Savvy marketers employ branding agencies for their creativity – to come up with an original idea to brand and market their product or service. This creativity is the lifeline of a design agency and is embedded in their creative process. Until now, creativity has been attributed to humans but advancements in generative artificial intelligence would have us believe that creativity can be machine-learned. In this article we will delve into the creative process of a design agency and how AI may miss the mark in branding design.

Generative AI

Artificial intelligence has revolutionised the data-driven industries and is rapidly spreading to a multitude of other uses. We now have AI tools that can generate original copy, images and even artwork designs. To “create” something new, AI relies on algorithms and analysing existing data within set parameters. This form of creation is predictive and linear rather than unexpected and random like our imagination. So, how creative can AI really be if it lacks the human imagination, emotion and curiosity that embodies creativity?


What is Creativity?

Creativity is, by definition, the use of imagination or original ideas to create something. As humans, we rely on our imagination and draw from our life experiences and emotional reactions to generate different ideas and alternative ways of solving problems. Our creativity is linked to making connections based on our senses rather than logic and data. This creative thinking is crucial in generating original designs that will shape the visual representation of a brand. 


Creative Thinking

In a world where differentiation is key, harnessing the full potential of creative thinking is the path to success in branding. Creative thinking encourages designers to problem-solve with empathy, ideation, and experimentation so as to put themselves in the shoes of the end-user and develop visual solutions that truly resonate with them. Creative thinking isn’t just about generating eye-catching visuals but encompasses different aspects of human creativity.

Creative thinking can be broadly divided into five types:

          1. Divergent 
          2. Lateral 
          3. Aesthetic
          4. System 
          5. Inspirational 


Interestingly, in a branding agency, each step of the creative process relies on one of these five types of creative thinking! 


The 5-Step Creative Process 

In a design agency, the creative process typically consists of five steps that follow on from the brief (problem definition) and research stage (market and competitor analysis). Each step in the creative process embodies a unique dimension of creative thought, fostering an environment where ideas flourish, evolve, and ultimately become the visual representation of a brand. These 5 steps can be loosely associated with the 5 types of creative thinking:


Step 1: Brainstorming – Divergent Thinking


Creative thinking begins with divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is generating a number of random ideas whether or not they are feasible as a solution to a problem (or brief). It embraces putting forward unconventional and outrageous ideas, best done in a group setting where ideas are proposed, built on and taken in different directions through stimulating, open discussion. It allows us to experiment, discover and look for a solution from an unexpected angle. Some of the best ideas come from brainstorming where seemingly absurd notions can birth extraordinary concepts.


Step 2: Conceptualisation – Lateral Thinking


Once a few great ideas are seeded in the designer’s mind, it is time to reflect and build on that idea. This is where lateral thinking comes in. We let ideas flow sequentially and we see patterns start to emerge and connections are made. We take risks, explore all the possible solutions and discover new, out-of-the-box ways to solve a problem. This is where true innovation thrives.

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”
 Edward De Bono


Step 3: Concept Design – Aesthetic Thinking


Aesthetic thinking is the ability to create a concept from an original idea with visual appeal. It’s where the form, shape, proportion, and colour harmoniously blend to evoke emotions and resonate with our target audience. These first concepts are the starting point of a design.


Step 4: Design Development – System Thinking


System thinking is the ability to perceive how components come together to create something better than the sum of all the individual parts. It comes naturally to visual spatial learners who think in pictures and can see the result holistically before it exists. Many designers are visual spatial learners. This is of particular value in branding as these designers can visualise how a logo will look on future packaging, website, social media etc to create a coherent look and feel for the brand.


Step 5: Design Refinement – Inspirational Thinking


Inspirational thinking refers to the ah-ha moment we sometimes get at the most unexpected times, like in the shower, waking from a dream or even playing pinball… Yes, that’s why we have a pinball machine in our studio! These revelations are heaven-sent whenever we reach a creative block. Sometimes, designers feel that something is not right with a design but can’t explain why. Often, the solution just pops into their head randomly while doing something else providing that boost of enthusiasm and renewed energy to take the design to the next level. This is why we always sleep on a design before finalising it.


By following the above creative process, a branding agency fosters a culture of collaboration and communication where ideas are shared, acknowledged and improved together. The creative team feels supported and this is the perfect environment for creativity to flourish. This innate human creativity weaves the story of a brand into the hearts of its audience.


Can Machines Replicate the Creative Process?

The creative process draws on the complexity of human thought processes through 5 facets of creative thinking: divergent, lateral, aesthetic, system and inspirational thinking. While AI has made remarkable strides, it still grapples with the depth of human intuition, the essence of emotional intelligence, and the subtleties of artistic finesse. AI can provide assistance with the creative process, by analysing data and providing insights and suggested designs for designers to draw inspiration from, like they would from other forms of inspiration. However, designers still need their own creativity and emotional intelligence to make designs connect with the target audience. 



As we contemplate the future, we must remain open to the possibilities. Perhaps AI will redefine our understanding of creativity, or maybe it will continue to serve as a trusty companion, guiding us along the path of innovation. For now, one thing remains certain: AI cannot replace the human intuition and creativity that breathes life into the creative process of a branding agency. This creativity is essential to a successful branding project.


Do you want your branding to be designed with creativity?

Would you like to work with specialist designers who live and breathe creative thinking every day?  Contact us now.