Last week, I was doing some research for one of our newer clients and gathering visual elements to inspire our creative thinking process. Similarly, when you have a creative project on your plate, such as redecorating a room in your home or creating a family party announcement, the 'dig' for inspiration plays a significant role in triggering creativity that will make your project shine. That's why we went to the Mall at Short Hills during a recent visual and creative brainstorming field trip to generate some creative ideas to kick start our assignment.

With its many diverse stores and upscale boutique shops, The Short Hills Mall is a great place to experience a wide variety of creativity. When I go, I usually like to check out The Apple Store, The Gap, Banana Republic and Bloomingdale's. But I also find it really helpful for ideas to go into stores I normally wouldn't. So if you're an older woman, why not check out a store for young teens? A cash poor college student? Why not try a luxury jewelry store! And if you love order and eat out, why not browse the cooking utensil store? You may feel uncomfortable at first, but just pretend you're shopping for a relative; your purpose is to see something new and interesting that can jumpstart your project with fresh new ideas.

When undertaking a creative project, perhaps you're experiencing a mental block or having a tough time generating good ideas. What can you do to try and break out of the rut? There are several easy and inexpensive ways. Grab a stack of periodicals at your local library or bookstore to thumb through, taking notes on the items that jump out at you as interesting and unique. A Google image or web search while listening to your favorite music is another great way to stimulate creativity. But remember, what elevates your ideas to the next level and makes them stand out is when your thinking goes beyond the obvious. If you decide to take a short trip to your local mall or downtown shops, take along a small pad and paper to jot down notes and ideas that come to you, or bring a small camera to photograph a cool color combination or unique use of patterns.

See how the store looks and feels. Examine the material they use for the walls and counter tops, the floors and ceilings, the employee uniforms, the scent in the store. Be observant of the things around you. Do you notice a particular color pallet? How about textures? Do you see all metal, all wood, or other shiny surfaces on their countertops and shelving? Maybe it's a combination of both? Is it loud or quiet in the store, and if they're playing music, what kind is it? Is the store cramped or open, crowded or empty? The point is that you'll surely observe a lot of new things in a completely different light to inspire your thinking.

Just remember that finding your creative inspiration is a fun adventure and we each take our own path to get there. When finding the right formula that gets your creative juices flowing, take a step back with all your images, sketches, notes and ideas and examine how they all fit together to generate your masterpiece.

We often find our richest sources of creative inspiration through our experiences and connections with other people, places, and things. After all, as creative people, we're always searching out the latest and greatest creations, and I'm sure that this exercise will generate the inspiration you need to get going on your creative journey.