One of the most frustrating struggles designers and artists seem to have, and perhaps one of their greatest paradoxes, is thinking “outside-the-box”. Creatives tend to be born rule-breakers and questioners of convention, yet setting ourselves against the norms every single day becomes quickly exhausting. Yet we all know how mandatory it is to think differently in order to be noticed and to produce great work.
But what does it even mean to think outside that damn box? What is this “box” in the first place? And how can I possibly think so far out of it in a way that’s never been done before? We seem doomed to failure. After all, they say there’s nothing new under the sun (even that saying has been around for two millennia!)
For me, I have to push through my first thoughts on a project or idea in order to get to the good stuff. I often need to really dig deep into my ideas for something valuable to materialise.
Given that I mostly work alone, a method I use is to talk to myself when I’m really stuck on an idea. I know it seems super weird, but it actually works! I ask myself questions out loud and try to answer them. Questions like:
- What can I do to make this project even more memorable?
- Is there a truly meaningful story or idea behind this whole concept?
- If this project was solely my own, how would I go about it?
- Is there another, more interesting way to get the same outcome?
I find the ideas begin to flow once I start asking myself these questions. I’ll write down everything, look for more inspiration, do a bit of research, sometimes voice record my brainstorming - anything to keep momentum.
And then, with a bit of luck, something “wow” will dawn on me, and then the discrete dancing around the room begins…
The most important thing is to get yourself out of your comfort zone. Try talking to your cat (you probably already do) or cactus, or do what I do and run a hot bath and get yabbering. Who knows, if you give it a go, you might actually think of something even more extra-terrestrial than your first idea.
Best of luck!