Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Brainstorming For Illustrators: 3. Question Definition

There are a number of ways to solve a problem, brainstorming is only one of them, but it’s a very effective one. Many illustrators and designers approach problem solving in an overly judicious way by waiting to be struck by an idea--the “one” idea. And even though these artists have many thoughts about a problem, those thoughts are instantaneously dismissed, because they aren’t the “one”. The thoughts are immediately judged and rejected without any notion of being added to a cache of thoughts that could spark more thoughts and ideas.

The Dartboard Analogy

Visualizing a dartboard as a symbol that represents an assignment problem, and the darts to symbolize ideas, is one way to quickly understand the effectiveness of brainstorming. Taking the afore mentioned approach of searching for only "one" great idea, is the equivalent of only having one dart to throw a bullseye. Brainstorming creates darts, and the more darts there are to throw at the dartboard, the more likely it will be to hit the bullseye. Question definition is a brainstorming method that can generate a multiple of ideas.

Brainstorming Techniques

Question Definition

An easy way to think about a problem is to ask questions about it. The questions become the basis for organizing a structure for your thoughts. What, when, where, who, and why each form categories to help to identify isolated aspects of a problem. Illustrators and designers are most familiar with questions as they relate to the demographics that are associated with a subject or problem. Questions like: What is the benefit of the product? Who is its intended audience? Where is the product distributed? When is the product available? Why is the product desirable? Etc. However, this is not the way question definition works in brainstorming.

In this brainstorming technique, questions are posed in reference to idea gathering. They are used to guide explorative thought, not to provide a definitive answer about a subject. This aspect of question definition is difficult to grasp, so the best way to explain it is by demonstration. The following is an example of question definition for an assignment to create an illustrated icon for the subject of brainstorming. The questioning can also be sub-organized like the "WHAT" questioning below, which is based on human senses.

WHAT (Could Brainstorming Look Like)?
It looks like is a light bulb lit, flame burning, spark plug firing, lightening striking, match striking, nerves tingling, etc.

WHAT (Could Brainstorming Sound Like)?
It sounds like a cymbal clashing, bomb exploding, siren sounding, thunder clapping, popcorn popping, static spark, etc.

WHAT (Could Brainstorming Taste Like)?
It tastes like a habanero pepper, mouthful of pop rocks, shot of ouzo liquor, teaspoon of wasabi, etc.

WHEN (Could Brainstorming Happen)?
It could happen in a split second, during a song, in the shower, with a sneeze, awakening from a dream, while being slapped, etc.

WHERE (Could Brainstorming Happen)?
It could happen on a mountaintop, in flight, inside our head, in our hand, under our hat, before our very eyes, etc.

WHO (Can Brainstorm)?
A professor, an astronaut, a dolphin, a child, Auguste Rodin’s the Thinker, William Shakespeare, Penn & Teller, Leonardo DaVinci, etc., can all brainstorm.

WHY (Brainstorm)?
Brainstorm to become a superhero, get rich, be on TV, meet the president, own a jet plane, surf in Hawaii, have your dreams fulfilled, etc.

Below are a few thumbnail sketches that were created using the some of the metaphors from the question definition brainstorming example.

Natural idea. © 2013 Don Arday.
High enlightenment. © 2913 Don Arday.

 Sparked thought. 2013 Don Arday.
Spontaneous idea. © 2013 Don Arday.

Question definition is an extremely effective way of producing visual metaphors to symbolize a subject or a problem.  These metaphorical ideas can then be used separately or in combination to illustrate an unusual concept, one that draws attention, entertains, and causes the viewer to think, recognize, and remember a subject or product.