Create choices, make choices

The creative process in a nutshell:

Create choices, then make choices

  1. Create choices. This is a generative frame of mind. Suspend judgement and analysis. Breadth over depth. You're building up raw material. Brainstorming is a good tool here.
  2. Make choices: trim, edit, modularize, winnow, polish. This is a reductive frame of mind. Your goal is to take the raw material and form it into a polished concept.

This process is also sometimes called blue sky, brass tacks:

These 2 stages also map to problem-solving methodologies used by design and engineering.

Design uses a range of strategies from both stages. Intuition, and creative strategies like moodboards, form finding, and brainstorming are used to create choices. Iteration, design reviews, critique are used to make choices.

Production engineering is typically a process of making choices for implementation. It uses a strategy of modularizing problems — breaking problems into smaller parts, then solving each part. It can also be exploratory. Prototyping can be a process of creating choices when you take the build to think approach.

It's essential to know which stage of the process you're in, and whether to use a generative or a critical process. If you winnow before you sow, you'll have nothing to show.

See also: capture, organize, synthesize.