Posted 05 November 2020
Written by James Britton

The essential steps for bringing ideas to life during lockdown

Out-of-the box thoughts that appear just as you’re about to fall asleep... Projects that never make it beyond a notebook, or your Notes app... We’re all guilty of letting great ideas go to waste. But with so many of us still working remotely and with limited access to resources, we’ve called on Stink Studios’ James Britton for some advice. Like most of us, the studio has had to adjust to working life under lockdown – delivering projects virtually, from creating a virtual experience for Notting Hill Carnival and Spotify to an Augmented Reality experience for BBC Sounds. Here, James shares his advice on bringing ideas to life, even with very little.

In the creative industry, it’s not unheard of to pitch and sell ideas that never get made. As a result, most ideas live and die in PowerPoint presentations. But in our view, ideas and the art of executing them were never meant to be pulled apart.

At Stink Studios, we believe it’s vital to develop an understanding of how the ideas you come up with will actually get made. Our aim has always been to put ideas into the real world and make them happen. Our creatives are craftspeople who understand technology. That’s why we call ourselves a studio rather than an agency.

And while, during lockdown, it’s been tougher than usual to turn concepts into a reality, here I’m sharing a few tips to help bring your ideas to life.

1. Embrace constraints

Lockdown presents us all with countless constraints, but you can try and see these as creative challenges:

• How long do you have to develop your project?
• Do you have a budget you need to work within?
• Where will your idea be seen?

These constraints can all help inform your idea, and might force you to find more creative solutions you wouldn’t initially have considered.

Plus, these days, people are looking for ideas that are attention-grabbing, but also uniquely relevant to a particular medium. Decide on what your medium will be, and spend time understanding how people actually use it.

So, what are the limitations? Are there interesting ways to subvert them and make them part of the idea? For example, this project for Yoox makes playful use of a YouTube advert, by giving people the 15-second duration to buy a product before it gets destroyed.

2. Build prototypes

When you’re developing ideas, do everything you can to make them as real as possible. Never be afraid to create a half-developed version of the idea. Even a quick sketch can help give someone a sense of what you’re imagining.

You can create drawings, mood films or build a technical proof of concept. If your idea is interactive, decide whether you want to simply illustrate how it might work using templates or mock-ups, or if you can create a clickable walkthrough, using a tool like Figma. Or you might want to team up with a developer and start coding.

When we launched a recent augmented reality experience in Selfridges, from day one the project relied on constant back-and-forth between development, UX, visual effects and design. The process was fluid enough to adapt the creative idea within the limits of augmented reality, learning as we went, and iterating up to the final moments before the experience launched publicly.

3. Sweat the details early on

In our experience, it’s often best to focus on the details early on. The finished product will always have a bigger impact if you’ve spent time crafting the details.

So ask yourself: What’s the one thing you want people to remember about your idea? What thing will be shared and talked about? Start with that.

Once you have that in mind, work out what elements of the craft will help make that thing as memorable as possible. For example, something as simple as an animation, the use of sound or haptics, or unexpected use of technology can all help make a project more impactful and memorable.

4. Work with people who do things that you can’t

Wherever possible, work with people who have different skills and expertise to your own. Connect with people who approach problems from a different point of view, and use different tools. Have a look at who you’re following on Instagram – are there potential collaborators that can help make your vision a reality?

You don’t have to be an expert at everything, but whether you’re working alongside designers and developers to motion, VFX artists and filmmakers, being able to talk to them with a shared vocabulary will put you at an advantage when it comes to getting things made.

Plus, as soon as you open up the conversation to different disciplines, you’ll find solutions that might otherwise have been overlooked. A designer will look at things differently to a filmmaker, and so on.

5. Ask for feedback and be open to changing direction

Invite feedback from friends, family or tutors and make other people a part of the process as much as possible.

Have conviction in your idea, but be comfortable changing direction along the way. If we expect things to change from the outset, we design our projects to make learning and adapting part of the process.

The things you discover along the way – whether it’s things you learn during prototyping or a surprising comment when asking for feedback – will all help develop your idea in ways you’d never imagined at the beginning.


James Britton is group managing director at Stink Studios and lectures at Kingston School of Art.

Written by James Britton
Illustration by Harry Haysom