Ideas About Ideas

In his thought-provoking ‘The Act of Creation‘ Arthur Koestler puts forward the theory that the creative process ‘consists in the discovery of hidden similarities’. He argues that this is the key to all the new ideas in visual creativity, science and humour.

Make Linking Jumps

Koestler concludes that innovative creative ideas result from the ability to make a linking jump from one frame of reference to another. This is achieved through understanding established patterns, codes of behaviour and types of logic, then breaking free from them to discover and reveal new connections or interrelationships. This idea is reflected in the phrases ‘jumped from one river bank to another’, ‘a leap of the imagination ‘and ‘jump out of the frame’. Derail the usual trains of thought Koestler relates that breaking and undoing regular habits of thought is a key to ideas: ‘The prerequisite of originality is the art of forgetting, at the proper moment, what we know… Without the art of forgetting, the mind clutters with ready-made answers, and never finds occasion to ask the proper questions.’ Trying to forget or avoid normal patterns and habits of thought can be challenging. For example: Which of the following letters is the odd one out: AF HK MN Y Z? Normal habits and patterns of thought lead us to try to find a relationship between the letters. However, the odd one out is M. It is made from four straight lines, the others feature three. To solve the problem we have to forget we are looking at letters and see them as lines.

Creativity as a Paradox

Paradoxically, creative brains have to be simultaneously open to new ideas and focused on solving the problem at hand. It is necessary to hold two seemingly opposing requirements in the mind at precisely the same time.

The Collective Telepathic Intelligence

There has been speculation that human beings possess a telepathic collective intelligence that allows them to enhance each other’s wisdom without formal com­munication or interaction. Researchers have attempted to verify this phenomenon: they asked groups of individuals to complete a series of mental tasks then later asked new groups, totally unconnected to the first, to do the same. Results indicate that the latter groups had less difficulty performing the tasks, suggesting that collectively, as time passes, we could find problem solving increasingly easy.

Horizontal thoughts

It has been suggested that ideas solidify more readily when we are horizontal as more blood flows from the upper body to the brain. It is thought that when we are vertical the brain becomes less efficient at certain types of thinking.

Seeding Ideas

Is it possible to seed the brain in the way that clouds can be seeded to produce rain, to make it more open 10 producing ideas? In commercial creative work you are paid to find ways to communicate successfully with people. Your job is to ensure that your client’s target audience ‘gets the message’ you’ve been employed to send. Adman Raymond Chin said: ‘The hardest thing is coming up with ideas in a pressure situation.’ The process of communicating on behalf of a client and strategies for solving a brief can be broken down into 16 stages. Writer and professor of philosophy A.C. Grayling encapsulated the skills needed to communicate when he wrote:

‘The intellectual gifts are a capacity to see things from highly unusual angles, to overlook what is not essential, and to understand the true significance of the obvious. The character traits are persistence, obduracy, a capacity for taking great pains, and indifference to ridicule.’

Simplify at every stage. Simplify, don’t complicate. You need to edit, pare down and chop away at every stage of solving a brief, from analysing it to the final images you create. Reduce, cut the clutter, get to the essence, crop and cut out any irrelevance. Create simple ideas that expand in the viewer’s imagination. As adman John Hegarty pointed out: ‘The French Revolution got its message down to only three words -Liberté, Egalité, Fratenité.’ Likewise, the Chinese president Deng Xiaoping defined his ambitions for China in the words ‘Reform and open’. ‘You have to crop everything down to concentrate the viewer’s mind.

The more extraneous stuff there is, the more you lose sight of the idea.’ Clive Challis, art director and teacher


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