How to come up with an original idea

Tomorrow I'm heading down to the D&AD lecture "Hegarty on Advertising" and in preparation I have typed up some notes from a previous lecture with Lord Puttnam, Alan Parker and Bob Gill. In the obligatory Question and Answer session at the end, someone in the audience asked Bob Gill the question: "How do you come up with an original idea?". Here was his answer.

There was a piece in Time Magazine a while ago entitled "Ten ideas changing the world right now". The intriguing thing was that nearly all of these so called ideas were not ideas at all. They were facts.

There is too much obsession with facts these days...! And not enough emphasis on original thought.

How does one come up with a completely original idea? That's a very good question.

Let us imagine you are given a brief - and the brief is to create a brand identity for a company. It could be any company - for example let us use a Dry Cleaners. Now all of us know what a Dry Cleaners does (except perhaps for this guy in the front row here with the very crumpled looking shirt).

So the first thing you do is this. Think about all the ideas that come into your head when you think of a Dry Cleaners. Write them all down, expand on them, sketch them out - in whatever you format you like.

And then forget all of them. Every single one.

Next, go to the Dry Cleaners in question. Sit there and observe everything. Don't move - stay there for two or three days in a row.

Learn as much as you possibly can about them. Talk to the staff. Talk to the customers. Get to know everything about this Dry Cleaners - inside and out, 100%.

Here's the crux of it. The idea that represents the Dry Cleaners is the one that - by doing this, by following this process - will design itself.

It is not about preconceived ideas of what is correct or incorrect.

We cannot create new ideas if we cling to rigid ideas of right or wrong.

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