Don’t trust your first idea. You can create more than that!


I am now in the flight from Singapore to Bangkok. No movie to watch. Let me share with you a story from when my friends and I was student in design school.

Our teachers told us often: “Do not stop at your first idea.

As a young student, it was tough to find ideas that follow a brief – Why? Because we just didn’t know how to. So when an idea suddenly pops out in our mind – we told ourself: “Eureka!” That’s the best idea! It was at least our feeling. We was so happy to have one that we did not even try to test it or reconsider it. “Too risky”. In fact, our brain lied to ourself giving us that illusion of confidence. The beginner mistake was to keep that first idea as it is, in its raw version – and we didn’t bother to look for more.

Of course we was wrong. The genius idea that appear suddenly is a misconception of the creative process. The genius idea that doesn’t need to be further explored, polished, study is a myth. Tell yourself that whenever you have an idea, it is just the begining of an exploration. Nurish your idea, make it grow and you will expand the horizon of your creativity.

Exploration is a must. At school, our project mark was taking in consideration BOTH the final presentation but also our research! We had to deliver each week so many pages of new and declinaison of ideas full of sketches of research. We didn’t have time to make nice sketches, at this point we didn’t know how to anyway. There was so much homework that we couldn’t learn properly how to draw. We didn’t know how to make beautiful sketches or even comprehensive one. So frustrating haha. And we still had to provide a multitude of various proposals, ideas, visual notes… The goal is to define a maximum of what we called: axis of research. In other words, multiple directions or solutions to answer the given brief.  What the school wanted to teach us is that ultimately, ideas matter more than sketching. But also a designer needs to be ressourceful and find ways to express what he has in mind. At the end, learning how to sketch was a must as well.

Tip: Instead of drawing your product spending most of your time drawing its aesthetic and cool features – focus first on how people will use it. Create scenarios of usage.

Like how Nick Huber from said in our last interview, design is not only about making things pretty.

Most students don’t create scenarios, or do not do it enough. If you want to create a great project, take time to think about people and the environment first.

Every week, our teacher sat beside us and reviewed all our ideas so we could discuss with him in one to one. These few minutes per week was priceless. So we knew how to improve our project for the week after.

When we are beginner, we have not build that self confidence in our own creativity and sketching skills yet. We feel so limited. So we procrastinate. How? By finding excuses. Or starting to sketch and stop the idea research at the first sketch that seams to look good. So we get satisfied from it. At this point, we rather have an average sketch than taking the risk of getting a better ideas but with a bad sketch… Big mistake. So you will somehow keep drawing always the same things. Put yourself a little bit more in danger everyday and you will grow like crazy for your exam and diploma presentation.

Make your ideas evolving

Why are we acting with so little logic ? Because we act under fear. We are afraid of showing weakness. However, we should be happy to fail as nobody can blame us. Be proud of being a young student that knows nothing. You can only improve right ? Anyway, a school is made for learning anyway. By enrolling a school, you have been much further than the majority already. So stop procrastinating and devlopp your potential fully! Don’t trap yourself: Longer you procrastinate, longer you stagnate and see your classmate making progress. Higher will be your stress, and you may start feeling guilty. Your private school won’t “fire you” as you represent a big potential of revenue. So you may pass with an average level. But people will rise their expectation much faster than your actual progress. Start learning from start means start learning how to fail from start. Your teacher will accompany you along the way, direct you and cheer you up when you face difficulties. Don’t try to act cool and hide your mistakes. That’s pretty much a superficial reaction that will not serve you at school.

Have you ever seen someone blaming a baby learning how to walk? He walks, fails and try again. Then one day he will stand up. Then he starts learning how to jump and run. So please, don’t act dumb. Hehe. Don’t put your pride at the wrong place. Push your own limits and you will get much better long term results!

“If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done. ”

– Thomas Jefferson.

As a senior student, a common mistake is to focus on doing a great rendering, but with a low level of research. I can tell you that you won’t want to put yourself in the situation you worked for hours, or even all nighter in rush for something beautiful that will actually be rejected.

Play the game of making a lot of research from the start of your design school and you will discover that you will enjoy producing ideas more than sketching itself! You will like it so much than we struggle at defining when you choose stop. That day, you will fully use sketching as a tool

During the exploration phase of research, sketching is a tool that serve your creativity, not the opposite.

You will gain experience at school along your projects, that’s how you will sharpen your “creative intuition”. The condition is to do not be afraid of making bad sketches. Ok?

During your professional life, you can’t escape that phase of research. Wether internally of your company or with your client, you will have to go through at least 2 or 3  phases of idea discussion. So you make sure to developp the project WITH your colleagues and/or the client. You don’t want to work for hours, give a beautiful presentation and get rejected. Same scenario as in school. Potentially, your research worth more than your final presentation.

TIP: Bring one of your research book with you at the job interview. It’s ok if your sketches are not that great inside. Show how you can produce creative ideas without trying to impress with rendering will give a great impression!

Sketching is just one side of design. Complement both creativity and sketching skills together and you will create magic things from your own imagination!


Here is a challenge I gave to myself: fill 18.5metters of roll of paper of research about mecs (robots) in 1 week only. Feel free to have a look at the video!

Roll of paper challenge: 18.5meter of sketches in 7days.


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About The Author


If the sketching methods I’ve acquired aid me in my life and in my career, I believe that they can also help you to learn, and help you with your projects. Whether Design is a job or a hobby it doesn’t matter, so long as you do what is important to you.

1 Comment

  • Yostina

    Reply Reply March 19, 2016

    Hello Chou-Tac,

    great article, but I want to ask about research how do I research? and what exactly to research? because I am a total beginner in the product design world.

    Thanks a lot :))

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