Off-topic #3: The dialogue between idea, design and concept

Yesterday I gave a lecture for the honours programme of the Hanze University. Seven students that are not used to flexing their creative muscles had to be taught about creativity and loosened up in three hours. Compressing all I teach my students at the Academy for Pop Culture into a three hour session is quite a challenge. But it also leads to a lot of insight. One of the things I have started to realize the last 18 months is how an idea leads to a concept and eventually to a design. And how this is not a linear process or a one way street. In essence I think you have a gut feeling of where you want to go when you start a project. A project starts with a clear definition of the question that needs to be answered, the problem that needs to be solved or the need that has to be filled. Your brain starts working on the solution subconsciously right away. And there’s a hint, a gist, a gut feeling for what the answer will be. Now all you need to do is feed that gut geeling and find that answer.

This is not a question of talking about your idea endlessly. That will result in entering the same one-way streets in your head time and time again and finding the same answers.

You need to start designing (aspects of) your idea right away. Get a feel for what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it consists of. Not with the intent of taking a shortcut to your final design, but to create something you can discuss. The idea has informed the design, now the design informs the idea. The idea gets more and more defined with every dialogue between idea and design. And during that process at some point the idea will be so well defined, so rich and potent that it will become your concept. The überidea that informs every decision in your design.

P.S. If I’m talking about a design/designing, I’m not necessarily talking about a graphic design. It could be a sketch, a description in words, a graph or an overview.