Defining Terms: The Creative Process

The creative process is a process that an individual or group goes through in order to come up with new ideas and begin refining and selecting the best ideas. (I see this process as fitting into a larger exercise that may be used to develop solutions, services, products, or buildings in a specific discipline.) The focus should be searching and exploring for new ideas to solve the problem at hand, not final solutions. There should be a mix of fun and play but with rigor so that the ideas you create can move towards implementation when the creative process is complete.

Steps in the Creative Process

The steps I use are Explore & Gather, Brainstorm & Ideate, Synthesize & Analyze, Select & Share. The first step, Explore & Gather, is all about preparation for future creative thought. One does not brainstorm and ideate out of nothing. What we see, hear, touch, experience, etc… forms the raw materials that make up our ideas. The next step, Brainstorm & Ideate, is when you turn that raw material into ideas and sketches through exploration and letting your mind wander into new territories. Synthesize & Analyze is the step when you bring some organization to the ideas and sketches from the previous step. It is also a good time to begin bringing the crazy thoughts down to earth and think about what ideas could work and which ones should be put to the side for now. It is also a good time to find connections between ideas to see if they lead to any patterns or further ideas. The final step, Select & Share, is about making decisions and documenting what you have. It should provide documentation and a brief outline of the next steps that need to happen to turn this idea into a reality.

Reference Material

A good starting point for thinking about the creative process is Roger von Oech’s book A Kick In The Seat Of The Pants. My way of thinking about it, and the structure outlined above, were influenced by this book. The differences in naming as well as execution are based on my experience as a designer. A Kick In The Seat Of The Pants is certainly worth reading and contains a lot of great exercises that you can put to use.