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The Creative Process and Using Your Five Senses

By: Amy Marks-McGee
Posted: March 3, 2010, from the March 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Traveling, cultural events, video games and entertainment play a significant and emotional role in the products and services you choose. Consumers want to be engaged and have fun. Often fun is associated with youth and kids, but this trend affects all ages.

Each time you travel or attend an art exhibit, theater, concert or sporting event, notice the colors, costumes, uniforms, set design and lighting. Digging deeper, challenge yourself to take in the smells and sounds of your setting. Pay attention to the interaction you experience and how and why you are engaged. What made your experience fun and memorable or boring and unpleasant? You may recall going to the movies to experience the big screen and surround sound. Currently, because of technology such as high-definition TV, you can reproduce the experience in the luxury of your own home. For further evidence, look at Nintendo’s Wii phenomenon and what it has done to the video game industry.

Before you attend your next event, be prepared to be fully involved, using all your senses. What grabbed your attention? Did you observe any common themes such as a recurring color, a sound pattern or expected behavior? Can you use this sensory experience to enhance your products or services? In a retail environment, is there a signature scent diffused through the air or a themed music mix that subtly draws you in?

Final Thoughts

These are just a few examples of the many activities you experience outside your office. There are a myriad of personal interests that will lead you to creativity. Next time you are out of the office, deliberately examine your surroundings. Allow yourself to be receptive to your environment and engage your five senses. See how you might apply your sensory experiences to solve your next creative challenge. When you are grocery shopping, cooking or dining out, is there an ingredient that keeps appearing? While you are playing with your kids, pay more attention to their imaginative interaction with toys. Is there an idea for a novel application? What’s the “it” color and how can you translate this into your product? Do you use this color for your packaging, label or the product itself?

For quick and easy inspiration, look at consumer packaged goods outside the beauty industry and see if there is any crossover that can be utilized in your category. For example, if you work in fine fragrance, examine distilled spirits. These two categories may appear different, but upon further inspection, they are similar. Their packaging, luxury branding, positioning and how they communicate their brand messages are alike. If you are feeling really stuck, step outside your comfort zone, do something different, and put your senses to work. Recognize what you are experiencing and how it makes you feel. The challenge is to use your sensory experiences and channel this new awareness into creative new product opportunities.