Photoshop, Illustrator, Gimp, Inkskape. You’ve chosen your weapon. Now comes the hard part: what do you make with it? There’s no right or wrong way to get an idea for a shirt design. Some folks get them fully formed from the muses themselves; others bash their heads against a wall until their brains come up with something just to make the pain stop. Most of us are probably somewhere in the middle. If you’re constantly finding that no ideas are coming, you might try one of these methods to help spark that brain-kindling:
Let’s say you have a derby theme but you’re not sure where to go with it. Get a pencil and piece of paper and put your topic right in the middle of the page. Now around that topic, list at least seven or eight words that come to mind. Now add a “wild card” to the list—an idea, thought, or theme that’s been on your mind lately. It doesn’t have to relate to the topic at hand, just mix it in there.
Now take those seven or eight words and break them down. Describe each one with a half dozen descriptors. Then break those down until you’re left with some fairly broad descriptive terms. Now think of things outside of your theme that also share those descriptors and list them next to those words.
At this point you have a page full of seemingly unrelated words branching out like a tree. Now start mixing and matching. Take one of the last words you wrote and put it next to the initial topic. Move your way down the tree and across different branches. Do any of these pairings offer strong imagery? Is there a clever connection between the two? Does it inspire something else entirely?
Make it a Habit
Keep a sketchbook, scrapbook, or journal. Constantly be thinking and doodling instead of waiting around for inspiration to hit. As artist Gerhard Richter says, “It is a danger to wait around for an idea to occur to you. You have to find the idea.” He’s not the only one that knows the virtue of working hard for your art. Who knows, that doodle today might form a winning shirt design five months from now.
Mix it Up
Sometimes you can get into too much of a groove. You follow the same daily schedule, watch the same type of movies, visit the same web sites, and draw the same kind of characters. You might need what Edward de Bono calls Po. It’s a way of disrupting your thought patterns or habits in a way that throws some new ideas into the mix. Wake yourself up in the middle of the night and write down the first thing that comes to mind. Read a book or magazine you would never normally read. See a movie you would never see, draw in a style you have never drawn in. When your influences and inspiration become too homogeneous, so does your art. Mix it up a bit!
Those are just a few ways to get your idea engine tuned. So let’s talk about ideas. Thinking up new ones, polishing old gems. How does this thing called creativity work? When and where are you most creative? Is there really nothing new under the sun?...
Idea Bulb by Flickr member qisur
Sketchbook 7th February to 12th March 201047 by Flickr member andeecollard
orange blue white swirls by Flickr member skalas2
Each used under a Creative Commons License