When Vivien at Inspiration Bit suggested I take part in her Group writing project Source of Inspiration I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to write about. I had just written a post about the scrap books I keep and have a previous post Stuck on a Design Project so I needed a bit of inspiration on inspiration (if you know what I mean). I thought about talking about the books or websites I like but I wanted it to be more personal.

One of the projects types I find most inspirational is producing concepts for print adverts so I decided to look back at some I had done in the past to remind me where the ideas came from.

Word Association
pigWord association and playing on words is one method I use to get inspired.
Several years ago I had to create a print adverts targeted at Pig Farmers (I get all the glamourous jobs). The advert was to encourage them to vaccinate their pigs against a disease which stunts their growth, not very pleasant subject matter, but it was a message I had to try and get across. The advert was to go in a Pig Farming magazine, so of course it was going to be full of images of pigs, so if I wanted the advert to get noticed, I thought it best to avoid this. I brainstormed the idea of growth, with spider diagrams words and doodles, and eventually thought of the nursery rhyme “This little piggy” that is said while touching a child’s toes. I produced several concepts, but my final advert was picture of a child’s foot with an arrow towards the big toe – saying that this one had been vaccinated and visa versa the little toe.

Image Association
trolley I often find ideas in images. You can notice that something looks relates to something else, or that you could add something to an image to give it an extra/different meaning.
Last year I was asked to come up with an advert for a company that sells contact lenses to opticians. The message was to be that their contact lenses were not available in the supermarkets, and so the consumer would have to continue to purchase from the optician. The opticians had been losing a lot of business to the supermarkets. The headline (which they gave me) was ” time to fight back”. I started with words, brainstorming as I usually do, but then moved on to images. A key image that represents the supermarket is a trolley, so I searched for some trolley images. The thing that stood out for me was the red handle, with a bit of tweaking I knew it would look like horns, hence the trolley devil advert (left).

A Positive Negative
tea The idea of looking at something in a different way, putting a twist on something really appeals to me. Instead of a shop being in the middle of nowhere, couldn’t it be a shop with ample parking?
A local company who provide digital print, large format printing and other services asked me to come up with some ideas for them. They were saying we’re reliable, we’re quick etc etc, the trouble is that is what everyone in the same industry is saying. I tried to twist the negative they had and turn it to a positive. Now it wasn’t a very big negative, but I had worked inhouse a few times and all their drinks including the ones they gave to clients came out of a vending machine. As you know we English are big tea drinkers and the vending machine tea was not good. So I came up with a headline “Everyone’s got their bad points” with an image of their vended tea, below I created a post-it note showing their pros and cons. The only thing in the cons section was the tea.

Comparing one thing to another is another good way to come up with ideas it gives you another angle on a theme.
I had to come with with concepts for a cow vaccine (glamourous again) against a disease in cows which farmers do not think is serious. The disease causes low milk yields in dairy cows. The adverts would be a single right hand magazine page, followed by a double page spread. Again I wanted to avoid using cow pictures so tried to think of things I could compare it to – the mountain and the molehill, but in reverse. It made me think of small things that could cause big effects. Initially I was thinking dripping tap, flooded house, but the image of a whole street flooded was much more powerful.


Humour/Taking something to an Extreme
If a subject is suitable, I like to try and see if there is anything in a humourous angle, or the idea of taking a subject to an extreme.
I had to come up with some advert ideas for a garage door company. Their strapline was Strong, Stylish, Secure so I tried to look at the humourous side of why a garage door needed to be strong. Instead of the obvious its strong (dent proof) to withstand a few knocks from a car or kids playing football, it could be from someone kicking it when they had a bad day. As the garage doors are so stylish it could take all night to choose one. The security of the garage doors would lead to an unhappy, empty handed burglar.


Sometimes my best ideas come when I am not purposefully thinking about the job, like just before I fall asleep, or driving. It is almost as if the pressure is off and your mind is free to wander.

What methods do you use to generate ideas and inspiration?