Creativity Agency

Stop chasing original ideas! Creativity mixes, merges and morphs

By Katherine Crean | Junior designer



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

Find out more

June 22, 2022 | 6 min read

Creation rarely, if ever, comes out of nowhere. For our Creativity in Focus Deep Dive, Katherine Crean, creative lead at agency Wilderness, argues that all the original ideas are used up - but no matter, since creativity isn't just about pure originality. It's also about using the raw ingredients of culture to create the new from the old.

We’ve all been there. A new brief comes in and the team wants an idea that has never been done before. Something to set us apart, make people stop and take note and, of course, to make us go viral.

But at this point in time, with the progression of technology, society, and humanity to where it is now, is there anything left that hasn’t been done already?

A paint mixing tray

Wilderness on why creatives should stop and pause before tackling a creative brief / Mike Petrucci via Unsplash

The ideas that come to us when brainstorming come from experiences we've had (and work we've seen) in the past that we feel fit in some way to the task at hand. Often, we're combining a number of things: color scheme from one place, tone of voice another, the overall look and feel from various others. Yes, there’s no such thing as an original idea anymore.

Nothing new under the sun - but infinite combinations

That doesn’t mean we’ve done it all, completed it. There are always new ways to reinvent old ideas. New combinations; new visualizations and manifestations of creative structures already in play. But all the ‘new’ ideas and concepts that we develop for new campaigns are founded in ideas gone before or experiences we have had.

We all have a bit of main character syndrome in us. We think there are experiences or thoughts we have had that no one else has. Perhaps that’s because they felt so personal, so amazing, so polarizing. But one scroll on TikTok will make you realize you’ve never had an original thought in your life. Like-minded people from your perfectly-personalized algorithm share their strangest, innermost thoughts that you thought only you had ever had.

The latest marketing news and insights straight to your inbox.

Get the best of The Drum by choosing from a series of great email briefings, whether that’s daily news, weekly recaps or deep dives into media or creativity.

Sign up

But in this shared experience, there is variation. We’ve all lived in different places, been raised on different music and TV shows, and grown up with different brands. This means that each person’s approach to ideas must be slightly different. Within these tribes of shared experience, we all move in parallel but on slightly different tracks.

A great creative director I once worked with said, ‘never start with a blank page.’ Blank pages are where ‘writers' block’ happens. By beginning with a full page of research, ideas, concepts, campaigns that have caught our eye, amazing things, awful things, colors, pictures, and words, we give ourselves a springboard for ideation. Drawing on multiple experiences through the lens of a client challenge or brief will give you the most comprehensive starting point possible.

Everything, everywhere, all in one response

When we incorporate ideas from everywhere, we can see what does and doesn’t work for a brief. We can compare and discard, before building upon what we have. By looking at all of these things, rather than a blank page, we can draw connections and piece together, bit by bit, the perfect solution to a challenge. We end up with our creative concept: a jigsaw puzzle with every piece from a different image, together creating a piece tailored to the demands of the brief. A personalized (and, literally, inspired) concept.

The key to ensuring you tread the fine line between repeating previous concepts and taking inspiration is learning from the past. Ask yourself: why was this successful? What could have been better? How will this work better now? This will ensure you are heeding the wisdom of the past while moving forwards.

Building on past ideas to create original interpretations has its benefits. Familiarity breeds loyalty. Reflection breeds affinity. Representation breeds empowerment. The creative market is so oversaturated with bright lights and ideas that, if glimmers of what has gone before are woven into our work going forward (with respectful nods to great work, never trying to pass something off as your own), we've found a great place for ideation to start.

For audiences, the nuances of creative ideas that have resonated with them before will hook them into your idea. All it takes is one idea, one concept, that transports the audience back to that TikTok moment, the one you thought only you knew about, the thing that you thought only you saw and meant so much to you and feel that immediate link to the work you're making.

To keep up to date with all our coverage head over to the Creativity in Focus hub.

Creativity Agency

Content by The Drum Network member:

Working at the intersection of community and commerce we embed brands in online culture through social-first thinking.

Find out more

More from Creativity

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +