Concept and idea are two terms we often interchangeably use in our daily lives. While you can, in certain circumstances, convey one of the terms with the other, there is a difference between them. Today, we will explore concept vs idea to see what these differences are.
What Does Idea Mean?
An idea is an instantaneous mental impression we create when exposed to certain situations. It is like a rough plan of something that we would consider doing in response to something. Ideas are unruly mental impressions that require fine-tuning to make them a reality.
This is a rather broad term, and it can take on various meanings. Some such forms are discussed below.
- Mental Impression
The word ‘idea’ stems from the word ‘idein’, which is of Greek origins. It means ‘to see.’ An idea is something we see in our minds, i.e., make a mental impression of, in our minds.
For example, suppose you are talking to your friend at the writing club about books you’d like to write. You entertain the thought of writing a cookbook while one of your friends says he wants to write a young adult rom-com novel. Another of your friend thinks of writing a non-fiction book on science.
So, cookbook, YA novel, fiction or non-fiction science – these are all different ideas of book topics. They are merely mental impressions of books you and your friends have come up with.
- Belief, Opinion, or Impression
Ideas can also be projected mental impressions of something based on past exposure to information. It can be someone’s opinion or belief.
For example, suppose you have seen someone wearing a jersey of a Football club. From that, you can form an idea, or opinion, that the person must be someone who follows football matches. This is an impression you have made based on the person’s choice of clothing.
Another form of impression where you can use the word ‘idea’ is the rough overview of something.
To exemplify, you can ask a wedding planner to give you a rough idea of how much it will cost for your dream wedding. Here, the planner will provide you with a rough impression based on the venue, number of guests, type of food, dress, photographer, audio system, etc.
An important thing to note here is that the planner will not be able to give you an exact figure of the sum. Rather, it will be a rough impression, or idea, based on the usual costs of the things you want.
You can also use the word ‘idea’ to suggest something. For example, suppose you are looking for topics to write about in the economy column of a newspaper. Your boss may say, “I have an idea – why don’t you write about the poultry industry?” Here, your boss is making you a suggestion, which is also an idea.
It is important to remember that idea is almost always vague and is in need of more planning, fine-tuning, and additional inputs. Say, for the above example, you will then have to gather relevant data related to the poultry industry, make an overview of the article, do statistical analysis, then start writing the article.
So, here, you had to build upon the idea and do further planning to make it a reality.
What Does Concept Mean?
A concept is basically the final stage of an idea, where all the variables are clearly planned and properly decided upon. In a concept, there is a clear starting point, ending point, and well-defined steps to reaching that endpoint. You can also clearly understand the transition between different steps of the concept.
As you can guess, because concepts go under rigorous planning and pruning, it is not as raw or vague as ideas. Rather, it is the final stage ideas go to once some thought and planning have been done. A concept may even consist of several ideas in one. Also know the difference between proof of concept and prototype.
Concept Vs. Idea
So, what sets them apart? An idea is a mental impression that happens in a rather short period. It can form instantaneously when you are looking for the solution to something. This idea can then be turned into a concept by putting some work, breaking the broad idea down into a few stages, and planning each component.
Previously, I have exemplified ‘writing a cookbook’ as an idea. You can make it a concept by extensive planning, such as deciding how many chapters there will be, a brief overview of each chapter, how many recipes you will include, how you will source or develop those recipes, and how you will find a recipe publisher, etc.
Once everything related to making and publishing the book is decided, then you have a concept of a cookbook in your hands. If you follow the steps defined, you can actually make and publish a cookbook!
Difference Between Concept and Idea: A Comparison Table
Parameter for Comparison
|A mental impression, a rough notion||
A systematic roadmap of an idea
|Rough, unstructured, unruly||
|Fine-tuning, planning, pruning the edges||
Following the steps to get the result
Generally, a group of people
Well-defined Steps, starting point, and Ending Point
As you probably can guess by now, a concept comes from an idea or multiple ideas. So, you can call a ‘concept’ an ‘idea’ in certain cases. But, the other way around would be incorrect.
That’s all for today. I hope this article helped you clear out how concept vs idea differs!