A Thesaurus Is Not A Dinosaur

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by Ivan Boden
InSource Board Member
September 2007

Digging around for creative inspiration can be time consuming, and all too often designers hit rock bottom. The hidden idea or meaning that connects is just not there.

No doubt we use eons of methods to inspire creativity, however there’s one tool that should not be forgotten. The thesaurus.

Design begins with meaningful words. Unfortunately we’re not always provided good ones to work with. The thesaurus can help!

Start by jotting down key words or main ideas about the project. Draw circles around each and think of words with similar meaning. Use the thesaurus to help find more. Connect lines from the circled main words, to the sub words you’ve found. This follows the parent–child relationship metaphor. Try to fill the page, and don’t edit or worry if the word doesn’t fit, or seem to drift off topic. This semiotics exercise should surely help spark new ideas.

Example, for a logo design:

The accepted design communicated the idea behind this product best because it contains a “stamp of approval” concept, using the initials CV. The letter “V” is in the form of a check mark, signifying approval.

Next time you’re stuck with rocks and stones, go back to basics with words. Who knows what new species will be uncovered.

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