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Connecting Creativity and Commerce

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Read Time: 7 min
This post is part of a series called Let’s Talk About Creativity.
Polishing up Your Creative Process
Quick Tip: Pomodoro Technique to the Creative Rescue

During previous articles, we've focused on being more creative, or overcoming obstacles which prevent you from being creative. Today, we're making the sometimes difficult connection between creativity and business.

Gift by Roman Jusdado on Dribbble

Creativity is important from an economical point of view and it's perfectly possible to monetize creativity. Even though during the session we've never really emphasized the power of creativity in a commercial way, by now you should understand to an extent how creativity can improve your business.

The great thing about really creative people is that they can come up with qualitative ideas in a short period of time. Besides this, they are able to beat creative block in a fairly efficient way by analyzing the cause and dealing with it. To put it simply, businesses should invest in creative people because they save time. Saving time means saving costs. Now, how can we make this happen?

Commercial Creativity Means Efficiency

As we discussed in the previous article where we polished up our creative process, there's a split between either generating ideas and selecting ideas. In a commercial environment this means shortening the amount of time it takes to go through these two steps while still having valuable concepts.

First generate ideas (don't judge!), then translate those ideas to a number of workable concepts.

Idea Generation

It's important during the idea generation process that you work in an efficient fashion.

Making of Things

I personally prefer to go through this whole phase in a set amount of time with my preferred techniques to gain valuable concepts. There's a difference between working in a team and working alone.

Even though our creative process can be a very chaotic one, in business it's better to have it structured.

For teams it's advisable to go through the whole process together; from brief to brainstorm. By having more people participate in your idea generation process in a limited amount of time, you'll gain a lot of input within a short period. This is a great start for the idea selection, which can be done with fewer people, such as the art director and the lead developer.

The preferred techniques are a good old brainstorm, with rules explained in our previous article.

Creativity depends on the right conditions rather than time.

But what if you're working alone? The problem with working alone is that you can be in a very creative mood and can come up with a lot of ideas quickly, or simply have no inspiration at all. This is why, unlike in team settings, it's not really recommended to put a time limit on your creative process unless you feel experienced with time pressure and creativity.

Recognize when you're creative and use that time for idea generation instead of developing, for example. Find your preferable methods which work out the best for you. The best tip is that whenever you lack creative ideas, step away from the problem (and your computer) for a while. Go grab a coffee or take a walk. A fresh mind does miracles. Creativity depends on the right conditions rather than time.

Even though our creative process can be a very chaotic one, in business it's better to have it structured. Why? Simply, it generates results in a fashion you enjoy in a limited timespan. This is my preferred method, but you can play around with yours until you found the perfect approach for you or your company!

  1. Start with a quick brief. Even if it's just you. Define the problem. Understand the project and the expectations.
  2. Spend about 15 minutes on the internet to figure what exists, what the best practices are and some general inspiration.
  3. Shut down your computer, have a brainstorm with just you, a pencil and paper. Limit yourself in time. I prefer about 45 minutes. (In groups, have an old-fashioned brainstorm!)
  4. Time's up. Have a coffee together, have a conversation about what you ended up with. This first interaction is important. If you're alone, try to call anyone who you believe can offer some feedback or insight. Always have a chat with somebody else before moving on.
  5. Spend a half hour refining your ideas to a number of concrete concepts. (Still on paper!)
  6. Time to move to the idea selection.

With an investment of about two hours, you should have a good start to the project. Keep things nicely open-ended. You might have a creative block during this process. No problem, remember the previous articles. Focus on finding the cause and beating it and you'll be fine.

Idea Selection

Idea selection is usually a much smoother process. Again I prefer to work with a structure.

  1. Scrap the obvious bad ideas after you've checked them if they can't be combined with your other ideas.
  2. Use any preferred technique to reduce your ideas to two/three concepts.
  3. Take each concept to the next level. More than that you should.
  4. Open your computer, start with intensive communication with your client.

When presenting ideas, don't design pixel-perfectly. Rather, get your idea and the mood of your idea across. The power of moodboards are incredible. They are low-effort and give clients visuals. Clients love visuals. Always provide them together with your concepts.

Make sure that you like the concepts you are about to present.

On the topic of concepts, always read your brief again before presenting them to a client. Always make sure that you like the concepts you are about to present. You should be excited yourself. It's far easier to sell something which you believe is really amazing and would be fun to work on. If it doesn't make anyone excited, honestly, what's the point then?

Three variations of one idea is still just one concept. Don't offer clients variations, rather select which variation is best as a designer. Don't provide one amazing concept and two bad ones in the hope that the client will select the amazing one. Even in this very early stage of your project, deliver gold. Have varied concepts, have a good discussion with clients how you came to these and how they can solve the clients problem. Choose a concept together and blow their mind.

Commercial Creativity Means Taking Decisions

Even when everyone has agreed on a concept, during the development process there will come a moment that you feel something is wrong. One of the guilty things we designers tend to do is move around elements, design variations or simply continue with the hope that it will get better, when it actually just becomes worse.

Switch by Delacro on Dribbble

Understand you're doing something which is totally useless and stop it. There's something wrong and you have to figure out what exactly is wrong. Ask other people what they think (they haven't been staring so long on something as you have), what they believe the conflict is or start retracing your steps until you've figured what went wrong. This might look like a waste of time, but it's smarter and quicker than making variations.

Risks, Innovation and Silliness

Silly projects relate to you as commercial designer, in that they make you a better one.

Creativity always has some magic tricks up its sleeve. Designers have crazy (and fun) ideas. Take this for example, or this, or even this. These silly projects might not have any commercial value, but they experiment with the possibilities on the internet. They might attempt new techniques. They might inspire you during the development process. They relate to commercial projects in a sense that make you a better designer.

Even when it comes to business models, creativity is an important asset. They can help you define new ways to earn revenue, reduce the risks or invent innovative ideas which can be a game-changer. Simply, it's a skill you can use every day in any situation. To be truly creative, you will have to take risks and try to be innovative. Dare to beat the industry standards and blow everyone away.


Creativity has commercial value and it's an important asset you'll keep using day by day. Don't be afraid to try something new to make your creativity more efficient. Question your way of working from time to time.

Take clients on a wonderful journey during the design process, communicate efficiently and deliver something better than you expected in the first place!

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