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The Thesaurus: This Designer’s Favorite Dinosaur.

I realize that I may be a little more bookish than your average designer. I love words. I love learning new words and I even like learning word origins. I am a nerd. However, I write this because words have gotten me out a the occasional tight spot and I owe this to them. I also believe that my fellow creatives might appreciate another method to getting themselves out of the madness of creative constipation. So, here are a few word-related ideas you might try.

1. I love my desktop Thesaurus! I own a Mac and one of the applications that comes with the computer is a dictionary/thesaurus. I use it so frequently, I keep it right next to all of my design software in my dashboard. This trick may be more helpful for copywriting and coming up with catchy headlines, but sometimes once you have your concept, the visual naturally follows. First, I make a list of adjectives for the type of “feel” I would like my ad to have. Say I’m working on a jewelry print ad, I want it to feel romantic and glamorous. I type “romantic” and “glamorous” into my handy dandy thesaurus and see what it comes up with. Read through the entries. I know it’s not super exciting, but your mind may latch onto something. Write down the words that your brain likes. Seriously. Your brain will usually latch onto something. Continue on with the next word. If nothing comes up, let it stew for a while. Your brain works in mysterious ways.

2. Abstract word search. This one is similar to the thesaurus method, but works better if you need something more visual. Go to Google Images or your favorite stock photo site and search for something abstract like an emotion or state of being. Simply scroll through all of the images that pop up until something sparks your imagination. WARNING: If you are at the office or anywhere else that you would prefer to not have someone walk in on you with penises on your screen, make sure to have your safe search turned on.

These next two come from my professor, James Catlett.

3. Random word association. Google “random word generator”. There are a lot of them out there. Choose one that has a format that you like. The trick to this one is to stick with the word you get and try to brainstorm your way back to your topic. You would be surprised what you can come up with.

4. Psychic Sidekick. This is just fun and random. Go to Just click the button and see what it comes up with. The design for this site is pretty cool and it usually comes up with something really weird. Play and have fun!

Next time you’re stuck, I hope these tricks help you out. Give them a try and let me know what you think.


About melaniekoraleski

Hello everyone! I am a graphic artist/makeup-artist-in-training/bookworm from Omaha, NE. I write about whatever happens to be floating around in my brain at the moment. Stop by my blog and take a look around. Cheers!

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