Creative Ideas: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

See how to reuse old ideas to spark something new.

Diana Lillicrap 8.15.2011


We had a client recently say during a project planning session, “Can’t you just recycle an old idea and then charge us less?”

Well, not exactly. But I have to admit, reusing old ideas is sometimes part of our process. That’s not to say that we take a design from one client swap out the logo and give it to another client—boy wouldn’t that be slick, but probably not very effective. We do, however, keep files and records of random “good ideas” that we stumble upon during our work or in life.

I have a folder on my desktop called “random thoughts” and it’s full of everything from quirky websites to inspirational quotes to strange ideas that came to me in the shower. When I’m looking for inspiration, I open it up and see what jumps out.

Even this idea isn’t new

Creative thinkers throughout time have utilized this process to uncover unique ideas. Thomas Edison kept more than 3,500 notebooks of ideas that he would reference back to, rethink, or use for inspiration. Walt Whitman kept envelopes of random thoughts and inspirational words. As he worked on poems and essays, he would draw out of these envelopes and weave together a tapestry of creativity.

How can you reuse and recycle?

Next time you need to think creatively make sure you seek out the less obvious sources of inspiration and information. Be attuned to your surroundings. And always be collecting inspiring ideas and filing them away for future use. Consider developing a “creative idea” file. Organize items of inspiration by communications role—such as a file for product launch ideas or strategy or writing—or by each specific project, or whatever makes sense to you.

Just start doing it. You’ll be surprised how much it will start to influence your creativity and the way you think.

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