts and ideas to further explore is the best way of never running out of ideas. Making the habit of looking, analyzing and creating is the key to improve artistic development plans and figure out which types of creative opportunities you would be more interested in.


Do you have a special routine for generating creative ideas? Share with our community of creative professionals by leaving a comment below. 

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