Landing a new project is exhilarating and exciting, unleashing a rush of ideas for how you want the results to look and what you need to do to get there. In fact, such a flow of creativity can easily lead to an overwhelming jumble of concepts if you are new to the trade or don’t have a strict design methodology. One of the most successful ways to keep inspiration from turning into a fleeting thought or being blocked completely is to use visual brainstorming to capture ideas and concepts as they come to you.
What is Visual Brainstorming?
To quote UsabilityFirst, visual brainstorming is “the process of generating a variety of graphical alternatives to a visual design problem, such as generating thumbnail sketches for a screen layout or various alternatives of an icon to represent an abstract concept.” Often confused with brain mapping, successful visual brainstorming avoids words or explanations.
Benefits of Visual Brainstorming in Design
Visual brainstorming is used to formulate a creative concept, and collaborate or communicate an idea or creative concept where words would fail. It is a perfect solution when working with new subject matter, or with a client that doesn’t understand your proposals and emails.
Rather than just focusing on the whole picture right away, visual brainstorming allows you to collect ideas about detailed aspects of a design, such as the textures, colors, styles and shapes and put them together in a way that allows direct comparison and interaction. Using this form of anti-conventional thinking, it becomes easier to solve problems and innovate, leaving multiple pathways open for change and reform later on.
Use visual brainstorming to:
- Tap into your subconscious inspiration – individual elements that inspire you are easily put together to form a tangible result.
- Present an idea or concept to your client that is easily translated without complicated language.
- Establish the creative direction for your project, which in turn enables you to build the actual design without fear of excessive revision or failure.
Methods of Visual Brainstorming
Visual brainstorming can involve putting together LEGOs, scrapbooking, or sketching. When it comes to design, there are a handful of excellent online tools that help you put together inspirations to create a mood board that can be turned into a solid concept with ease and improve your overall workflow. Each tool provides varying degrees of creative control and solves a specific creative problem. Whichever you choose, adding even one or all to your creative routine in favor of rigid prototyping or disorganized chaos will get your project on course for success.
Moodshare is a new collaborative tool designed for designers and teams for quick visual brainstorming using drag n’drop and real-time collaboration. Search Twitter, Google, Bing, Flickr, Picasa, BigStock, ShutterStock, Youtube, Vimeo and ColorLovers simultaneously to combine images, video, color palettes and links. Complete boards can be shared via social networks or links, or saved locally. Moodhsare is currently in beta,which means it is completely free.
Conceptboard is a complete project management platform built for brainstorming, mind-mapping, collecting ideas and many other creative techniques. You can work alone or with team members or clients and enhance your collections with whiteboard markup. Unlike the previous two applications, Conceptboard allows you to combine images, documents and references for a complete visual overview. Plans are low-cost, with the free plan offering 25 boards – more than enough to get started.
Sampleboard offers complete freedom to search its extensive online library or grab inspiration from Flickr, Picasa or your own uploads to create online collages and mood boards that can be organized into project-based folders. Boards may be shared on Twitter or Facebook or exported to Word, Powerpoint, Slideshare, PDF or hi-res image formats. While a favorite of interior and fashion designers, Sampleboard can be adapted to any creative project.
SpringPad is a complete task management and note-taking application with full Google calendar and social network integraton that lets you create an endless number of projects or folders, each with their own Board. Boards can be used to organize ideas and information by adding any of SpringPad’s elements, including labels, notes, lists, places, images, contacts and bookmarks. The result is a completely visual means of organizing a project and building creative direction. SpringPad comes with desktop synchronization, Chrome and Firefox addons and a slick mobile app.
If all you really need is a place to collect ideas and inspiration, the hudely popular Pinterest is a perfect solution. Create boards for specific ideas or projects, and upload images or add images and video from anywhere on the web. You can also browse the Pinterest community and repin or Like anything that catches your fancy. This method helps unlock creative ideas and style preferences lurking beneath your conciousness. By looking through your Like history, you can easily see patterns and put together collections to get you going in a specific direction.
Wix offers a free online website builder that also uses drag ‘n drop and image upload, with the added benefit of fonts, styling and website elements that make it the most relevant visual brainstorming tool when it comes to conceptualizing a website design. Rather than spending hours in Photoshop prototyping various ideas, the website builder can help you quickly experiment with layouts, colors, textures, fonts and actual interactive elements such as galleries, slideshows and video that graphic editing programs simply can’t do.
Beginning March 8th, Wix will be launching an HTML5 builder, streamlining your process even more. Start by brainstorming using the visual editor to create a mood board, refine your graphic elements using your normal design tools and processes, then finish the entire project in Wix to create a fully interactive, valid and highly functional website for your client.
Vail Joy is a professional writer, designer and developer with a vibrant background in music business, photography and social media. When she is not contributing her expertise to blogs and e-zines, she is building HTML websites and slaying dragons for Obox Design.