I regularly ask this question on my ‘How to Have Better Ideas’ workshops (the sequel to ‘How to Have Ideas’). It’s a short question that triggers a wide range of answers. But the one I am looking for is this:

‘A good idea is one that meets the brief’

My aim is marrying up the brief and the idea. I want to emphasise that the two should match. If the idea doesn’t meet the brief, then we have three consequences:

  1. The idea is wrong- and needs working on;
  2. The brief is wrong – and needs working on; or
  3. Both.

For me, design is the development of both the ideas and the brief until they exactly meet- until expectation and possibility meet and match. (This is a formulation of McCann’s Designer’s Paradox, which I wrote about here.)

How do I use these observations?

If you’ve drafted a few ideas, then look at your brief or list of requirements for the work. Which requirements does each idea meet, and which ones does it fail.

Does a good idea fail the requirements? Then maybe you’ve got the wrong requirements.

Does a bad idea pass the requirements? Then maybe you haven’t got enough requirements – what is it that you have discovered, the tacit factor that tells you that your idea isn’t good enough, that you need to add to your specification?