Organizing Creativity

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm a big believer in writing things down. The ability to capture ideas is critical in being able to turn them into something useful. I always have a journal in my purse and the notes app on my iPhone gets used often since it has an easy email function.

Finding those ideas later, however, can be a huge pain. Which journal did I write that in? I saw a photo that would work great for this client project, but can't find where I bookmarked the site. I heard a quote once that would illustrate this so well, but can't remember who said it. John Maxwell, an author who has published more than 50 books, has an index card filing system in order to easily find quotes and sources to reference in his writing. This organization method helps his creativity because he can pull from years of research, reading and random inspiration to help shape his current ideas. It also helps him get his writing done faster.

After reading about this, I set up a similar method that worked a little better for me, particularly since I prefer to have as paperless an office as possible. One of the tools I use to capture ideas, and to help shape projects, is Evernote. More recently I've also been using Backpack from 37signals as it integrates with their other products I use. So far both work well, albeit a bit differently from each other. If you work with a team, Backpack is a better option for collaboration on ideas than Evernote, in my opinion.

As I go through my daily routine, if I see a quote that stands out, or read an article I want to reference later, or come across a photo that inspires me, I can email or save it directly to Evernote or Backpack. I can also tag the item, so I can find it more easily later if I can't remember the exact details of what I'm saving. For example, if I need to reference a statistic or marketing study, I can look it up quickly by doing a search on a related keyword.

A wedding photographer I know decided to study notable photographers from the past to help her build a more solid foundation and give her greater understanding of her craft. Evernote and Backpack both make this kind of studying easy because you can create a folder or page that houses all the articles, online photos, book titles, etc that you come across. This keeps everything in one place and allows you to revisit it later.

If you're a designer, you can use these tools to organize all the inspiration you come across on a daily basis. You can create a folder or page for wedding chair ideas, wedding invitation ideas, wedding cake styles and so forth and save those images or ideas to it as you go. If you need to share an idea with a client who is just not "seeing" it, you can easily send them a photo or link from your notes, saving you from having to spend a lot of time hunting down a visual of your idea. You can also set up folders or pages for specific clients and keep ideas for their respective weddings organized all in one place.

It's easier to create ideas and get them out the door if you're organized. These are two tools that work really well for me because they are simple to use.

What do you use to keep your ideas organized?

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