How to be creative: working techniques for creative thinking


Every first worker in IT and marketing has heard the word creativity. And what if he has heard it! Often this very creativity is forced. What to do if you’re not a very creative person? How do you come up with an idea if you’ve never done it before?

Today we’re going to talk about a couple of working techniques. We’re going to talk about creatives for targeting, first, because we work in advertising, and second, because pictures are visual and fun.

Creativity and where it lives

Many people understand creativity as a certain innate mindset, the very “creative streak”, which is either there or not. If you have it, you can work at a creative job, such as being an artist, designer, or inventor. And if you don’t, then sorry, you didn’t come up with ideas, so there’s no reason to start. Well: that’s not true at all.

Psychologists who have studied creativity (E.P. Torrance, R. Sternberg, T. Lubartu, M.A. Kholodnaya, and others) have voiced the idea that creative thinking is a certain ability to approach certain issues unconventionally. And, as any skill, it can be developed. More precisely, to improve it, because creativity is formed in a person at the age of about 3-6 years.

Creative techniques and methods for solving problems

We will not talk about how to develop creativity in the long term, or how to come up with brand or product positioning from scratch. Here are specific techniques to help solve a problem in the here and now. For example, come up with a catchy creative for an advertising campaign.

Let’s start with tropes. This, in our opinion, is the simplest and most effective thing there is in the field of creativity. Tropes are ways of delivering information that are very expressive because of their imagery.


It is an image based on the figurative or non-mainstream meaning of a word. Metaphor can be difficult to recognize because it is often tied specifically to words. For example, the creative below (by Insigniada and Ilya Bakanov) will have to look twice before understanding the meaning. The metaphor here is based on 2 meanings of the word “high”: a high percentage and a high creature – a giraffe. To enhance the effect, the giraffe has two rings around its neck, forming the number 8.


In advertising, everything is compared to everything. Comparisons can be divided into simple and complex. Simple ones are when an “ordinary” product is compared to the product being promoted. Olds remembers the Villaribo and Villabaggio villages confronting each other using different dishwashing detergent. The customer of that ad, P&G, still applies the comparison, but in a more restrained way.

In more complex comparisons, the product is not equated with another similar product, but with a third-party object or phenomenon. For example, this LEGO commercial compares simple constructor figures to an airplane and a dinosaur, letting us know that the constructor develops children’s imagination and can become anything in their hands.


It is a deliberate figurative exaggeration of some important feature of a product or situation of its application. And usually the trait takes on an excessively distorted dimension. In the example below, the problem of ticks and fleas in animals is deliberately hyperbolized: the tick has become a pet. So that the picture is not taken literally, the characters are put in an absurd situation at the groomer’s appointment.


This is an understatement of the characteristics of the product. In advertising, the compact size of the product is most often emphasized through litotta. It is portrayed in a situation that emphasizes its “smallness.” Such as, for example, here.


It, too, can be simple or complex. Simple – is when an inanimate object comes to life, that is, looks, acts like a person or animal. For example, as this cute little furball, which “took over” the face of the owner. The slogan “Free Your Skin” complements the meaning of the creative.

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Complex personification is when animals are endowed with human traits. This technique is very often used in social advertising (against cruelty to animals, advertising for shelters), as well as in the promotion of goods and services for animals (grooming, food, supplements, etc.). Here, for example, the cat is clearly being deliberate and very human, disrupting its owners because they forgot to feed it (a reference to the slogan).


It is a semantic relationship between objects. It can be as close, when objects are physically related to each other in life or similar to each other, or very distant, when the connection is based on non-obvious connotations.

Here you can recognize a simple association: the light on the lattice reminds you of a Christmas tree, it is a greeting from Mercedes-Benz.

But here the association is a bit complicated: cats don’t like water, but this cat clearly has the imprint of a swimming mask on his face, so he likes to swim. And why? We read the slogan: because thanks to our diving school (!) you will love the water.

