Giving yourself enough time to brainstorm and explore.

It happens to the best of us. You’re starting a new project and even though you haven’t drawn your first thumbnail sketch, you can already see the final concept in your mind. So instead of wasting your time trying to come up with any other ideas, you go straight to work focusing on the details of your initial concept in the very first step.
Now, fast forward to you presenting the final concept and there’s something in the back of your mind. “Was this the best solution?”
I’m sure it was a good solution, but was it the best solution? You jumped too far ahead at the beginning of the process that you didn’t allow yourself any time in the exploration stage. You had an idea and ran with it.
So how do you keep yourself from focusing too soon on the details? How can you keep zoomed out long enough to allow yourself the time to make sure you’re headed in the right direction with your design?
Well, it’s going to take a little patience and a bit of experimentation.

Take Your Time

I know it’s as evident as it sounds…
If you want to avoiding moving through the process too fast, you need to slow down.
Thank you, Captain Obvious.
But in all seriousness, you need to take your time. Don’t be afraid to slow down. Rushing a job may mean getting to the finish line sooner, but is it worth it when the quality suffers?

Logo Design Clendar

Schedule Your Process

To help you take your time, schedule out each step of your process. Figure out how much time you take on average to complete each stage and write it down in a calendar. This will give you a visual of how balanced your process is. Are you spending enough time in the exploratory stage, or are you only spending a day or two before spending most of your time refining and reiterating?
For 50 States 50 Brands, I spend three weeks on each project. The first five to six days alone are spent sketching thumbnails and exploring different ideas. Then I’ll finally pick out a direction to start working the details. That means I’m spending almost a third of the project zoomed out before focusing on the details.
So, if you’re moving too fast, let’s figure out how to create that time you need in your project schedule.

Set a Time Limit that will Push Yourself

I’m not talking about a time limit in the sense that it forces you to feel rushed. I’m saying you need to establish an extended period of time that pushes you to come up with more ideas.
Set aside at least a couple of days to spend in the exploration stage. This will give you the opportunity to take your time and experiment with ideas you otherwise would never have had.
Remember, don’t focus on the small details yet – just the big ideas. The thumbnail stage should be about exploration and getting those concepts down on paper.
If you find the thumbnailing stage boring or wasteful when you believe you already have a good idea, try to push yourself to spend at least a full day or two thumbnailing. You never know what better concepts you can come up with unless you try. At the very least, it will be good brainstorming practice as you work out your creative muscle.

Rejected Thumbnail Sketch

Explore All Ideas – Even the Ridiculous

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is believing an idea is too stupid to put on paper. Don’t cheat yourself. The craziest idea might not be the right one, but sketching it down may trigger you to come up with the best solution for the project.
Even if you know the idea is the complete opposite of what your client needs, trying something inherently wrong may help you come up with the right concept.

Take a Step Back

Another way to keep you from focusing on the details too fast is to literally remove yourself from the situation.
Go on a walk. Go have lunch away from your desk. Find something that will temporarily distract you and get your mind off of the project and potentially focusing on the details too soon.
Of course, you’ll have to come back, but while you’re away, you may come up with a better idea than what you had when you were focused in the first place.

Sleep on it

Other than being another way to physically remove yourself from your work, getting a good night’s sleep will allow your subconscious to process the project. You might surprise yourself with how many more ideas you have when you get back to drawing that you won’t be ready to work on the details so fast.
Sleep and better ideas: Win – Win!

To avoid focusing on the details too soon, you need to deliberately force yourself to take your time in the exploratory stage.

I know these things sound like common sense, but in reality, maybe you just didn’t really consider that you do need to take your time. It’s important to have a process that allows you to spend an adequate amount of time in each stage. The brainstorming stage is one of the most important stages because it sets you up for the entire project.

The details are much easier than coming up with the concept which is why you need to make sure you don’t focus on them too soon. Forcing yourself to spend some good time brainstorming will not only keep yourself from zooming in too early, but it will also give you the peace of mind that you are providing the best solution for your client.

What challenges do you face when focusing on the details too soon? Is it trying to meet a deadline? Do you just get impatient? Do you have a good initial idea and go with it?
Let me know your struggles. I would love to discuss them with you.

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