The Field Trip: Get your creative juices flowing with one easy step

The Field Trip

All too often we get stuck at our desks.

Looking through the same books and websites for inspiration.

It doesn’t take long before your creative work starts to look just like the creative work you generated for your previous project.

Why wouldn’t it?

You’re pulling from the same sources. What’s more, you’ve stymied your brain by keeping it stationary for 8-12 hours per day.

You can’t expect anything fresh to come from sitting for 8 hours per day, 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year.

Having named companies and products for over 15 years, it has always been a challenge to use the same words in new ways. And this creative hurdle is not restricted to those of us in naming. Our colleagues in other disciplines like design, strategy, and digital, have similarly struggled as they seek new methods to bring brands to life.

The naming team at Siegel+Gale prides itself in the ability to find fresh words to express simple ideas. Clients often ask how we do it. Especially when we are constrained by the limited resource of real English words. One of the best creative tools that we use works wonders.

We call it the field trip.

Get moving

The best possible way to get your new ideas flowing is to get up, get out, and get moving.

As humans, we’ve evolved to think in motion.

From our hunting and gathering roots, we’ve conditioned our brains to solve problems on the fly. Whether chasing after prey or trying to grab that hard-to-reach fruit, we’ve adapted to solve problems while moving in order to survive.

Science tells us walking amplifies our creativity. It gets our blood flowing, which in turn delivers oxygen to our muscles and brain. And when our brain has been pumped full of oxygen-rich blood, it cranks into overdrive. Moreover, because walking is an automatic function, our brain doesn’t have to devote much thought to the activity. This frees it up to let the mind wander and more freely associate. Some research even suggests that walking on a regular basis promotes new connections between brain cells. Stanford experiments found that participants who were sent out on walks solved creative tasks better. 

Unfortunately, most bosses aren’t too fond of having a workforce out wandering the streets. If you need rationale to convince your boss, perhaps quote Nietzsche, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” If that doesn’t work, there are plenty of quantifiable examples of productivity increases associated with daily walks. 

Go someplace unusual

So now you’re in motion and the creative juices start flowing, right? Yes and no. You’re half way there. We’ve modified the thinking-in-motion concept by adding a twist: Shift the context.

Changing your context helps unlock your situational vocabulary. For example,: If you tell your brain that you’re naming a B2B technology product that is fast, you’ve just locked yourself into traditional and expected vocabulary of tech terms and words associated with speed. Whereas, if you suddenly assign yourself to walk around a sporting goods store, you may uncover new words about activity, motion, speed, and competition that can be lifted and used in your actual tech context to create a fresh new idea.

When picking the locations for your field trips, try to disassociate from the context of the task at hand as much as possible.

Ask yourself, “where would I never find the answer to this project?” And then we go there. Or, have someone assign you a random place to visit.

It’s this special mix of movement and context shifting that truly makes the field trip so powerful for creative ideation.

Field Trips in Practice

We use field trips on every project. For example, when an addiction non-profit asked us to develop a name better than “Stop Addiction” it was the perfect opportunity to get up and get moving.

As part of our multi-faceted creative process, we sent one of our namers on a field trip to Home Depot. We asked her to look for words that suggested strength.

While wandering around the hammers and shovels, the namer saw the word Shatterproof (from shatter proof glass). It was the perfect name to communicate building strong and shatterproof lives, families, and communities.

Field Trips are for everyone

Just about anyone can use the field trip.

Are you a designer working on a company website? Go to a mall and observe how different retailers sort their products on shelves.

Are you a product engineer needing inspiration for the next big thing? Go explore an odd or quirky museum.

Put simply

Get up. Get out. Get moving. And go someplace unusual.

You’ll thank me for it.

But more importantly, your client will thank you for the fresh new creative thinking.


By Aaron Hall, Director, Naming at Siegel+Gale.