Researching Creative Ideas: 10 Dos and Don’ts

Back in March, I spoke at BrightonSEO on the not-so-SEO subject of design. Slightly taken aback by the love I got from Slideshare and Twitter for my speaker deck, I thought it time to do a quick refresher, focusing specifically on the often-overlooked research and analysis stage in these easy-to-digest dos and don’ts.


  1. DO participate in the design process as much as you can. Yes, it is primarily the designer’s job to deliver, but good communication between the both of you can mean reaching a solution quicker. If you’re responsible for the concept, then it’s even more reason to get involved as you may have a better idea of what you’re looking to achieve.

  2. DON’T worry, no drawing skills are required! You can get involved in this process without needing to even pick up a pen and paper. Instead it’s all about compiling visuals together of things that inspire you, or are relevant to your content.

  1. DO set up an online moodboard. Choose a place to pool your visuals together, like images, photos, fonts, colours palettes, etc. At Distilled, we use Pinterest for this; but there are plenty of alternatives, such as Icebergs or Keeeb.


  1. DON’T rely on Google Images too much. It’s not curated and you’ll have a hard time picking out good content. You’ll be much better off looking at design-led sites, like Behance, Dribbble and Pattern Tap, where all manner of Creatives post new work every day.

  2. DO think laterally to broaden your search. For example, if you’re doing a piece about music, but the obvious search term, “music” doesn’t offer much for inspiration, then try related keywords, e.g. piano, notes or sound. You may find it just might offer you a refreshing alternative perspective.

  3. DON’T spend hours trying to find the perfect image. You’re not going to find one all-encompassing visual that fulfills every design aspect you’re after (and chances are if you do, you’ll have to rethink your own idea for fear of regurgitating someone else’s!)

  1. DO comment on what you like or dislike on the moodboard. This comes with a “but” though…

  1. DON’T just say something is “nice”. Be specific and constructive with your comments. Design is subjective, but in many ways there is a logic to it, for example: “I think this colour works really well given the uplifting effect it has on the overall look”, or “I’m not sure about this font because it’s quite hard to quickly read.”


  1. DON’T take it to heart if your designer doesn’t follow through all of your suggestions.
    Ask them why; they may have a good reason for turning it down. After all, you’re hiring them for their professional expertise. It’s with this reciprocal feedback and communication that steers the project towards your end goal more effectively, whilst you also get a better insight on what makes a design work.

  1. DON’T try to cut corners. You’re probably really enthusiastic about your concept, but try not to dive straight into design without research. Trust me – you could end up wasting more time in the long run battling multiple design iterations, most of which could be avoided if you just invested the time into doing valuable research and analysis at the outset.

That’s all there is to it! Bear these in mind the next time you’ve got a piece of creative content in the pipeline, I’d love to hear your thoughts, just drop me a line in the comment section below.

Team Creative are taking to the spotlight in July’s Creative takeover, so watch this space for more design discussions coming your way.

About the author
Vicke Cheung

Vicke Cheung

Vicke joined Distilled’s growing Creative team in July 2012 after graduating from Central Saint Martin’s in BA Graphic Design. Her main focuses in the field include, but are not limited to: typography, branding and information design.   read more