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The Marshall Plan: 10 Tips to Take Your Creativity to the Next Level

(April/May 2019) posted on Wed May 08, 2019

Producing amazing designs all day, every day is no easy feat. These hacks can help keep your creative juices flowing.

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By Marshall Atkinson

It’s a simple request: The client just needs “the best idea ever for a T-shirt design.” Oh, and several more customers want the same thing this afternoon. Better get cracking!

Coming up with a steady stream of fresh ideas is very difficult. Not only that, but sometimes in this industry we get bogged down thinking we can only sell customers what’s right in front of us. We don’t think much about collaboration or expansion.

We need to accelerate that creativity as much as we can. This will open your mind to new opportunities and push more designs of higher quality through your art department.


Tip #1: Ask Creative Questions

Some salespeople like to take the easy way out, accepting the order and telling the art team to “do something cool.” What works much better is asking the client questions to clarify what they might like and even doing some brainstorming exercises with them.

But what should you ask? Questions driven by possible design variations can be very productive.

For example, let’s say your client wants you to design a shirt for their annual company picnic. Some folks might go the traditional route and start asking questions about the activities, food, people, or locations. What if you took a completely different approach?

“What fun themes could we explore? Spaceships, animals, colors, movies, or even silly characters? Pick two dissimilar ideas from that list. Monkeys and spaceships, for example. What if the design used a monkey astronaut as the theme for the shirt?”

Discussions like these can lead to some fun, imaginative ideas to explore creatively – and collaboratively. 

Tip #2: See Things Differently

Perspective matters in how we view things. A group of people can look at or experience the same thing, and each individual can have a completely different mindset about it.

If you get stuck, one fantastic trick is to think about how some other person might view or solve the challenge. Let’s say you put a Viking in charge of the project. What sort of thoughts and design ideas might someone with that background come up with? What about a plumber or professional athlete? 


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