Once you've defined the purpose of your design project, you need to consider what "format" the project is going take. Format is any surface on which the elements of your design will be placed. Will it be in printed form or digitally presented, or both? If printed, perhaps it may be a brochure, poster, postcard, business card, flier, etc.... If it's for the web, maybe it's a graphic for a website, webpage, or eBlast? Having an idea of your parameters, such as size and shape, will help you in the next step where the creative process of ideation begins.
From here, I look over my quick sketches and choose 2-3 I think are possibilities for my layout. From these sketch selections, I expand upon each one with even more sketching. This aids me to formulate those ideas I'm going to further research.
With 2-3 ideas on hand and my word list, I now begin the gathering process of images, elements, illustrations. I will go to image gallery websites and do searches from my word list and will peruse books, magazines, websites... anything visual to give me a reservoir to choose from for ideas and elements I may possibly use for the project. I usually place all my gathered material elements: symbols, line drawings, photographs into a special "ideation" folder. In this way, when I ready to begin my layout ideas, I have elements to work with.
These steps of format, doodling, word clustering, further sketching and then gathering are an essential part of my creative process. Unfortunately, many skip this step and immediately attempt design on the computer. I cannot begin a layout on the computer, until I've gone through these exploratory steps. This part of the process ends up sparking my creativity, at the same time "grounding" me towards 2-3 ideas I will pursue for the design project.
Below is a link about how sketching and doodling elevates your thought process to produce original and creative ideas for design. Enjoy!