Bryce Cannon Witcher

Marketing & Creative Director

I have been involved with the creative process my whole career, and some people ask me, “How do you come up with such great ideas?” I guess for some people, the process can be a daunting one. But when faced with a hard problem, sometime it is best to break up the process into individual steps. This is no exception. I like to follow a flowchart or “recipe.” By doing this, the creative process can be turned into something powerful.

Real-World Example

I was once assigned to creating a new branding strategy. I worked for MICROS Systems at the time (which was eventually acquired by Oracle).  At the time, we had dozens of products and services, yet none of the brands seemed to have anything to do with an overall theme.

There was NO brand cohesion. Color and typography was all over the place. We were having trouble telling a cohesive brand story. I developed a matrix of all old brands along with the corresponding NEW branding I was proposing.

We introduced the ideas to senior leadership, presenting the problems we found with the current old branding. My boss did the heavy lifting with the presenting, but I had multiple conversations afterwards. We persuaded them to allow the changes, seeking stakeholder approval from many levels of the company. There were a lot of other steps involved, but once the new brands were implemented, it was much easier for our customers to relate the product brands to our overall brand vision.

I always say, branding is the way we present ourselves to the world, and is all about telling a story, and maintaining consistent voice & tone in every customer touchpoint.

Here are my steps along with some real-world examples.

Creative Process: Define the Goal

Some people call this the preparation step. It involves outlining the creative problem you want to solve, and it starts with gathering information and data, such as resources and ideas. You might gather all your currently existing materials. In the example, I created a list of all our brands and how they each related to each other.

To help support the efforts defining the creative challenge, a mood board can be used. This is a common tool that can be used to show a compilation of possible angles or design styles that have been used for other companies. It can contain color palettes, photos, drawings, logos and other sources of inspiration.

Creative Brief

Once the challenge is defined, the brainstorming begins. This is where you generate as many ideas as possible by coming up with different concepts, styles, colors and options. No idea is a bad idea. It is optimal to have many people throughout the organization involved with this step since there are so many viewpoints. Different people see things differently, so this is helpful when generating ideas.

Creative Process: Development & Iteration

Once you have many ideas compiled, an incubation step is very useful. This is when creative ideas truly take shape. A Creative Director and one or two others will distill everything learned from the previous step and take the ideas a few steps further. It is ideal at this stage that this small team takes their time without too many interruptions or distractions. The purpose is to allow them to process, be with, and expand on the ideas. The structure comes later.

It is sometimes useful to put the ideas on the back burner for a short time while doing something else, because the subconscious mind will keep working the problem, molding all of the information into a new idea. While this might seem counterproductive, part of the creative process is walking away from all of the brainstorming that you have just finished. This is sometimes referred to as illumination, where you get that “Eureka!” or “Ah Ha!” moment.

It is extremely common for me to be watching TV after work, and out of the blue, come up with some very powerful solutions to the design challenge. Many creative people have this innate ability. In the above example, my creative mind was working overtime. It told me that the final branding needed to be simple yet communicate a lot.

Creative Process: Evaluation

After the preliminary ideas have been created, the next stage involves thinking critically about what you came up with and weighing it against other possibilities… Evaluation. It is optimal to get feedback from colleagues, conduct focus groups to test the ideas, and even compare them to the original challenge to see if they really work as a solution. After this part of your process, you will either return to earlier steps if the ideas don’t hold up, or move ahead with the confidence that your ideas are a winner.

For our new branding example, we whittled all our choices down to a few and then socialized the results with senior company leadership as well as many of our customer stakeholders. Through a careful analysis of the feedback, we were able to focus on a single solution that allowed us to use the same branding framework for our other products and services.

Creative Process: Publish

This is the point in the process that you have been working towards. You finally get to see the fruition of all the focus and attention you have given to your challenge… You share your new creations with the world! This can also be referred to as the implementation stage.

In the case of the branding assignment, we used this moment to announce to our customers the exciting new branding changes. We created a marketing campaign around it, creating press releases, celebratory events for company employees as well as customers,

Then the real work began. We had to change the branding on every piece of marketing collateral, website, microsite, video, whitepaper, and more. Thankfully, I keep my department’s creative assets very organized, so rebranding everything only took about a week despite thousands of places the old branding appeared.

Final Thoughts

Every creative project is different, but this overarching process can be applied to nearly every scenario. Some of the steps might need to be repeated as you hone in on your final objective. Bit it’s a fun process and I think everybody should do it at least once.

Bryce Cannon Witcher Creative Process