Coming up with innovative visual ideas is pivotal yet challenging when art directing a new brand campaign, am I right? As a graphic designer and art director who has spearheaded creative for global brands like Samsung, clients often ask me about my secret sauce for high-impact brainstorming sessions. So I thought I’d lift the curtain and share 5 tips I use when ideating compelling visual directions across mediums for campaigns!
Now, before I start sketching anything for new projects, I make it my mission to soak in as much contextual information as possible from clients. I’ll ask questions, have in-depth conversations and get access to any of their previous creative materials related to the upcoming initiative. With a solid understanding of the core objectives, target audiences, problem areas and overall creative needs, it allows me to start bouncing around potential visual concepts that will really connect.
Tip #1 - Immerse Yourself in Brand Research First
Tapping into the current brand identity and aesthetics through studying style guides, past campaign imagery, packaging design and more allows you to build creative ideas aligned to what already resonates. While you want concepts to feel fresh, maintaining existing equity ensures alignment.
Tip #2 - Draw Inspiration From Diverse Sources
I'm constantly scoping out trends across these categories: graphic design, typography, color palettes, photography styles, illustrations, motion graphics, advertising formats. Leveraging a mood board pulling reference images from these diverse creative sources pushes me to explore new stylistic combinations rather than defaulting to the expected.
"To quote graphic designer legend Paul Rand: 'The public is more familiar with bad design than good design. It is, in effect, conditioned to prefer bad design, because that is what it lives with. The new becomes threatening, the old reassuring.
Tip #3 - Get Messy Then Clean It Up
My initial sketches are far from polished visualizations, and that’s very much intentional! Scribbling out all semi-formed ideas overflowing from my brain onto paper first enables that raw, unfiltered creative thought process. I give myself license to make it messy during ideation, knowing I’ll refine things down the road! Without judging or filtering any kernel of inspiration upfront, I end up with a solid base of concepts to build upon.
Tip #4 - Give The Best Directions Room to Grow
Once I review my glut of sketched concepts, I'll identify the specific elements of high potential directions that create standout first impressions for sharing in client calls. As long as the core visual mechanism intrigues, I can further tailor fonts, color treatments, expand layouts and medium formats in the refinement process informed by feedback.
Tip #5 - Remember Campaigns Tell Engaging Stories
Ultimately campaigns manifest across many connected creative pieces spanning potential website banners, social videos, posters and beyond. After deciding on primary visual directions, I map out an overarching storyline that can flex across individual components while elevating key messages. This ties everything together into an engaging overarching narrative.
Parting Thoughts on Visual Directions
Look, I know coming up with innovative ideas from scratch can seem really daunting...but I promise that intentionally approaching ideation with the right frameworks makes all the difference.
At the end of the day, don’t forget that the campaign creative process is fluid. The directions we concept now will continue evolving based on collaborative feedback and emerging opportunities. My biggest advice? Start building those creative muscles by leaning into imaginative thinking daily, even if just for a few minutes.
I challenge you to notice inspiration in unexpected places. Sketch out visual problems and playful solutions. Feed your mind with vibrant imagery across photography, typography, graphics. Soon unique concepts will come far more naturally!
And if you ever feel fully stuck with idea block, don’t hesitate to holler. Having a creative sounding board can make a world of difference too.
Wishing you all the visual inspiration your mind can hold!