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Digital Creativity: a Practical Guide

Exploring ideas

A practical guide to getting digitally creative and using digital tools and technologies to explore work, ideas, and research.

Exploring and generating ideas

You can use digital tools and approaches in the initial stages of a project or piece of work, to explore and generate ideas. Perhaps there is something you want to research but you want to try and do something different. We've gathered some creative prompts and activities for you to try below. You can also find some examples of projects, to give you some extra inspiration.

Creative planning and ideas

Sometimes ideas come to us easily, and sometimes they need generating. Here's some prompts and ideas for working out new ways of communicating research and other work.

Developing an idea

Some questions to think about when trying to develop a storytelling idea, particularly from your research:

  • How are you already communicating your research? Who is that aimed at?
  • Who could be your audience? Who else should know about what you research?
  • Are there any platforms or situations you could create something for? A way of sharing your research online or a particular event?
  • What are the key elements of your research? How would you describe it to someone in a couple of minutes? Could you communicate those points in a different way to engage new people?

Setting and working with constraints

Every medium comes with constraints, and every tool has limited features. If you're creating something to fit guidelines, you'll have even more constraints, like work count and how much time you've got to spend on it.

If you have constraints, use them to your advantage. Focus on the space you have, and what you can tell in that space. For example, if you have a fifteen minute presention, you're going to really need to find your key topics, and know what information the audience requires for those, because there's not space for anything else.

If you don't constraints, you might find that more daunting. It can be useful to give yourself constraints, for example instead of trying to think of a video you could create, think about what video you could create that is five minutes long and is aimed at a general audience.

Telling your story in different tools

So you've thought of the particular narrative you want to tell, or chosen the part of your research that needs communicating. You've even chosen the medium to use. But is that the right media for your piece?

It can be useful, especially when you've got a lot of flexibility in the tool and method of communicating an idea, to try planning it out as if you were making it in different formats. For example, think about how it would work as a poster, as a video, even as a text game. The answer might be "it wouldn't", but it forces you to reflect on why and how you're using the medium and tool that you are.

Creative prompts and activities

Maybe you need to get in the creative mood, or just try something a bit different. Creative activities and prompts are a common way to try out things, play around, and be creative without the need to start from scratch.

Take Three Nouns - generates three nouns for you to do whatever you want with

Idea Lottery - A grid of words for you to try and connect together (see what narratives come out of it)

Random Digital Creativity Generator - More focused on looking for inspiration and exploring particular tools, this gives you random examples of creative work and tools you could use to play around with

Cut up text - take a printed text (preferably a photocopy or print out!), cut it up, and rearrange. You can do it digitally using a free image editing tool like Pixlr and it can be a great way to rethink texts you know well.

Quickfire ideas - fold a piece of paper into eight, then give yourself a minute per section to doodle an idea

#CovidCreatives Toolkit - a set of mostly free and open source resources to support creative practitioners looking to migrate their practice onto digital places and spaces, and don’t have time to mess around.

Using narrative and story for creativity

One way of exploring ideas creatively is to think about things in a different way. Looking outside of your usual perspective on a topic or idea can bring new light to it.

A structured way to do this is to think of whatever you're working on as a narrative or story, and explore how it might manifest in different ways. For example, viewing your research as a story with a narrative structure and ways of engaging the audience can be very useful for different areas of research, like outputs and public engagement, but also planning. You can also think about how you might tell this story in different media: what if your work was a song, a poem, or a game?

Narrative

Thinking of any academic work (and indeed other kinds of work too) as having a narrative helps to consider the journey that someone takes through the material, the structure of any communication of the work, and what kinds of audiences there are.

It can also make it easier to see links with different kinds of outputs for digital creativity. Maybe your research doesn't make an obvious video or poster until you think about it in a different way and see what people need to know about it to understand it.

Structure

Any narrative and any communication has some kind of structure, from a sentence or a Tweet to a thesis or book. You can use this structure to think creatively about your work, considering how that structure might translate into a different format and how it helps you with planning and creation. For example, many kinds of academic writing typically have an introduction, sections that build an argument, and a conclusion. How could you see this translated into something non-linear, like a website, game, or interactive story? What does the audience really need to know?

Audience

Audience is crucial to telling a story and to communicating anything. There is always someone, real or imagined, who will engage with work.

Considering the audience is key. You need to think about audience engagement: how will you make it clear why someone should engage with your creation and will they understand what you want them to get from it? Any kind of storytelling must draw in the audience and ensure they know the right things at the right time.

As you engage with this guide and with digital creativity more broadly, always keep your audience(s) in mind and design with them in mind.

In the resources for Telling Stories About Your Research session, we look at how storytelling works, how you might apply ideas of storytelling when communicating your research, and suggestions for digital tools to help you create different kinds of stories.

Deeper down the well of digital inspiration

Here are a range of examples of digital creativity using tools like spreadsheets and presentation software that we've put together for various sessions:

And one that was a bit more involved:

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