It takes a lot of practice and effort to become a successful creative artist. Whether it’s in writing, design, 3D modeling, development, or any similar field. Creative ideas typically happen on-the-fly and usually branch off from a separate thought pattern. When the idea strikes you should take action and get it down before you have the chance to forget.

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This article will cover some techniques for planning out your creative ideas. The initial concept needs to be refined in order to produce something magnificent. I’ll focus primarily on design ideas but you could incorporate these techniques into any creative workflow.

Conceptualize

The first part of this cycle begins with idea generation. It’s the same whether you’re designing a company logo, website layout, comic strip, character artwork, or anything which requires creativity. Try to brainstorm 5-10 different ideas off your initial starting point.

When you have a lot to choose from it’s easier whittling down 2-3 primary contenders. If you’re working with a client you definitely want to show them your laundry list of ideas to pinpoint the most appeasing choice. Before getting too detailed it’s worth remembering who you work for. If this is your creative project go nuts and have fun! But if it’s work commissioned for someone else you need to consider their wishes too.

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This stage is complete when you have at least 2(maybe more) solid ideas that could produce a final piece. Look at bit closer and see what else could be added. If it’s a written premise then re-read your premise to look for holes or spelling mistakes. This is more of a “rough draft” so it doesn’t need to be followed verbatim.

Initial Drafting

A draftsman is someone who puts together detailed technical drawings or illustrations for a project. Your version of drafting may be different if you’re not building a housing foundation. But once I know my idea(s) it’s often fun to break them down and see the little details.

Color, purpose, themes, emotions, proportions, these are just some of the properties you might examine. Think of this drafting stage much like an advanced brainstorming session. You already know what the goal is – so before attacking the goal you need a game plan.

When doing a written piece you might outline all of the crucial sections in great detail. Blog posts and short stories will have two very different outlines. Know your subject and know exactly what message you’re trying to get across. Your work might still appear messy but make sure that you understand it all.

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This process doesn’t always require feedback from a client. If you do want some feedback it’s best to quickly gloss over your ideas and see what sticks. But I’ve learned that clients would rather see your completed draft rather than your notes on the draft.

The Design Process

Any creative person knows how detailed the process can be. But since you already have an outline with solid ideas you don’t need to spend as much time with new ideas. Work with the stuff you already have on paper and make it happen.

Whether that means writing, composing, designing, or whatever medium you work with. If you get into a project and feel that your draft ideas aren’t working then change it up. You certainly don’t need to follow the draft ideas verbatim. But you should follow through with anything your client wants to see.

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During this draft you should give it your all to create a finished piece. Whether it’s for yourself or a client, this work will probably get another draft or two(or three). But it is essential that you flesh out the ideas in full so that you can see what it looks like. If you are working with 2-3 different ideas try each one and see which fits the best. This would be the time to limit your project ideas down to one final contender.

Feedback & Redesigns

The idea of feedback doesn’t need to be solely with your boss or client(s). Try gathering feedback on forums or similar community websites. You want to know what other people see as good and not-so-good. This way you can judge for yourself what needs to be corrected and what should be left alone.

The number of drafts you go through should not reflect on the quality of your project. Sometimes it does take 5+ drafts to get the work absolutely right. Just remember that detailed feedback means less time re-designing. If you can fix all the problematic areas within 1-2 drafts then you won’t be continually gathering feedback to apply more changes.

Note that some ideas may be completed before gathering a whole lot of feedback. If you’re doing a small personal project or just practicing, the feedback is a way to learn where you went wrong. It may not be worth updating the piece if there’s no money involved. But it’s always useful to understand which areas you need to practice more often.

You’ll reach fruition when the project looks completed to yourself, your boss, your client, or whoever commissioned the work. Then with some new experience under your belt repeat the cycle over again. Over time the creative drafting process will become like second nature.

Creativity isn’t something that most people can learn. It seems to happen when we space out, start thinking about ideas that leapfrog one to the next. Without structure these ideas come and go like the tides. I hope this post can motivate creative people to start working on their ideas.

Just thinking of a great concept isn’t enough! Put in the effort and you may be surprised what comes out at the end.

Posted by Jake Rocheleau

Jake is a writer & digital designer/illustrator. He writes about all things web and creative. Check out his website for work samples and follow his latest updates on Twitter @jakerocheleau.

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