“You can’t look at the competition and say you’re going to do it better. You have to look at the competition and say you’re going to do it different.” – Steve Jobs

For one of my elective classes, I’m studying how to make interactive documentaries. Admittedly, at the beginning of the subject, I wasn’t so sure that it was suited to my particular skill-set as I don’t have too much experience with coding or media arts. However, it turns out that at least coming up with intelligent ideas and writing creative proposals can actually be quite easy (although it requires a lot of effort, creative intelligence, and time). The only thing you need is passion and vision. If you have this, then you’re ready to begin.

The tips I’m going to give you are specific to my experience with this subject (of interactive documentary making). However, I definitely think you could easily apply it to other projects (including more academically based ones) such as creating a new app, interior designs of a house, or setting up an informative website.

  1. Come up with idea that has an original topic or an original take on a common topic.

Write a list of as many topics as you can. They don’t have to be quite so specific yet. Just think about general areas of interest that you have and remember you can draw inspiration from almost anything.

When your list is complete, narrow it down based on these criteria: favourite ideas, ability to find a purpose/aim for the exploration of that topic, ability to find sources (primary and secondary) on that topic, and originality.

In this situation, originality doesn’t necessarily mean only you have thought of this idea. Often in modern society, we draw inspiration from other existing projects and stories and re-interpret them in our own original way as it is almost impossible to come up with a purely original idea. As long as you can come up with a creative take on an area of interest, it doesn’t matter how common or broad it is.

  1. Think about what the purpose of your creative project is.

Make sure you come with a proper aim–a question that you want your creative project to answer, or be a solution to, or to discuss at length. Come up with secondary questions that are interconnected with this primary question/aim.

Also, think about why you want to explore this topic and question in your creative proposal. Is it a socially or politically relevant discussion? Is it an information-based project? Does the project have purely an entertainment value?

The purpose is one of the main driving factors of the project and informs you and the audience of the content, sources of the information, the project’s visual design, and so on.

  1. Talk about pre-existing projects that existed and how they succeeded and failed in terms of aesthetics.

Discuss specific aesthetic choices (in terms of colour schemes, photographic and video footage, editing, negative space etc.) and how they did/didn’t achieve the goals of the project. Take screengrabs/screenshots (and remember to cite and caption them) from these projects and use them as examples to draw inspiration from, and discuss and analyse specific sections that you thought were relevant to your project idea somehow.

  1. Think about the academic and logistical aspects of the project and use pre-existing projects to inform your own.

Think about the logistics of the project: audience, context and information, feasibility etc.

You need to have a reasonable timeframe to complete the project to a great standard so remember to ensure that the project is feasible and can be completed to a great standard within the timeframe.

The content will tend to come from two types of sources: primary (e.g. interviews with the relevant people or conducting focus groups) and secondary (e.g. books, encyclopaedias, journal articles etc). Yes, the project is creative, however you still need to justify your creative choices with academic research so that it sounds reasonable. Also, you need to make sure that the people you’re talking to for the assignment are able to be contacted.

The content will also be shaped up by the audience and their interests and attributes. For example, if the project is a technical or digital one, the audience would need to be people with access to technology that are also digitally literate–which on its own is already a specific group of people. Make sure that the content and the audience’s interest will connect and work together somehow, not affecting the feasibility of the project.

  1. Make examples of the project’s actual design.

There are plenty of applications and tools on the internet that allow individuals to create fake designs of basically anything from interior house designs, to wireframes and UI (user interface) layouts for apps and websites. If you can google it, it is guaranteed to exist. Use these resources to help create examples for your creative project and make sure that the aesthetic decisions you made are factored into the layouts and designs somehow.

  1. Write up all of this information.

Have all of this information written up to discuss with people and they can help suggest ideas or make improvements or adjustments. We tend to be blind to our own faults which is why working in groups is fantastic–other people think of ideas our minds hadn’t come across and have innovative ways of thinking.

  1. This isn’t permanent.

If your project is accepted and made into an actual project to be worked on, it is worth noting that things can go wrong and that decisions that were previously made will be made to change again. Not only can things go wrong, you need to also come up with solutions to fix the problem or work with the problem instead.

  1. Have fun!

It’s a creative project that stems from your own interest so remember to enjoy yourself!