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Brain Squad

The Light Bulb Moment

PSPs from all over the globe share their best practices for documenting the ideas that grow their businesses.

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IN THE JUNE/JULY Editor’s Note, Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief of Big Picture, shared where she gets her best ideas. She’s interested in knowing where you get yours, too. Do you keep a journal or your phone nearby at all times for that million-dollar plan? Or have you found those free-flowing thoughts are just that – thoughts? Ann Durso of Express Sign & Graphics says they’re just thoughts, but here’s what the rest of the Brain Squad has to say.

  • I have a note in my phone’s note-taking app for recording these ideas. I then try to review them on a semi-regular basis to separate the wheat from the chafe. Most of them are not winners, but there is the occasional diamond on the rough in there. — Wade Neff, Custom Data: Strategic Factory
  • I usually keep pics or notes on my phone. — Christine Walsh, Alpha Graphics
  • I get ideas from old magazines, the architecture of a building/complex, or sometime just taking a walk (I am in a rural area) to clear my brain. Britt Hoff, H n H Sign Company
    I typically send myself an email. — Derek Michalanney, Signage World
  • Thoughts jotted to a notebook, voice notes in my phone. I read a lot… I love reading non-fiction and stories of triumph. I also have an addiction to podcasts and it springs up all kinds of ideas. — Kristi Duvall, The BoxMaker
  • Nothing beats great shower thoughts. However, I find my mind wandering toward work issues, solutions, and opportunities while watching TV, listening to podcasts, or working out. You never know when the thought will strike. Usually, though, I have nothing close to capture the brilliant thought. — Jim White, Go Graphix
  • We have an inspo slack channel where all my team members share what they come across for offerings. It involves setting that time aside for R&D, but after our last major move in 2021 and finally getting settled in our new digs a year later, we are finding the time, rhythm, and motivation to work on our ideas. Linda Fong, Fastsigns Oakland, Fastsigns Hayward
  • I get my best ideas being in the moment during self-care. Whether it’s in the evening with a glass of wine and a bath or if it’s sipping coffee at my desk in the morning. I can truly never disconnect from the life of an entrepreneur; there is too much fire within me to grow. — Kristin Scribner, WrapStar Pro
  • I get ideas everywhere and all the time. At certain times I am extremely creative, and at others, I’m very analytical, so the content is diverse. I keep an Evernote folder for thoughts when I can write them down, but sometimes I get an idea with the intent of documenting it and then promptly forget the idea or never write it down. I’ve started doing voice notes to myself as well as taking time to fully flesh out content. — Brian Hite, Image Options
  • I keep a work-specific journal right on my desk for those “Ah Ha!” ideas and thoughts. — Derek Atchley, Atchley Graphics
  • Thoughts pop up and disappear as quickly as they came. Sometimes, to my frustration, I don’t write them down. Some of the bigger ideas I write down in a notebook I have with me. If there is one I really want to pursue, I add it to a note taking app on my computer and phone so I never lose it.
  • I schedule two hours in my day for creative ideas and a couple hours every day for strategic or growth ideas. I use that time to look at those lists and see where I want to spend that time. Blocking those hours out on my schedule helps to give ideas the time they deserve. My biggest problem is actually keeping the time free and not allowing others to use up those blocks of time with phone calls, meetings, and issues that pop up. — Tracy Hiner, Black Crow Studios
  • I tend have a folder on my desktop to save. — Rick Mandel, Mandel Graphic Solutions
  • We have a wide variety of clients with multiple display challenges and deadlines. As a staff, we pull from each other when a challenge arises and we need to offer solutions for. — David Kaiser, Digitype Design
  • I find that on long drives my mind can slip into a mode where I am able to process a lot of info and avoid distractions. I would rather drive by myself than with someone specifically because of that. Your thoughts seem to come together when your brain is in neutral, but not asleep. — Tim Bezner, Westmount Signs and Printing
  • I usually think of things right after I get into bed. I reach over, grab my phone, and send myself an email. — Norman Critchfield, Hesston Prestige Printing
  • I use Notes on my phone because it’s always nearby, sadly. The ideas are gathered in the strangest of places though, from the shower to the BBQ, basically anytime I give myself enough room to let my mind wander. — Jon Sherman Flavor Paper
  • I look at cookie designers, I visit card shops, and I travel to Europe once a year and view new ideas for window displays. — Carmen Rad, CR&A Custom
  • My best ideas come from when I am hands-on at an event, on site, or in our plant. — Jared Smith, Bluemedia
  • I’m constantly sending myself emails with articles or images. I also have a good ideas folder for hard copy items. When I find my creativity getting stale, I open these to get re-invigorated. — Gina Kazmerski, Image360 Woodbury
  • Can be anywhere. Usually in the shower or driving. — James Dietz, Lake Erie Graphics
  • I journal notes and ideas. — Scott Hudson, Worth Higgins & Associates
  • I sleep with a pencil and pad for jotting down ideas. I try to read art sources, print magazines, and websites. I frequently follow ad and newsletter links to see what’s going on with the diverse technologies that make up the modern communication milieu. For example, I’ve been working with computers since 1969. I can guarantee you that no one was thinking of Photoshop back then. If you had told my colleagues and I that one day we would have computers on top of our desks that were thousands (probably millions) of times more powerful than the mainframes we worked on, we would not have believed you!
  • Some of us have heard of and had the opportunity to work on Scientific Textiles (SciTex) equipment. SciTex was formed to bring computer technology to the printing of fabric. They combined the scanner with a design and editing station and built one of the first film plotters to image the film used to make the plates that were necessary to print fabrics. It was extremely slow, but incredibly high resolution.
  • Well, somewhere along the way, one of the people who worked there thought, “We could use that in the printing industry!” Soon after, these multi-million-dollar systems were showing up in print shops all over the world. Oh, and another story of cross pollination, The Knoll brothers were so taken with the SciTex Imager capabilities that they decided to pair it with the Apple Macintosh and they created a little program called Photoshop.
  • A lot of the history (and future) of printing is entangled in those days. Photoshop and Adobe completely changed the landscape of the print world. I began my journey in a trade shop in Seattle (Van Dyke Litho) in 1977. All the craft jobs that existed in that shop are, for all intents and purposes, extinct now. Dot etchers, strippers, Cromalin makers, press proofers, color cameramen, even scanner operators… all gone. And not only were specialties replaced with technologies, but the jobs moved from dedicated printing professionals to the design world.
  • I guess that was a very long-winded way to say, if you don’t want the future to run over you, you have to be well and broadly informed about a myriad of things. — Jim, Dittmer, JDA Creative Color

Big Picture magazine has been serving wide-format printing professionals for more than 25 years, providing business-specific content to help boost bottom lines through its industry-leading magazine, website, email bulletins, Brain Squad and social media channels.

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