The Value of Brainstorming

December 16th, 2011 | Posted in General

One thing I have always had to fight against with respect to my professional work is my tendency to visualize a single solution to an illustration project and just run with it. While that is the least time-consuming way to go about things, it is also just plain lazy. It is always advisable to force yourself to come up with a few other ideas, if for no other reason than to explore the concept and exercise your conceptual skills. The magic number I always adhere to is three… I want to come up with three different ideas for an illustration that communicate the message and address the needs of the client. I may or may not present the client with a choice of the three, but internally coming up with at least three ideas makes whichever one I go with stronger for the exploration of other angles. Also, it is not unusual that the act of coming up with two other concepts beyond the first one that pops into your head will yield a better one in the process.

Working on coming up with different angles or solutions to the same dilemma is called “brainstorming”, and a good illustrator should start out each job with a brainstorming session. Here’s an example…a few days ago I posted this spot illustration I did for Seattle Business Magazine:

The concept was to create a visual for a short story about Seattle developer Michael Mastro, who disappear along with his wife and a number of assets including two diamond rings weighing in at over 40 carats from his bankruptcy hearing. The illustration needed to show them on the lam, with the loot, in a humorous way. Here are the three ideas I brainstormed for this spot:

The first two don’t actually show the Mastros at all, but tell the story of their absence in different ways. I kind of like the TSA screener idea best, but the client went with the beach scene. All three demonstrate the thought process and exploration of a solution to the assignement.

Sometime I am just plain lazy, though. This is the way it should always be done.


  1. Connie Nobbe says:

    “Lazy” is definitely not what you are! Just sayin.

  2. Lee Fortuna says:

    Love the rough pencils Tom! Would like to see more of the creative stage of the “Richmond Magic”! Before you go to color, maybe another “categorie” added to the blog called “Rough & Final Pencils” And just keep adding to it as you produce them? Just an idea,lol, I need a nap!


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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