I was a scared sophomore with no confidence in my creative abilities. I couldn't draw and I couldn't come up with new and interesting ideas when it came to brainstorming, planning events, or creating visual concepts for photographs.

I had just switched over from a PR major to an advertising major, and declared a management specialty because I was worried that I wouldn't be able to make it in the ad world as a creative. Little did I know that my first advertising professor was about to rub pixie dust into my eyes and help me see myself (and the world) differently.

My professor's name is Joanna D'Avanzo, a creative director in advertising who worked for several big NY agencies including McCann and DMB&B. It was intimidating walking into her intro to advertising class knowing that she has big expectations and no intention to sugar-coat her criticisms.

Sophomore Ashly instantly became more frightened and ready to bow out again. However, since my professor taught me a lot about advertising, it made me realize that I had been looking at the situation all wrong.

ramen, vegetable, pasta
Ashly Kim

Here’s how ramen comes into play. We were assigned a series of journals or exercises to complete every week, such as taking photos of items that visually attracted us, dissecting why we use certain apps on our phones, and rewriting the story of the Three Little Pigs in a surfer's point of view.

Each assignment worked to fuel our creative minds and at end of the semester, we combined these journals into one coherent theme that communicated an overall reflection about what we learned.

I was inspired by a pack of ramen sitting in my room. Ramen is the one thing I knew how to make coming into college, and the one thing I make most. Thus, I developed How to Cook the Ultimate Ramen of Advertising, a ramen analogy to creative thinking. My professor thought it was quirky and creative, but believe me, I had no clue that an idea like this could exist in my passive, shy, linear thinking brain.

But that’s the point. I’m here to share with all you creatives in waiting, how I changed the way I see the world. This ramen analogy to the creative process might also help you find inspiration and down the line, create great advertising.  

Step 1: Look through the shelf. 

vegetable, soup
Ashly Kim

Imagine yourself shopping for packaged ramen. You probably have a favorite brand, but why does that brand resonate with you? What about all the other ramen packages you pass by and never think to buy. It's important to be aware of what attracts you to certain packages and not others. We are hit by thousands of advertisements a day but recollect so few of them.

If you want to create good ads, you need to understand why certain ones stand out. Are you attracted to ramen packages that are red because they indicate spicy, those that have Asian characters because they indicate ethnic flavor, or your go-to choice because it's nostalgic.

Step 2: Taste them all. 

ramen, soup, pasta, noodle
Ashly Kim

You'll never be able to find the best ramen for you by sticking to one flavor. There are so many different types of ramen out there that you probably never knew existed.

Plus, new flavors inspire you. You might try a black bean noodle and be inspired to add black bean sauce in a chicken recipe. You have to seek new experiences because it broadens your view of the world and fuels the creative mind.

Activity: try five new dishes this week.

Step 3: Open your fridge. 

Ashly Kim

You have to look further than the ramen noodles and a sauce packet if you want to turn something plain into something extraordinary. Open your fridge and dig through it. What ingredients do you never use? What ingredients are you always running out of?

Think about what this says about your taste preferences or how you view ingredients differently. This is how you get insight, and insight will help you turn milk into an influential force in advertising, pop culture, and politics

Step 4: Read recipes. 

vegetable, pepper
Ashly Kim

Reading recipes other people write will help you get a better idea of how you want to go about creating your own ramen recipe. Maybe you'll want to break the norm and write one in an unique voice, or maybe you'll learn that simplicity is key. It's like staying in the know.

Look at other works and see all the different ways advertisements communicate ideas. Don't mimic, get inspired.

Activity: read five different pieces of work from news clippings to Spoon articles every day for a week.

Step 5: Think of unconventional ways to add flavor.

oil, garlic
Ashly Kim

Pull out ingredients and lay them out. Now think of what you can incorporate that maybe you would've never thought about adding before. Don't be afraid to engage in lateral thinking, don't be afraid to get weird. My biggest limitation was that I was too afraid to embrace my own imagination.

Activity: solve one lateral thinking puzzle online every day for a week.

Step 6: Cook it yourself.

vegetable, rice, sauce, ramen
Ashly Kim

You've selected your ramen package, broadened your palate, and chosen your ingredients, so now you're ready to put it all together. Start boiling the water and cooking your ingredients.

The cooking phase is when you get your ideas down on paper. Start drawing your thumbnails or drafts of what your ideas might look like. You don't need to be an artist—I certainly am not.  It's just a way for you to communicate your ideas visually.

Activity: draw in a 3x4 in. box, "ramen is as spicy as fire" and "pizza is forever," without using words.

Step 7: Garnish. 

vegetable, meat, sauce, seafood, chicken, pasta
Ashly Kim

Don't just mix everything and fumble it all into a bowl. Try garnishing your ramen to complement its flavor and make it look more appetizing. You need to be aware of design when you communicate visually. Take fonts for example, different typefaces convey different moods in which contrast, size, and color are all components.

Activity: pick three of your favorite food quotes and start messing around with the fonts and sizes. Would you design "Bon Appètit" with curvy letters, or a bold stencil typeface.

Step 8: Write your own recipe. 

Ashly Kim

You've turned ramen and a sauce packet into your own version of something more. Write your new recipe and share what you've created—it might inspire someone else to do the same.

ramen, shrimp, sauce
Ashly Kim

Today, I am pursuing a creative specialty in advertising. As my professor always says, we were all kids once with grand imaginations so we all have the potential to be creative. We just learned to lock up this part of ourselves over time because of fear of failure or rejection. Making the effort to change the way you see and do things, or actively looking for inspiration, is a huge step to stirring up creativity.

Remember, you have to let out the seemingly endless bad ideas before you can find the golden ones. You might even be surprised one day to find that you've created something truly savory. Bon Appètit.