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My favourite client is my wife Sandra, and she almost never knows what she wants. I mean, she knows the effect that she wants, or she’s got a big idea, but when it comes to producing the final content and getting into the details, she’s usually at a loss for words.

She just knows that she wants it to be good.

It’s really no problem because what we are doing is all a part of a process. Creative collaboration is for me one of the best rewards of this job and due to Sandra’s hand it off nature I’ve become accustomed to working through a creative process with her that both keeps her interested and allows her the opportunity for creative input when required. Like her a lot of you are only starting with a spark, and it’s not until we work together on a few ideas – does the fire really start to get going.

You’re Not Creative

One way she let’s me know she doesn’t know what she wants is by telling me she isn’t creative. Actually she knows she’s creative, but somehow believes that I’m more creative because she doesn’t draw. You might be thinking the same thing but the fact remains that just by working through a branding problem, or deciding an image should go with your story or you are envisioning a commercial means that your really creative. You just don’t have the hand skills to pull it off yet.

Just copy that.

My wife never does this but often clients show me that they don’t know what they want when they out and out want to copy a competitor or similar idea. I know you want to be successful you just don’t realize that by copying you are not distinguishing yourself. You are following the leader and therefore doing what the competitor wants instead of believing in your own ideas. This Is totally natural but now it’s my job to make you think a little bit harder about who you are and why your getting art done in the first place.

If you don’t know what you want you need to learn to brainstorm effectively. Start to mishmash ideas together and if you need me to help with that then great. That’s what I’m here for.

If you want to do it yourself, or by yourself than check out this list of great brainstorming apps.

If you want me to do the mish mashing then there’s a process I go through that I don’t share much but thought it might help you out.

The first thing I like to do is research. I will research every corner of the internet to find out what other people have done before me. There is no idea that is truly original. Most ideas are built on the things from the past so I like to see what’s been done. I’m not going to copy these ideas but instead I’m looking for something that sparks the imagination and gets my brain excited.

Once I’m just a little excited, I walk away from my studio. A lot of illustrator’s like to sketch at this point, but I’m a little more cerebral than that. I need to just have it bang around in my head until the idea starts to gestate and take on life. I can’t walk too far though. The farthest I’m willing to go is only around the block because as soon as my brain meanders into a cool idea, then I need to start sketching.

I will do this at least three times. That way the you client gets three different perspectives on the problem.

It’s important for me not to be precious with these ideas because your probably going to gravitate towards one, but now that you’ve seen it on paper, your going to start to think and add your own ideas.

This is a great process because once we get here the project should be really exciting for both of us. Both our mojo’s are working and now we are creating something truly exceptional.

Now put it in a box.

Some times Sandra just comes to me with pieces of an idea. This can sometimes be a burden because I want to please her more than anything, but we are really stuck trying to figure out if the project is even feasible. I love working with her on this but I have learned to put up a creative box very early in our conversations to keep us on track and get the most value for our time.

A creative box is simple to make, but needs to be done after the brainstorming phase. It can be a simple as limiting the budget, or the deadline on your creative output. Now we work together to maximize our limitations. Instead of saying, “we can’t do that because of limited resources,” try asking, “how do we fit the best parts of an idea into our box.”

It’s not bad to engage an illustrator before you’re sure of your ideas. A good one will jump at the opportunity to collaborate with you, brainstorm, create a box and then make it happen. If your not sure what to do just reach out and ask.


About Michael

Michael Grills Illustration is located in Calgary Alberta Canada. The business was established in 2005 and since then I have been collaborating with design agencies, editorial, publishers, video directors, and game makers from all over the world. As well as doing art for illustration fans.