5 Unusual Ways Artists & Creative Professionals Can Brainstorm

Brainstorming can be one of the best ways to come up with new ideas or to find a solution for a tricky issue. Coming up with as many ideas as possible – no matter how big, little, random, or unlikely – can be the path that leads you to your next spark of brilliance.

Artists, writers, musicians, designers, and more have the added bonus of using their creative flair to enhance their brainstorming attempts.

Here are 5 unusual ways artists and creative professionals can brainstorm ideas:

1. Create a (Pretend) Movie for Your Soundtrack

Put on music – either something familiar and loved, or something new and unexpected – and sit down with a pen and paper or whatever recording tools work best for you.

Now imagine that you’re in a movie theatre (or perhaps right inside of the movie). You can either create a story to go along with the music or you can just jot down ideas as the music inspires them.

As the songs change, change the rhythm and themes of your brainstorming to match the music.

2. Perform Some Private Improv

Stand in front of a mirror and pretend you’re performing in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd. Don’t have a plan or a script, just go! Say whatever comes to mind on the topic that you’re brainstorming. Talk to the crowd and try to entertain them. Let your mind wander with your performance. Think of how a comedian lets their set flow from one topic into another – do the same. Keep talking and write down (or record in whatever way) all the ideas that spring up and what they lead to.

Then switch. Pretend you’re performing for a small and tough crowd. Change your routine to suit the audience. How does your material change? How does your stance and delivery change? Now, write down any differences and alternate ideas that popped up and where that leads.

Try performing improv as different characters. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Your favourite movie character
  • Your favourite book character
  • Your favourite musician
  • Someone from 100 years in the past
  • Someone from 100 years in the future
  • A child
  • A superhero

3. Sketch / Doodle / Paint Your Own Rorschach (Ink Blot Tests)

Create your own Rorschach test to see what’s hiding in the depths of your creative brain. Let your hand wander with your mind. Use paint, ink, or whatever you choose to make random markings on paper. What do you see? Record anything that occurs to you and use that as a starting point to keep your hand moving and drawing/painting more brainstormed ideas.

4. Collage

Grab some old magazines, newspapers, flyers, and anything else you have around that has interesting images and bits of text that you’re willing to cut up. Along with that, gather your other collage-making supplies (paper, glue, etc.) and settle yourself down and go wild.

If you’re just brainstorming general new ideas, then let yourself put together a collage of anything you find that inspires you. If you have a direction or theme in mind, try to find interesting bits that lend to that.

Once you get rolling, try to focus your collage, spot similarities in what you’ve put together and differences, see if there are any patterns or anything unexpected.

5. SWOT … or not

One brainstorming technique is called SWOT which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Obviously, you focus on your issues and analyze these four sections coming up with everything you can think of under each.

This is all fine and good, but a little dry for creative types. So, let’s try to come up with some that are better suited for artistic thinkers.

Here are some ideas:

  • SHUP – serious, humourous, unlikely, possible
  • VOP – visually, orally, physically
  • MALF – musically, artistically, literary, fashionably

Try coming up with a few of your own, then use them to brainstorm, either by applying them to a specific issue or to just come up with general (and awesome) new ideas.

Do you have any unique brainstorming techniques? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

* Image by Adi Respati.