20 Ways to Avoid Creative Block When You are a Graphic Designer
by Blake Phillips || Art Director || Vibra Design
As a designer everyone has experienced a point where they just can no longer think of anything worth while. It’s in these situations when you have to reevaluate your perception of what works and what doesn’t. Use the following 20 tips to avoid and get through a tough designer’s block.
1. TAKE PHOTOGRAPHY
Almost all graphic designers have a camera with them, so why not use it? Can’t find that perfect texture or color? That’s fine, go out and take a picture of what you need. You may find inspiration in a very uncommon place. Be sure to take plenty of pictures, not just a few, then return to your office and review them to recall special feelings or smells from those memories.
2. CALL A FRIEND
Sometimes all it takes is a friend to say something worthwhile. Call your friend(s) and discuss past events to help you recall something enjoyable, being in the right set of mind is what it’s all about, and friends bring you out of the “working mode” and into a much more pleasant frame of mind. Remember not to call them and interrupt them when they are at work as it may work the opposite way in that case.
3. FLIP THROUGH DESIGN BOOKS
There are a ton of books out there that were made just for people that have designer’s block. The authors of most of these books have compiled huge amounts of graphi design work into one comprehensive picture book. These are often sorted to help you find a specific idea or theme. Just don’t underestimate the power of any ole’ books, even novels, comic books, and short stories can also help get you out of slump. Here is a great list of graphic design books.
4. READ TUTORIALS
Most tutorials are out there for people who want to learn about design, layout, graphics and illustration software, but for graphic designers it can also be used to brush up on old techniques or to see the newest trends. These sites also often contain links to samples of how the tutorial was used in context of an actual design piece. With the latest design suites, it’s often impossible to learn every new feature of a new software and these tutorials can also help show you what it new and useful with a software update. Here is a huge list of Tutorial Sites.
5. VISIT INSPIRATIONAL WEBSITES
It’s almost a given that you know about a whole range of inspirational sites that you frequent for ideas. However, going into these sites is almost a guaranteed way to break a difficult graphic designer’s block. Also, don’t go to the same inspirational sites all the time, but instead try to find new ones, as the process alone could spark the idea of what you were looking for. Here is a great list of 180+ of the top sites that list inspirational designs.
6. CREATE ART FOR PERSONAL USE
The key to staying sharp and up-to-date is to frequently produce art for just yourself. Practicing is really the key to perfection. Not only will you become more proficient with design software, but you will also come across new ways to do the same thing, in turn creating something entirely new and unique. Use these personal projects in your office to recreate those techniques for a client.
7. SPEAK WITH COLLEAGUES
Not everyone will be able to do this as many of the readers of this article are freelancers. But if you are in an office environment, speak to colleagues when time permits and if they’re not busy. Often you can have small quick brainstorming sessions that may help you to open your mind to a new focus. Colleagues can also help to relieve a lot of tension and stress built of from not being able to think about new designs ideas. If you don’t work in an office environment, you probably have online peers who are also designers. Chat, skype, or email them to ask for help or to just talk.
8. WATCH A FUNNY MOVIE OR VIDEO
Laughter is truly the best medicine. Whether it is within a group or by yourself, laughter will help relax you and has been thought to stimulate current parts of the brain that control a person’s artistic and cognitive abilities. Use this fact to your advantage and don’t be afraid to really let it out. A few chuckles is good, but a real good “knee-slapping” laugh is even better.
9. DOODLE IN A SKETCHBOOK
All graphic designers doodle as it’s a habit that you have probably been doing since you were in school instead of listening to your teachers. Doodling can often help you focus and think freely. Instead of trying to create something with a purpose, you simply let your mind create something. Forcing creativity can often drain a graphic designer quickly of any good ideas they might have had. Sometimes it is just better to just let everything go and draw freely.
10. LISTEN TO MUSIC
Music is food for the soul, and also a graphic designer’s mind. You may find that listening to certain types of music may cause you to design a certain way, whether it be hard rock to create a grunge design, or acoustic jam for those soft elegant designs. Use the mental “flow” you get from music to your advantage and it will set up your entire session. Something even better is if you are a musician, step away and play some music. All the same rules apply except that it sparks a creative part of your brain and will help get rid of that nasty designer’s block.
11. FIND A SEPARATE HOBBY
Being on the computer all day long, everyday, can be excruciating. Don’t let it happen to you. Instead, find a hobby that has absolutely nothing to do with graphic design or being creative or artistic. Hobbies such as fishing, camping, collecting, billiards, chess, or working out are great ways to relax your mind. Trying to be creative all day is too stressful and you will quickly burn-out as you need a way to completely step away sometimes.
