How I Find Ideas for My Illustrations. My Conceptual Process

As a conceptual illustrator, I work with ideas. Finding an idea is a very intuitive process and sometimes unpredictable.

Since I became an illustrator, I’ve experimented with different workflows until I found one that works for me.

Today I’m sharing the process of how I find ideas for my illustrations.

1. Identifying or extracting the concepts to work with

When I work for newspapers and magazines, I usually have to extract ideas from a given text. I focus on the main points of the story, but I also pay attention to details of the text that have the potential of being a good creative starting point.

Other times, usually when I work for advertising, there is a brief that gives me a few general topics. In these cases, I sum up and break the main subject into more specific concepts.

Extract ideas from a text

2. Developing the siege and corralling the idea using a net of concepts

The second part of the process is establishing creative paths that may lead to the idea. I do that using a net of concepts.

This conceptual net is primarily a mind map where I list related words, synonyms, and concepts. I connect different terms using arrows.

The connection between two or more concepts generates ideas. These ideas are the seeds of the ideas behind my illustrations.

Mind Map

I use MindNode to create my net of concepts.

3. Sketching the idea

When I identify an idea that might work, I start sketching.

Sometimes my intuition tells me almost immediately that the idea will work. Other times, the sketch shows many problems that I have to solve to make the idea work. And sometimes, the sketch confirms that the idea won’t work and it’s time to find another one.

The sketching process is also valuable because it generates additional ideas by itself.

Magoz Illustration Sketch Process

Some notes about the process of finding an idea

  • I use this system as a guide, but I trust my intuition the most.
  • I sometimes skip some of the steps because I get a hint of an idea at an early stage.
  • I re-use conceptual nets and sketches for similar future assignments.

After some trial and error, I am very comfortable with this system, and it helps me a lot to find ideas for my illustrations.