A big question a lot of people ask me. How did you come up with “this” and “that”? Very common, and I’m pretty sure that lots of creative people get the same question from other people. Thinking about it, I really haven’t had a real answer to this question. I haven’t even been able to answer it to myself neither have I paid a lot of attention to my creative inspiration process… not to the point where I can say “here’s where it comes from!”
The documentary Art & Copy starts by saying:
The frightening and most difficult thing about being what somebody calls a creative person is that you have absolutely no idea where any of your thoughts come from, really. And especially, you don’t have any idea about where they’re going to come from tomorrow.
I agree 100%. Yet there are some things I do, not necessarily at the moment of thinking of ideas but I’ve made them part of my routine.
1. I Pay attention.
This is my main source of inspiration: life. May be because of my introverted personality, but I’m usually paying attention to things that I don’t think my friends pay attention to.
I love to think of behavior and ask myself questions about them. Why do people do this? Why is this girl screaming? why is this man wearing that shirt? What is it about that thing that people like or dislike? all kinds of questions. In other words, for me there’s nothing more important than curiosity, and I’m curious about everything surrounding me. Don’t take me wrong, I’m not talking about pretentious philosophy and writing poetry off of a plastic bag; I’m talking about the simple things that we all take for granted.
Also I think of culture, which is also part of everyday life. I tend to go back in time and remember experiences that may be common with my target. I remember one time when I thought of “El Cuco”, which is kind of the “Boogey man” in the country I grew up in. I started researching and it seams that “El Cuco” has different names in every Latin-American country, and digging into each country I could find lots of different funny stories. That’s a great source of inspiration that can leave you with a notebook full of ideas that can work with your target, because your audience will identify with it.
2. I Read.
And I’m not saying only reading a good book, but read everything: News, funny articles, scripts, comics, magazines, signs, the ‘about me’ section of sites, the fortune cookie, people’s t-shirts, random wikipedia articles… Read. Read. Read. It’s all over you, its incredibly accessible and it’s powerful. And what you read, digest. break it apart, question it, correct it if you have to, spell it in different ways, i don’t know, whatever you want.
I remember once I read Julio Iglesia’s biography on Wikipedia. Don’t ask me, I don’t even know his music, but for some reason I was curious. Why is this guy so huge in Latin-America? So I read his bio and how he started making music. Ok, so now I know why and how Julio Iglesias started singing. Fast forward a year or two, I’m brainstorming with my partner and *CLICK* Julio Iglesias’ story came to my mind while reading the brief, wrote the script and took it to the client. At the end, another idea was sold and interestingly enough, that idea that got sold came up by, again… being curious about something I didn’t even care for. I explain in the next tip …
3. I learn.
There are things I don’t do and I don’t care for. For example, I don’t give a shit about cars and sports car. The only weeks I cared for cars was when I was in the market buying a new car. That’s it. But, when I’m with one of these car aficionados, I’m the guy asking questions. Again, curiosity.
That idea I mentioned before, the one my client bought is an example of what I’m talking about. When I was in college I had a Puerto Rican roommate called Roberto. He was a surfer back in the island. I couldn’t care or know less about surfing. To me surfing was just a clothing style that I didn’t necessarily like. But I was curious and I asked questions. I remember sometimes we would spend entire nights looking at surfing sites because I couldn’t stop asking questions and, for a change, the guy was happy to answer. I remember even going to the movie theater with him to watch “Riding Giants” when it came out. Now I sound like a freaking surfer if I talk to somebody about it. Years later, I’m here brainstorming for a commercial that needed to communicate good and positive attitude against adversities, and I remembered this video that Roberto showed about a guy in Texas that surfed to tanker waves because of the lack of natural waves in the golf of Mexico. We developed the idea in a slightly different way because of production limitations, and that spot you can see in my portfolio. So by informing myself about something I don’t even do, I end up with an idea, years later.
So, it doesn’t matter that you don’t listen to hip hop. Go ahead and learn about the origin of hip hop and you’ll see that in your career, sooner or later, that knowledge is going to help a lot. Be curious.
4. I mix things.
When I was in animation school, there was this guy who designed the most bizarre yet awesome monsters. Hell they were amazing!!! I asked him how he came up with such great looking designs, what’s his process and to my surprise, his process was very very simple: “I take at least two weird looking bugs and mix them together in a drawing.” And that was it. I did the exercise, and in no time I was creating the most horrendously looking sci-fi monsters I’ve ever done.
I think in advertising it works the same way. Mix the product you are trying to sell to something and you’ll come up with some crazy shit. Like how can you take a pair of speakers and mix it with a cat fish… Maybe I end up with a cat fish having a party with cats eating fish. I don’t know, crazy stuff that might or might not work, but you’ll come up with some interesting things.
5. I do and say stupid things.
And, that’s that. hehe.