Love your ideas, but don’t marry them.

Falling head over heels for your ideas can be a sly trap for creatives, no matter how long you’ve been in the ad/design/branding business. But for students and young professionals, it’s particularly easy to get dazzled by your own brilliance and become way too attached to ideas, way too early in the process. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have conviction for your thinking. Just don’t put a ring on the first good-looking solution that comes along. Because odds are, by settling for good, you’re missing out on some genuinely great possibilities. 

You’re also setting yourself up for serious rejection. Remember, that adorable idea has to go through a gauntlet of critical approvals from creative directors, account execs (who think they’re creatives), junior clients trying to anticipate their boss’s reaction, and ultimately—the real decision-maker. It’s rare for an idea to make it through at all, let alone without lots of bumps and bruises. Suddenly, it’s not the same gorgeous idea that captured your love, and all you’re left with is heartache. 

Then again, consider the worse scenario. The powers that be have justifiably decided to kill off your darling, but you keep stubbornly fighting for it. Calmly defending an idea is one thing, but excessive stubbornness can lead to a loss of trust with clients, as well as your boss.

A better approach

Push past that initial infatuation in search of stronger creative solutions. They’re out there, if you stay persistent. Here are a few tips for finding them. 

  1. Be open to other re-interpretations. Even strong ideas can be “plussed up” through collaboration. Or spun into new directions you never intended. Just resist the urge to automatically shut them down because you fear “ruining” the original idea.
  2. Stay away from the Mac. The sooner you and your creative partner take a rough idea and start comping it up on a desktop, the sooner you’re going to get committed to it. Stick with rough sketches and handwritten headlines. Kick out tons of them. Explore the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then explore more. Only then should you pull out the gems to comp up.
  3. Go cruising for ideas at a different hangout. If all your ideation is happening in the same office cubicle, then the results are going to be a tad confined, just like the physical space. Get out and mix it up. Go to a coffee shop, museum, bookstore (yes, there are still a few), or better yet, to a location relevant to the project you’re working on. 
  4. Kill the distractions. I’ll let the esteemed comic and creative genius John Cleese share his useful advice on this subject. 

At the end of the day, remember, we aren’t saving lives here. We’re simply coming up with advertising, design, and branding solutions. So try not to take your brilliance too seriously. And if you are going to bat for beloved ideas, choose your battles wisely. 

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