It’s All About The Idea

In the stack of books I bought over the weekend, I found this quote in Complete Digital Illustration: A Master Class in Image-Making by illustrator Paul Burgess:

“The idea is king. Once you have a strong idea, everything else just flows along behind it.”

As I have toiled and worked to establish myself throughout my career, I have been told many platitudes regarding what comes first: technology or content.


  • Real designers use a mac / PC / Linux
  • Real photographers use Canon / Nikon / Hasselblad / film
  • Real filmmakers use RED / Sony / Panasonic / Panavision / Nikon / Canon
  • Real coders use PHP / Ruby on Rails / C / C++ / C# / Java / Objective-C


  • Post once a day / once a week / once a month
  • Always write / draw / take photos / shoot experiments
  • Having a social media strategy will solve all of your problems / Twitter / Facebook / Google+ / LinkedIn

Reality: “Idea is king”

Without ideas, my work lacks soul and a voice. It becomes yet another website, postcard, photograph, video that litters the garbage dump of creativity. I must constantly develop a reservoir of ideas that I can draw from as I work. How do I do that?

  • Read anything I can. The latest round of books that I have read include Bone HandbookScott Pilgrim Volume 1Value-Based Fees, Imagine, Lean Start Up, The Physics of Superheroes, Wired for Culture, The Art of Drew Struzan, Screw Business as Usual, The Education of an Illustrator, Design as a Job, and The Rise of the Creative Class.
  • Watch a lot of movies and television shows. I draw inspiration from a wide-range of movies and shows such as Arrested Development, The Cartoonist, Brave, Ted, Time Bandits, Brazil, Hugo, The Adventures of Tintin, Psych, Moyers & Company, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Chopped, and Cabin in the Woods.
  • Always listening to music. Metal, mash-ups, jazz, blues, pop, rap, it’s all good, especially: Girl Talk’s All Day, Wax Audio’s mash-up albums, Rush’s Clockwork Angels, Avenged Sevenfold’s Nightmare, Linkin Park’s LIVING THINGS, Within Temptation’s Black Symphony, Evanescence, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Metallica, and Slash.
  • Spend time with others. I love listening to other people talk about what they are doing in their lives. From good to bad, I get ideas and inspired by the actions of people around me.

This is how I generate ideas, it works great for me, but what works for you? Do you embrace time to generate new ideas or is what you know good enough for you?