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12 creative ideas to escape designer’s block

Britt Pollock's Layout avatar

Some days are brilliant and oh so inspired. Other days, it’s like creativity could hit you over the head and you still can’t seem to come up with any good ideas. Even though creative blocks are a normal occurrence, it can be extremely frustrating for designers, developers, and any type of creative to run into.

You’re not alone though; even the most imaginative people have experienced a block and had to rediscover how to be creative. To help your wheels start turning, I’ve made a list of activities for you to try when you’re feeling creatively-deprived.

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1. Redesign yourself

What makes you, well, you? Make a list of all your attributes. And then make them into something else. For example, try drawing yourself as a sandwich – maybe your creativity is hummus and your optimism is shredded turkey. Or imagine yourself as a painting – what colors, mediums, and techniques would you use?

No matter what activity you choose (and regardless of how ridiculous it might become) ask yourself “Why” every step of the way. By giving yourself the space to be silly while also encouraging some critical though, you’ll loosen up lots of brain space to make room for new ideas!

2. Start a word list

This is a popular strategy for anyone suffering from writer’s block, but it can also be a successful tactic for any designer as well. For whatever project you’re stuck on, try making a list of words that relate back to it in some way. Think about adjectives that should describe it or feelings it should invoke. By writing everything down, you might start to see some similarities (or outliers), making it easier to clear your mind and find the solution you’re looking for!

3. Create an inspo-board

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I’m sure you have things that inspire you, so why not put it all in one place? This is great for collecting pieces that encompass your interests, brand, and personal style, but it also makes for some fun office decor! Add a poster or some polaroids. Tape up your power quotes in your favorite fonts. Heck, you can even throw in some selfies or your first dollar! There’s no limit to what your inspiration board can have because it’s meant to inspire YOU.

4. Turn on some music

There’s nothing wrong with having a five-minute dance party or mini jam session to help break up your day. It’s something you can do by yourself or with your team, whether you’re you actually know what you’re doing or just goofing around.

Taking a little time to get lost in some tunes will help you block out any stress from the day and reset your mind. Plus, you might just find your new productivity playlist that both helps you focus and keeps you energized!

5. Begin a new daily habit

Starting off your morning with something fun and inspiring can really jumpstart your creative juices. Every day when you sit down at your desk, instead of opening emails or reviewing bills, take five minutes to warm up your creativity. For example, try filling up one page in a notebook of something: a quote, sketches, words, whatever your heart desires. This will help clear out your mind so you can make room for the real projects of the day.

Once you get into a rhythm of daily habits, you can even use them as a gauge for how creative you’re feeling that day. If you’re really pleased with the outcome, you might want to tackle that new project that requires lots of creative brainstorming. If that quick creative exercise was a struggle, you know it might be a better project management day. (Or it’s time for more coffee).

6. Journal

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“If creative blocks happen to you regularly, it may be time for some serious reflection. ” And one of the best ways to do that is to start tracking a few things and consistently writing them down.

Every night before I go to bed, I write in my journal. I write about the highs and lows of the day, and I reflect on not only what happened, but how each activity made me feel. This helps me document some of the things I’m feeling in a way that’s easy to reflect on later. While designer’s block happens to everyone, there might be a cause behind yours that’s deeper than just needing a little more inspiration that day. And you’ll never know unless you’re incredibly intentional about looking for it.

7. Construct your own throwback

Retro, throwback themes have been all the rage lately. Use this to inspire you! Create a good old-fashioned mixtape. Write a letter to someone and actually mail it. Take some polaroids or film photos. Even if the retro thing isn’t your normal style, I guarantee looking to the past and working through a little creative exercise will help you think outside the box.

8. Design something just for yourself

Even if you don’t feel like it right this second, you have brilliant ideas – let them out, even if it’s not for a real project! If you’re stuck in the brainstorming process to design a client’s logo, try designing a logo for someone else, like your dog or grandma. Even though the ideas will be drastically different, by working through a similar problem that’s just a little more ridiculous, you just might clear out the cobwebs in your mind and discover an unexpected solution.

9. Let someone or something else inspire you

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I love guided-inspiration because it’s easy to start feeling creative, even if you weren’t feeling it at first. You can find this through guided-question journals, coloring books, sticker books, brain teasers, puzzles, or even just regular ol’ books. (I’d recommend You are a Badass.)

The best part about this method is that it can be as fast or slow as you need. If you’re looking for a 5-minute fix, aim for a brain teaser. If you’re ready to slow down for an hour, find a place to curl up with a book or go attend a talk!

10. Leave your desk behind

Sometimes your desk can feel so corporate and trapping, even if you’ve done your best to curate a creative space. Try working at a coffeeshop, in the lobby of your building, or literally anywhere besides your desk. A change of scenery may be just what you need, and it’s an easy change.

11. Revisit old masterpieces

Sometimes going back to look at my old work brings new inspiration in unknown ways. Think about everything you’ve learned from that time in comparison to now. What would you do differently?

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Even if this doesn’t directly help the project you’re working on now, working through the process again might trigger something you can work with. And at the very least, you should take a moment to remember your successes! Thinking about what went well will give you some positive energy, which you can fuel into more creative success.

12. Set up an idea jar

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Have you ever had a great idea and thought, “I don’t have time for it now, but I’ll have to remember that!” But then next week when you’re ready to give it a go, you can’t remember it to save your life?

If that sounds like you, start an idea jar! Whenever you have ideas that you get excited about, but don’t have time for in the moment, write them down on paper, popsicle sticks, or sticky notes and throw them in the idea jar for a rainy, non-creative day.

Now it’s time to get started. Which ideas are you going to try first? What else do you do to be creative and break out of a rut?

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Comments ( 1 )

  1. Max

    September 1, 2017

    I like the number 5 a lot. Finding a way to jumpstart your working day in a proper way is a good recipe for success. Thanks for sharing the article.

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