Creative thinking and ownership are things that come naturally to many, however for young people who are still finding their creative voice, developing strategies for creative thinking can be the key to them coming up with and selecting good ideas.

Guiding students through the processes of finding inspiration, collaborating on ideas and developing creative ownership defines the success of a project from an assessment point of view, but also supports them to develop employability skills and creative outcomes too. 

Inspiration

As a teacher of graphic design and animation, I encourage my students to look for inspiration in all sort of places. I am very lucky that my college has a lot of links with local employers, so my students have a direct line to industry and the companies we work with provide a lot of inspiration and examples for students to follow. Manchester based animation company Flow Creative often produce in-depth case studies into their work and this gives students a greater insight into the creative process.

I also encourage students to keep up to date with trends in the creative industries so not only are they inspired, but also up to date with current styles and techniques. I find the resources from Creative Bloq, Creative Boom and Creative Review to be particularly useful.

Encouraging students to join creative online communities is also advantageous, for example getting them to set up profiles on LinkedIn or keep an eye on creative platforms like Dribbble.

I often urge them to look outside of their own disciplines to find inspiration, anything from fine arts to architecture. This has been a little trickier via remote learning, so we are having to think outside the box a lot. Galleries, museums and archives are offering virtual tours so in some ways there are more opportunities to “visit” places. A trip to the Guggenheim in New York would be unaffordable for most students but through Google Arts and Culture this is now easily possible.

Collaboration

Working with others to generate ideas and creative solutions is the bread and butter of the creative industries. Getting students to discuss ideas and give each other feedback is always something I have done. Even on individual projects, I encourage students to discuss their ideas with each other at all stages of the design process. In a virtual world teamwork has become more difficult in some ways but has opened up new tools and techniques in others.

One tool I have been using frequently is Miro. It is a collaborative virtual workspace commonly used by agencies and creative companies and they have a very generous free education licence. As a team, we have used this extensively as part of our work experience projects, which can involve a large number of students working collaboratively. We were set a series of live briefs through our partnership with Ideas Foundation, a charity who aim to improve diversity in the creative industries. The students worked in groups to develop creative responses using Miro as a collaborative space to discuss and present their ideas. This gave a lot of flexibility and a very visual space in which to work. Using this format really helped the students’ confidence on their first live client brief and they have requested to continue using Miro on further projects.

Creative Ownership

Creative ownership is something that needs to be built up and developed with students. When they generate ideas, they are coming from a position of their own interests and experiences. They are normally pretty confident in creating products that they themselves like or consume in their own lives, however making something based on a client brief is often not something they have done before.

I teach idea generation workshops early on in the course to help students develop their creative thinking skills. Some students are great at coming up with lots of creative ideas while others find it more difficult, and this of course can vary from project to project. Depending on the brief I try to employ lots of strategies to help them. Examples include the S.C.A.M.P.E.R technique developed for advertising by Alex Osborn and later Bob Eberle. This is really useful in helping students expand on existing ideas and for thinking more outside the box. Another option is the “Crazy Eights” technique adapted from UX/UI design sprints. This is based on speed where students have to think of 8 ideas with only one minute to jot down each idea. This can be really good for an initial session and can then be combined with S.C.A.M.P.E.R to take things further.

I have found students enjoy creative thinking exercises in general such as Don’t/Do This – Game: Thought Experiments for Creative People or Storycubes which I used to use more while teaching in the classroom. Depending on the project, there are some good brief and ideas generation sites out there, such as BAFTA Games and Goodbrief which can be good starting points. As we get further into the course, students are encouraged to develop responses to more in-depth briefs such as D&AD, YCN and RSA or develop creative briefs of their own.

The key seems to be to give students a toolkit so they can then pick and choose what works for them and the different projects they may be encounter. They will then have the ability to develop ideas within the confines of a set creative brief or opt for full creative freedom and go their own way.

Whether we continue to teach more remotely, get back into the classroom or a mixture of both; the key to teaching creative subjects has always been to inspire, collaborate and above all give the students a safe space to play with ideas and learn from their mistakes.