12. TAKE A STEP OUTSIDE
Probably the most widely used method of trying to get rid of designer’s block is to just to take a quick stroll outside. The problem lies within us. Most graphic designers step outside expecting ideas to come out of them. In other words, by doing that, you are not taking a break. Just step outside, smells some fresh air, listen to the birds, and enjoy the feeling of just being with nature. Ignore everything except what you can see, smell, or hear. Then you can step back into your office and feel refreshed.
13. WRITE POETRY OR PROSE
Often as a graphic designer you run across an idea or phrase that gets stuck in your head. Use that, write a short poem about it. Flex those verbal muscles. Language is within a different part of the mind that thinks about words so you can work them hard and it will still let your design muscles rest. This is a way to get rid of designer’s block and plays very nicely into the next method.
14. LOOK UP SYNONYMS OR ANTONYMS
In your quest to write an amazing piece of literature, you may find that you lack a correct way to say something. When this happens, you should use a thesaurus. Finding related words will often help you look at the same thing with a different spin, and finding antonyms can help you narrow your ideas. Maybe buy a “word-a-day” calenda. This is a great way to keep your vocabulary fresh and they are also pretty good conversational pieces.
15. GO FOR A DRIVE
If weather permits, go out to your car, roll down the windows (or sunroof), and just take a cruise around the countryside or within the heart of the city. Just try to drive somewhere you don’t normally go, find new back roads, or get lost somewhere. Listen to some music while you are driving as well, it’s a win-win situation really, but just make sure you don’t get too lost, you’ll eventually have to come back to the office.
16. VISIT THE LOCAL COFFEE SHOP
Yes, that means Starbucks too. Coffee has caffeine and as most people know, caffeine can help stimulate the brain (when used in small quantities). However, don’t sit inside the coffee shop, but rather sit outside and enjoy the weather and bring a pencil and paper as well. Use the sights and sounds to help sketch out ideas for your design and you will find that you can think better if you are not really trying to think at all. In addition to all of that the caffeine you are drinking, you should focus your mind on a particlar thought. Just don’t drink caffeine in excess as it can lead to addiction with many nasty side-effects.
17. WORK IN PUZZLE BOOKS
These little workbooks are great and using them will increase your focus and help you process thoughts and ideas more effeciently. Solving problems is the job of a graphic designer and anything you can use to help with your problem-solving abilities is a must. There are also puzzle books that will help with proof-reading and error-checking as graphic designers need to have the ability to check over their own work and notice small differences with shapes and colors.
18. SLEEP ON IT
Sleeping does many things, such as increases energy, enhances focus, and helps memorization (just to name a few). It helps graphic designers by allowing them to think about something without actually thinking about it. Most of the time, coming back to a design layout the next morning is the best way to look at something with fresh eyes. You will also find that you can judge your work much better with a fresh look at your design. It will also help you determine if it still portrays the message the way that you had wanted it to. Naps are also another way. Eat while you are working and use your lunchtime to take a nap in the car. You will find that this helps boost your creativity a noticeable amount.
19. LOOK FOR INTERESTING OR NEW FONTS
Finding fonts is a pretty fun thing for graphic designers as it creates this sense of “What can I use this for?” in their mind. Fonts spark ideas for layouts and sometimes designers actually base an entire design on a font that they have found. Also, most really creative fonts include design elements within the lettering and ligature that can be used in an entire layout as shapes and backgrounds. make sure sure you have a good font management program as well as your font collection can get pretty big. Here is a humongous list of free font sites.
20. STRAIGHTEN UP YOUR OFFICE
Having a clean environment is very conducive to your creativity. Clutter across a desk is the same as cluttering your thoughts. Organize your desk and your mind, file away old projects, put together doodles into one folder, keep hard-copies of all work on the wall or desk, and just get comfortable. Which brings up another point … working in an ergonomic environment. Try not to sit too far away, above, or below your keyboard and monitor, make sure your monitor has the correct refresh rates and resolution, your chair should have proper lumbar support as well as plenty of cushion, and have lighting other than flourescent bulbs.
Remember this, if you are going to try any of these techniques, do not perform them expecting positive results every time. The trick is to really let your mind wander in different directions, because if you are trying too hard to be creative, then it will never work. If you have any suggestions or additions to these, please feel free to leave a comment and I will try and put it in the article. Here is another article about The Best Ways That Graphic Designers Can Overcome Their Creative Block.
Other Articles Online About Creative Blocks and Graphic Design Inspiration
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Blake Phillips || Art Director || Vibra Design
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