Nate Williams - Illustration, Lettering & Animation


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A methodology for creating new ideas

This is a post is intended to give people a methodology for creating new ideas. A lot of the time when I create an editorial illustration an idea just pops into my head ... but sometimes this does not happen, so I have this little methodology for creating new ideas that has helped me time and time again.

The idea behind this methodology is similar to writing a song. There are only a few musical notes, but by rearranging their order, length and speed you can create an infinite amount of songs.


Step 1 - Important Words

Try and think of the most important words related to your project ... usually 2 to 4 words.

So for this project the creative brief was rather easy because it basically spelled it out:

"Empowering Teachers with Technology"

... but from experience it's usually not too hard to think of 2 or 3 words.

So we now have our words: Empower, Teacher, Technology

Step 2 - Word Association

Next, for each of these 3 words .. think of other things associated with them  ... if you need help with this you can consult a  Thesaurus or see what images are associated by searching Google Images or Flickr. These are the "notes" you will rearrange into "songs" ... or ideas.


  • Bridge

  • Helping Hand

  • Ladder

  • Crane

  • Super Hero/Cape

  • Power

  • Electricity

  • Motor

  • Spark

  • Ignite


  • Teacher

  • Desk

  • Books

  • Brain

  • Chalk Board

  • World Map

  • Apple

  • Class room

  • Graduation Cap

  • Diploma


  • Computer

  • Computer Chip

  • Satellite

  • Space Travel

  • Math Formulas

  • Schematics

  • Rockets

  • Molecules

  • DNA

  • Petri Dishes

  • Telescopes

  • Microscopes

  • Light Bulb

Step 3 - "make a song"

Now that you have your "notes" think of ways you can rearrange  them to convey  meaning. Pick a word from each column and see if you can create an interesting idea.  There are a number of ways to do this ... change their size, their physical relationship to one another, their properties/material (metal=strong, ice=cold), etc.

Let's see ... what can we do? Maybe ...

  • A crane driven by a teacher lowering a light-bulb into a student's head.

  • A student climbing a DNA ladder to draw a light-bulb on a chalkboard

  • Students and a teacher crossing a bridge of computers to the moon

  • etc


"A Bridge to places out of this world"Students and a teacher crossing a bridge of computers to the moon


"Ride The Brain Train" The teacher's brain is a vehicle that takes students to new places via technology/computer


"Knowledge Explosion" leveraging the window/portal metaphor


"Super Teacher" Teacher in a heroric position (foot on computer) a cape inspiring students

Here is the idea the client decided to go with ...


I would love to hear if you have any methods for creating ideas???  Please post in comments below :)

Thanks for reading! More articles here.

Nate Williams