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How to come up with an original idea – hang out alone and naked in a dark room

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November 15, 2012 by Sarah

I had a bit of a cranky morning yesterday. I woke up to discover someone had re-created one of my images with exactly the same look/feel and fonts. It made me angry. To get some good honest feedback and guidance I emailed my play guru John Williams. What I got back changed my mindset completely.

John’s take on it was this. So what? Why be so precious? Instead focus on what really matters – creating! John also reminded me that we’re all inspired by each other – so rather than being angry, I started to feel good – because I’d inspired someone!

One of the best books I’ve read over the last couple of years was a ‘A Book About Innocent’, which is written by the guys who started Innocent Drinks – a multimillion dollar business started by three close friends. In the book they refer to a guy called Michael Wolff who set up a branding agency in the ’60s called Wolff Olins. Wolff talks about the four ‘rooms’ you should visit when trying to think of original ideas.

1. The room of ‘Great Work’

This is where you expose yourself to great ideas – for example by visiting galleries, soaking up fine art and experiencing the great wonders of the world. You can be inspired by the work in this room, but you can often feel dominated by its greatness.

2. The room of ‘Understanding’
This room is where you get a deep understanding of your trade and how it works. You learn every step of each process and this understanding will be invaluable. However, this understanding can make you feel constrained by existing rules.

3. The room of ‘Precedent’
In this room you learn about everything that has gone before you. You also learn about what worked and what didn’t. You can’t complete all your work in this room as you’ll just end up copying what others have already done.

4. The room of ‘Creativity’
It is where you ideally spend most of your time. The boys at Innocent suggest you go into this room naked and in the dark. For it is a room for you and you alone. You go into it inspired by your visits to the other three rooms but it is where you develop your own unique ideas.

So John Williams is right. My room is about my creations and my inspiration. And if I focus on hanging out in my own room of creativity (naked or not), I’ll always develop something unique and original – because at the end of the day, there’s only one of me in this world isn’t there?


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Hello! I'm Sarah Lou Davies a 30 something kiwi trying to make work play (and pay!).

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