By Rita Wilkins
The Downsizing Designer

Have you ever wondered how designers or any creative people are able to just keep coming up with fresh new ideas?

Me too! …. Just kidding!

But frankly, I never took the time to answer that question myself, until one day a client asked me “how do you just keep coming up with such great new ideas?”

As I was picking topics for my blog, I thought I would explore more on this question. If you are not particularly creative but would like to be, this article might help you.

When faced with a new project or challenge, I often hear myself saying these two things:

  • “I have no idea how to do this, but I will figure it out.”
  • “I’ve never done or tried this before, but I’ll give it my best shot and learn from it.”

4    Key Ingredients on How to Generate New Ideas

1.    Mindset

  • Be open to new ideas and challenges.

Be somewhat fearless, not knowing what the end game looks like, but still get excited to begin the journey.

My downsizing journey was an adventure in being completely open to what it would be like to live with 95% less possessions, what it would be like to create a whole new lifestyle living with less. Was I afraid? Yes! Was the process messy? Yes! But the journey provided an outcome I could never have imagined before.


2.   Curiosity

  • Let your imagination run wild to envision what’s possible.

Be curious. Give yourself permission to step outside of your comfort zone and embrace life’s skinny branches.


3.   Skill Set

  • Develop the ability to “see through walls”.

Having the ability to see things differently or to “see through walls” helps you penetrate barriers so you can make room for new ideas that you might never have thought of before.

  • Develop the ability to generate multiple new ideas quickly.

Test your new ideas to see if they work or don’t work. Don’t get attached to one big idea until you have explored multiple options. In my design world, I always propose a minimum of three design solutions. I call this the magic of three. Before coming up with three good solutions, likely I would have explored at least 8-10 new ideas.

  • Develop the ability to solve problems and create innovative solutions.

Learn how to connect the dots, what works and what doesn’t work, and continue to generate new ideas to solve the problem.


4.   Ask Questions

Having a toolbox or a tool kit means asking a thousand questions. You have to understand the problem, get to know the client, and literally walk in their shoes to experience their pain or problem that they want and need to solve.

One particular design project comes to mind.

When I first walked into a new medical office project, my first observation and inquiry was “how can they possibly work at this small desk in such a busy medical practice?” That was the beginning of me feeling their pain that needed to be solved to make the office more functional and efficient. What followed, were multiple questions to uncover what was working and not working. Only then could I assist them in solving their design dilemma.

Design is a process!

  • There is a beginning.
  • There’s a messy middle.
  • There is an end.

The before and after pictures in our portfolio are always interesting because at the beginning you don’t always get to see the process and how we got to the final results. It is in that “messy middle” where… ideas are generated and solutions are created.

That’s what’s so much fun about the design process…

  • It’s messy!
  • It’s rarely pretty.
  • It takes time.
  • It’s iterative.
  • It evolves and expands.
  • Ultimately… it gets refined to one big beautiful solution.

Where does inspiration come from?

Look around. Learn to listen and observe.

I often get inspired by watching people and listening to conversations.

The same is true with design.

Listen to what people complain about

“This office chair is not comfortable… this sofa doesn’t fit me properly.”

Listen to what they want, need, and wish for.

  • “A kitchen I can cook in and still be with my family and friends.”
  • “A better layout for my home office, so I can be more productive.”
  • “A walk-in shower that is not only beautiful but safe.”
  • “A home that is safe for us as we age.”

Be cognizant of the most creative time of your day.

Use that energy to explore and ask questions. This is the perfect time of your day to create new ideas and solutions.

Ask questions, brainstorm, throw out new ideas.

Gather colleagues and friends to listen to their ideas and solutions.

Experience nature.

Get outside and give yourself time in nature to think, be inspired, and be curious.

Study other similar projects or designs.

Study solutions that you like and discern how you could you apply these ideas in a creative new way.

Vision boards or mood boards.

Let these creative tools inspire you to generate new ideas.


Wondering where to start?

Start today by challenging yourself to think like a designer.

  • Pick a problem area you want to work on.
  • Generate multiple ideas and solutions.
  • Engage in others in the process.
  • And just have fun!

This is a vital skillset that you can develop over time.

Test and try out your new ideas, learn to fail fast, and just have fun!


Need new ideas for an upcoming design project? I am happy to assist.

Schedule a 30-minute complimentary consult, click here.

Download your free “22 Steps to Upgrade Your Kitchen Design”, click here.