The 5×5 Secret Rules In Design And Advertising – Part 1 – Basic Rules

Set 1: 5 Basic Rules

1. Creativity is nothing. (Without skills)

Some people are born creative. They slop over with insightful bubbles and always come up with a brand new and ground-breaking idea. But what makes a creative person a good designer? What matters is your ability to produce. Creativity alone is highly valuable, agreed, but what if you can’t turn it into someting of true value?

Take a look at the advertising industry. The classic creative team consists of a Creative Director with at least one Art Director and Copywriter. Now – how exactly did the CD get his job?

In general, he ascended from one of the latter positions. He can only do his job if he knows how to get off the pot – in other words, he has to know how to channel his creativity. That’s why this is rule number one: Without skills, creativity means nothing. But let’s move on to the 2nd secret rule of design:

2. Ideas are everything. (With the proper inspiration)

When a new task arrives, we can’t always rely on our natural ability to come up with a great idea. Sure, we may have a bunch of ideas whirring around in our head, and we start putting them down – but what if we find out that they don’t turn out the way we expected? And what if we have a blockade and no ideas at all?

In these cases, we have to undertake steps in order to come up with an idea. Naturally, an idea can’t be forced. How often did you sit and wait for it to come, but nothing happened?

What we can do is vitalize our minds by opening the door to inspiration. We can do this in various different ways, at the desk as well as outside. Sometimes, taking a walk helps free your mind, or getting together with friends. There are various techniques to get inspired, and you may already know one or two of them.

3. Your computer is your most important tool – right AFTER your brain and a blank sheet of paper

Your brain does all the work, not Mac or Adobe. It’s always better to have a plan before getting started. It’s like “normal” life. Read How to design better and faster than trial & error, and The Sheet vs. The Screen, both on

4. Valuable resources are a grave necessity

Do you know how much time you’ve spent searching for a photograph or image to use in your designs, in total? If you’re not lucky enough to have a photographer you can work with, or if your client’s budget doesn’t allow custom photography, you’ll need a great deal of valuable photos, illustrations, and even video at your disposal. Stock sites do a great job here. There are lots out there, however only a few ones you can consider truly valuable. Prices are from free to over 500 $ for an image. While free sites usually don’t have the quality, and you should consider setting up a shooting before paying 500 dollars for a photograph, there are some excellent sites around where you can get high-quality images for 1$ each, royalty-free.

For that, there’s no way around iStockphoto. They claim to be the world’s busiest image market. Other good sites are Dreamstime, 123rf and StockXpert — check these out as well.

5. Everything you do has been done already

Do you know Ads of the World? It’s a teriffic website posting creative advertising daily. The community has the chance to comment on every ad. If you take a look around, you’ll quickly discover at least one community member commenting with a single word: DONE.

That can be quite amusing. Considering the fact that the majority of ideas in advertising has already been done in one way or another, I tend to *cough* smile at these fellas who are spooking around in the forums and enlighten us with their “done” on every single page. Who can say what’s an original idea? There’s a thin line between inspiration and plagiarism, I agree; but sometimes, a splendid idea for brand A is based on a great idea for product B which has been adapted from a wonderful idea for service C. It depends on the adaption. Opening Vogue or GQ and seeing the exact same ad for 10 different fashion brands on the first 10 pages – done, done, done! Building on a great idea and creating something new, wonderfully creative and beautiful for another brand: well done.

What do you think about this?

Next week’s post, our 2nd post in this series, will be about the 5 Rules of Composition.