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How a Detroit Web Designer Brainstorms

One of the toughest parts of any design is the very beginning, when there is infinite potential and very little on paper. It’s the ‘brainstorming’ period, and it’s a very important part of what this Detroit web designer does for a living. Here’s my basic brainstorming process for everyone to examine.

Create a Positive Atmosphere
Brainstorming when you’re not on some sort of high is a bad idea. I try to get some sort of positive electrochemical reactions going in my brain before I brainstorm — endorphins (crank up the music and dance a bit), oxytocin (be fuzzy with my wife for a few mintues), or dopamine (annihilate a handful of almonds and/or pumpkin seeds and a grapefruit 20 minutes before brainstorming time). If i can do all three, so much the better: the better my brainscape, the better my brainstorms.

Aim At The Target
They say there are no bad ideas when brainstorming, but that’s a crock. I’ve got tons of papers in the round file to prove it. So I try to start by coming up with a few goals that the project is clearly aiming at, and if an idea doesn’t move toward at least one of them, it doesn’t get any pen-time.

Write Down Everything
That said, so long as an idea applies to at least one of the listed goals, it gets written down. I don’t play favorites until after I’ve slept on it. Oftentimes, I’ll get a great idea a day later based on, but nothing actually like, one of the crappier ideas that I wrote down the day before. That’s just how it works.

Don’t Wed Yourself
When I first started designing, I’d get attached to one idea or another because it was clever, funny, or cool. I’d be convinced it was a hit, even if the client, their audience, and everyone else disagreed. It was ego-shattering, and it taught me to stop hooking said ego one to one idea’s success or failure. The only relevant thing about these ideas is how close they get to the goals.

Cut Mercilessly
Sturgeon’s Law says that 90% of everything is crap. When it comes to brainstorming, you have to apply Sturgeon’s Law twice: 90% of everything is utterly irredeemable, and 90% of what’s left is simply crap. Cut them mercilessly and leave only the ones that have actual potential.

Be Practical
Once you’ve trimmed it down to those ideas that have potential, it’s time for some good old-fashioned pragmatism. Look at what’s left and make a few lists. List them in order of ease (i.e. what can you get done the most easily), in order of functionality (i.e. which one is going to accomplish the most goals the most effectively), and in order of cost. Then decide based on those lists which of your ideas are the best two or three to present to your clients.

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