Often tropes (metaphors, comparisons, etc.) cannot be clearly separated from each other, and that’s okay. They are based on patterns of human thinking, memory and perception, and this is a very complex area. For example, the same LEGO ad can be interpreted as a comparison (toy = dinosaur), and as an embodiment (a non-living toy turns into a dinosaur), and as an association (the shape of the toy is associated with the shape of the dinosaur body).

Unconventional application

To invent an original image, you can come up with several options for using the object not as intended. The main thing is not to give the impression that the true method of use is depicted. The examples below show chocolates as jewelry. Of course, this does not mean they can be worn around the neck like a necklace. The image is based on comparison and association (gold foil – gold jewelry) and emphasizes the sophistication, eliteness, and uniqueness of the product.

Morphological Analysis

The author of this method is Fritz Zwicky. The method was originally designed for solving design problems in science. Its essence is to decompose an object into its components, then select a few of them, replace them, and combine them again into a single object so that it looks harmonious. For example, our task is to create an unusual series of creatives for an online school teaching illustration on the iPad. Creativity will consist of a background, a central object, a hero, an inscription. For each component we prescribe several variants of execution, up to the absence of this component. For example, a creative can have no hero, just an iPad stylus and a short inscription “Draw it otherwise”.

Focal Object Method

This technique involves inventing the association of the object being searched for with random objects. This kind of randomness allows you to discover associations that were not obvious, hidden, but can attract attention and create a memorable image. It is important to generate as many connections as possible. For example, for the same drawing course on the iPad you can come up with such objects:

  • a cloud – our course is as easy as a cloud, anyone can master it;
  • suitcase – we will give you all the knowledge you need, with which you can work from anywhere in the world and travel;
  • A dog – the knowledge we give you will become your best friend and will stay with you for a long time;
  • and so on.


Lateral Thinking

The method was developed by Edward de Bono. It involves finding ideas by “shifting” the direction of thinking from familiar patterns. The method includes three stages.

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Step 1: Focus. We formulate the problem to be solved as specifically as possible. For example, “to create an unusual series of creatives for an online illustration school on the iPad, making sure to use the image of a person and an iPad with a stylus.

Step 2. lateral discontinuity. Generate “displaced” solutions. There is no need to explain or motivate anything! Here are the basic techniques for creating a gap.

  • Addition – adding elements to the picture. Example: instead of one iPad in the picture, we use two.
  • Inversion – change any element to the opposite or distant. Example: A cat instead of a person.
  • Exception – remove an important element. Example: an iPad without a stylus.
  • Hyperbole: We exaggerate something. Example: a stylus as thick as a tree.
  • Substitution – change a logical object or action for any other. Example: a person does not draw on an iPad, but drives a nail with it.
  • Change the order – swap the order of actions with the subject. Example: a person draws a bright illustration with one stroke without any preparatory sketches.


Step 3: Creating New Connections. This is precisely where it is necessary to make sense of all the madness we have generated above. We ask the question, “What idea can this image carry?” For example, you could put the meaning of “Let’s teach anyone to draw on iPad!” in the creative with a cat, and in the creative with hammering a nail – “It seems you are using iPad not for its intended purpose… Learn to draw on it!”. All of this we came up with on our knees in 5 minutes, but can you imagine what you can invent when you put a whole team together?


This is both a method of generating ideas and a method of developing creativity, elaborated by D. Prinsem and W. Gordon. In a very brief statement, its essence is as follows.

Format. We lead a brainstorming session with several participants, ideally six to eight people, one of whom is the leader and one is an outside expert. It is important that everyone speaks out.

Stages. Five stages of discussion:

  • Formulation of the problem in general terms, without specifics;
  • Specification of the problem by each participant, as they see it;
  • Generation of ideas, search for 5 types of analogies (more details below);
  • Linking ideas to the problem, critical appraisal by the expert;
  • Elaboration of the best analogy.


