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The Four 'Non Rules' of Concepting

4 min, 18 sec read
12:13 PM | 26 August 2016
by Jeremy Garner
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Be wary of anyone who tells you there’s a specific structure that you should adhere to when you are thinking up ideas. You should stick to whatever works for you, and you’ll soon get a feel for what helps you devise the best, most powerful stuff.

However, there are a few ‘non rules’ that you could try. These are not so much techniques but themes that I have noticed over the years.

So here they are: the four non rules of concepting that I encourage you to ignore in favour of your own non rules.


Non rule #1 – Look for parallels

Picture the scene. You’ve got the brief. You’re staring at it. It’s late. You’re on the verge of battering your way through to next door’s office using only your head. The ideas have run dry. And, worse, you’re out of the caffeine stuff, and the kettle’s knackered. But there is hope. Just open Google and start looking up some facts about your subject matter. Look for parallels. And see what happens.

"Just open Google and start looking up some facts about your subject matter. Look for parallels."

In the case of Mercedes, we had to try to make the brand more ‘exciting’ to a younger demographic… in the context of golf. So, we began to look for parallels. Hmmm. Top speed of the car – around 180mph. Average speed of a golf ball driven by a golf pro: around 180mph. Interesting. Let’s race the car against the ball. Yeah! No, let’s not. Let’s try and catch the ball in the car itself. OK then. And then comes the hard part - doing it.

World Record: Watch Formula 1™ legend David Coulthard and pro-golfer Jake Shepherd set a new world record - farthest golf shot caught in a moving car - with the help of the ...


Non rule #2 – Leave room for chance

True creativity should be given freedom. Creativity isn’t like a goldfish that likes swimming in a circle being fed occasionally on little flakes of nothing. True creativity wants to go further, and is just itching to do so. It’s a bit like a fish that wants to crawl out from the sea edge and haul itself, gasping and spluttering, across the shore in search of more interesting horizons. Just because it can. Ok, so I pushed the fish metaphor a bit, but it doesn’t matter. You’re still reading. And I’m still making the point: creative ideas breathe best when unshackled. It’s only the commercial confines and structures of the industry we work in that seeks to harness them in order to retain a semblance of control.

"It’s a bit like a fish that wants to crawl out from the sea edge."

So if something is sold in that turns out to be near impossible, and then someone figures out a way of using it to do something even more engaging, like a skateboard made for two, then it’s all cool because the idea’s been given space to breathe.


Non rule #3 - Turn it on its head

You’re surrounded by the normal. The accepted. The logical. Media channels. Digital stuff. Platforms. It’s ok. You can live with it. But you can’t live with it that easily for concepting. You need something different. That’s what the creative team did here for Unicef. They stood the world on its head. Pinterest: the place to pin and share a bunch of material wants. So, what if the platform is turned on its head and is made into a board of absolute needs instead. Makes you think.


Non rule #4 – Draw a contrast

Fact: people like contrast. They like conflict. When it comes to most forms of storytelling or entertainment, conflict makes the world go round. That’s why movies, channels, soap operas, you name it, they’re full of contrast. Stuff which, when put together, seems unlikely. It creates a bit of tension. And tension creates engagement.

"When it comes to most forms of storytelling or entertainment, conflict makes the world go round."

So, based on that, what would happen if we used a contemporary digital medium like Twitter to launch the 150th anniversary edition of Alice In Wonderland (‘old’ creativity, as it were)? The answer is, something fairly unfamiliar and intriguing. It ran at the Design Festival at Somerset House for a week, searching out the 24,000 words in the book from all the millions of tweets out there. Now it’s taken up residence at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre for six months while it pits the contrasting ‘old’ creativity of the Bard against tweets that may be only a few seconds old, as it looks for the 850,000 words that constitute the entire words of Shakespeare.

Contrast drawn. Or, rather, typed.



Jeremy Garner is the Executive Creative Director of Hiveworks, an experience design agency. He has been subjected to jury service at the world's leading awards shows such as Cannes, D&AD, Clio, New York Festivals and London International, and writes articles focusing on the intersection between the media, tech and communications industries.

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