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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

Every person will have unique ideas and make disparate creative choices. A child will think about an idea differently than a grandparent, for example. Try to pretend to be another person and look at the project from their point of view as you’re designing.

Tip #3: Start with the End in Mind

Plenty of rookie designers start out building a solid creative piece, only to discover they forgot to take into consideration the garment or production limitations. Make sure these issues are understood and ironed out in the beginning. 

But more importantly, such limitations can be the source of design inspiration. If you only have one color available to print, you will make a completely different set of aesthetic choices than you would if you had eight colors. What challenges would you have to overcome to print or embroider over a seam?

Let the impact of the technical limitations for production influence your design and creative direction. It really helps to get a handle on this thought process early.

Tip #4: Start Small and Simple

I’m a big proponent of using thumbnail sketches to work through the basic design challenges that a job presents. 

Since we don’t have all day, these thumbnails serve to eliminate ideas or concepts that won’t work. They can lead to an avalanche of interesting ideas. But you have to doodle them up first. 

All too often, designers in this industry resort to tapping into the wealth of online sources for inspiration, instead of scratching out their own concepts first. Anyone can grab an idea from Google or Shutterstock, but that doesn’t make it better. Wouldn’t you rather be known for your ideas instead of ripping off someone else’s?

Stronger designs and faster workflow are the two key reasons to use thumbnail sketches. Personally, I like to use square Post-it notes for this as they can be easily worked on, discarded, or saved. When I get to a final version that I like, I simply stick it on the side of my computer monitor for reference while I build out the file.

Tip #5: Create an Idea Generator Stack

One trick I’ve used successfully over the years is the notion of colliding one idea with another to generate a completely different outcome. It’s an easy trick to learn.


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