Content. In the process of finding solutions, you need to find 5 analogies to the problem:

  • direct – the most obvious ones from science, culture, everyday life, etc;
  • personal – made from the position “me = the subject under discussion;
  • Symbolic: an analogy is the opposite of the object you are looking for;
  • Figurative – an object is replaced by any other object to which an analogy is searched for and then linked to the searched object;
  • fantastical – not existing in reality.


As a result, participants choose the best idea/ideas to solve the problem. Synthetics is a rather long and time-consuming way of solving problems, so in marketing it should be resorted to only in complicated cases.

Readers familiar with the subject of creativity may ask, “Where are the Six Hats, CRAFT or TRIZ?” There aren’t any, because these are methods of developing creative thinking, not immediate problem solving.

Example of advertising creatives with analysis

Let’s look at some advertising posters and social media posts in terms of what techniques they could have been created with. They could, because we don’t know for sure, but we can make an educated guess.

Here’s a game for you: look at the creative, try to guess for yourself, and then read the explanation.

Let’s start with a simple one. Ant, nature, Coca-Cola Zero.

Nature is traditionally associated in marketing with safety and naturalness. And the fact that the ant is carrying the can suggests lightness in the literal sense, but hints very thickly at lightness in terms of calories. Metaphor and association apply here.

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In the picture below, we see the dog acting as a garbage can where the boy throws away his leftovers.

A direct comparison is used here (dog = garbage can), but in a negative way to emphasize that this is not the right thing to do.

The animals are photographed against the background of a sleeping bear.

This is done using the technique of complex personification: they clearly act like humans. The slogan “Not all animals sleep in winter” helps to understand the meaning of the creative inviting to the zoo to look at those who are not in hibernation.

What have we got here? A series of creatives with merchandise, each with some part made of bills.


And here is another series of creatives that are perceived all together much better than one by one. It is as if the product “crosses out” this or that problem by solving it. The problems are not portrayed directly, but figuratively, in a figurative sense.

Many techniques are mixed here: comparison (skin problems are shown through the problems of third-party objects), metaphor (crossing out something in the meaning of elimination), association (bark is associated with rough skin, grass with hair, etc.).

Last example. At the expense of what in it the image is created?

We think there is a mixture of hyperbole (excessively long tongues) and personification or comparison (napkin = the tongue of a dog or cat).

Is it always necessary to get creative?

Probably by the end of this article, many of you are already annoyed by the word creative. Is it really necessary to make a metaphorical work of art out of every picture? Fortunately, no.

  • For one thing, it’s expensive. Brainstorming, spending the time of several employees at once, making sketches, getting feedback from the team and the client – it spends 3-5 times more money for the company than the classic approach. It is much easier to give a good designer a photo of the product, an advertising slogan and style reference, resulting in a good, bright, trendy, but simple in its idea of a banner. Such as “Here we have a nice bottle of water in the background of the mountains. Are such solutions bad? Not at all! Let’s say more – they’re what marketing is all about.
  • Secondly, it gets boring. The first show of original creativity can have wow-effect. And if different variations of the idea last a month, and if it lasts for six months? They will be well-recognized, but will no longer be surprising. Creative advertising campaigns are most often a piece product. They are timed to special projects or major holidays, gather their applause and give way to simpler solutions.
  • Third, it doesn’t guarantee success. A picture can increase ad CTR and company recognition. But other things are also responsible for the effectiveness of advertising: audience selection, campaign settings, bid management and so on. Our service is designed to simplify all these operations for advertisers, and free up time for the development of catchy creative. Take a look at our professional automated tools.


Creative advertising is fun, interesting, noticeable and good for sales. You can learn how to use creative techniques to come up with original ideas at work in just a couple of training sessions. Just pick the one that suits the situation and likes you personally. In this article we have tried to put together a list of basic techniques, so that you can navigate more easily. But it is as senseless and ineffective to create all the time, as to use template solutions all the time. Everything is good in moderation.

We hope you found something useful for yourself in this article.

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