- Designers should make a habit of collecting, organizing, and making lists of their own ideas, strengths, and points of improvement, as well as their favorite designs. These can be used as viable sources for inspiration and reference during creative blocks.
- Designers should immerse themselves in the world around them– the art, the activities, the people, the knowledge. They will find that the world is bigger than their bubble, and learning more about it can help inspire and spur creativity.
- Designers should know when to take a step back from their design work in order to give them a fresher and clearer perspective.
Any designer can tell you about how inevitable creative blocks tend to be. You can create idea after idea in the span of a week, and then create absolutely nothing you would deem “creative” in the next. These kinds of lapses happen even to the best designers, with their effects ranging from a ruined work schedule to a design hiatus altogether– the latter of which cannot be an option for most.
The occasional creativity limbo can be problematic for designers, especially for those with very tight deadlines. Fortunately, there are a lot of mental tools and habits designers like you can introduce into your creative routines to get your minds flowing with those much-needed design juices again.
Curate designs you love.
Storing designs you strongly admire is a habit that can help you in the long run. There are a lot of places you can look for beautiful designs; the internet is definitely full of them, but you can go as far as photographing local posters, city scapes, and billboards you want to emulate.
The real trick is, when you find yourself stuck in a rut, simply scroll through your virtual gallery of design inspirations. You’ll find yourself slowly filling up with the needed motivation to kick start your creativity.
Take note that a key part of curation is organization. Organize these designs by designer, by method, or by color– whichever will help you the most when the time comes. Apps such as Pinterest have features that can help you with organization.
It also helps to deconstruct each design as you go through them. Ask yourself questions like, “What makes this design attractive to me?” or “What elements were used to create balance in this design?”. You never know what new insight you might uncover while going through your curated content.
Log the things you need to improve on.
The blank canvas is one of the designer’s biggest enemies; the vastness of possibilities that can go into a design can block you from actually wringing out a good idea. It is one of the notable ironies in design, but it presents a real problem to many designers.
Keeping a list of things you want to improve in your work helps limit that broadness, constantly presenting new challenges to overcome, hence giving your brain specific key points to focus on. Each piece of work you produce should be a new challenge, after all. Anything less than that keeps your creativity at risk of stagnation.
Go for a deep dive into your previous work.
Although keeping track of the things you need to improve on is important, observing all the positive contributions you made in your previous designs lies on the opposite side of the same coin.
Going through your previous designs not only gives you insight on your strong points as a designer, but it also jogs your memory on useful design processes that you might have already forgotten. Either way, taking a leap back to memory lane can help give you that boost you need to power through your creative block.
Keep track of even the smallest ideas.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, your mind is constantly wandering. It is during these wandering times when gems tend to come up. Big or small, something about them will captivate you… even days, months, or years down the line. Skimming through ideas you’ve made during your idle time will definitely help inspire you and get your creativity up and running.
The most important part of this tip is to always write that idea down. Grab yourself the nearest pen and paper– or even better, your favorite note-taking app– and write (or draw) that idea down in the most descriptive way you possibly can. If you don’t do this, chances are, you won’t remember what made it a notable idea in the first place, and your brain will scrap it altogether.
Most of the time, the idea comes in a very convoluted form, giving you something that looks like remnants of a “light bulb moment”. It is still important that you keep track of these kinds of ideas, as these can be refined later on.
Dabble in artistic media.
The designs and ideas you’ve collected and very carefully organized may not be enough for your journey back into the creative state of mind. Surrounding yourself with similar styles and ideas might even prove saturating, at times.
In this particular case, try taking a step outside of your own bubble by dabbling into new artistic media. You can watch films highly acclaimed for their cinematography, listen to various moods of music, or even visit art museums. These activities will not only inspire you to create art, but will also help you get fresher yet rawer ideas you’ve yet to translate into your design medium.
Try something new.
Taking the previous tip a step further, trying something new will definitely get you out of your comfort zone and help you learn things faster. Not fond of typography? Maybe you should give it a try. Do you find gradients tricky? Perhaps now is the time to use them.
It doesn’t even have to be a design-related change. You can try the new restaurant downtown, or maybe take a walk instead of hailing a cab. So many new thoughts and ideas can come from just the slightest change in your routine. You will definitely learn a thing or two. Keeping your mind open to learning creates opportunities for creativity to spike.
Two heads are better than one, especially in the case of creative blocks. Curating other people’s designs is one thing, but actually talking to fellow designers and absorbing their tips, feedback, and criticism is a vastly different experience altogether. Join designer communities, attend designer conferences, or simply talk to a designer friend. There is nothing quite like the back-and-forth of speaking your mind and listening to another.
If you aren’t fond of face-to-face interactions, you might find more value with online communities and forums. Discord and DeviantArt can get you started with like-minded individuals.
The people you interact with aren’t even required to have a background in design. Garnering feedback from various groups of people allows you to get a look at who finds what beautiful– findings which you can definitely apply to your work.
Finally, you don’t even have to talk about design. Talk about your day. Talk about current events. Talk about the shows you’ve been watching or the new activities you’ve been doing. One way or another, you’re going to find a new perspective of looking at them through the conversations you make with other people, and that can lead you all the way back to your inspired state.
Read design literature.
Immerse yourself in literature about design. Subscribe to design blogs, watch design videos. There is always something new to keep those creative gears of yours well-oiled and as good as new.
Even your most repetitive tasks can help you see things in a new light.
Practice the mechanical aspect of certain processes you do. If you do this in repetition, as with penmanship, you might find yourself employing a different style and a more efficient process along the way.
Take a step back.
Sometimes your eyes just need a break from the usual. Taking a huge step back can allow you to look at your predicament with fresher eyes when you step back later on.
Take a short walk, or focus on a video game for a couple of minutes, or maybe even watch an episode of that series you’ve always wanted to watch.
Give yourself that long and well-deserved sleep. The next day, you will find your creative cells rejuvenated and ready to spew out ideas, as usual. If you feel your creative block is leaning over to the deep end, consider taking a week off with strictly no design work allowed. Traveling is recommended.
Any good designer can make good designs, but a great designer can conquer even the nastiest of creative blocks and make it work for them. After all, creativity lies not in the patience to wait around for it, but in the approach to get it back.
Incorporate these tips into your design habit and you’ll not only crush roadblocks but you’ll find that your design momentum and overall design process will improve significantly.