Photo by Diego PH @jdiegoph

Being a designer means you have all the creative demands of an artist, but with a deadline. Not only do you have to come up with a creative solution, and execute it well, but you have to do multiple of them in a short amount of time. You have to pump out work, make it look good, and then revise it all with a looming deadline and hard-to-please client. You’re creativity is going to get drained really quickly.

Artists usually don’t have to call on their well of creativity and inspiration as often as a designer does. As such designers hit artist’s block real quick, and really often. So how does a good designer combat this? Good question.

One way that is helpful to a lot of designers that I know, is using visual research. Looking at what people before you have done can help you get ideas flowing in your mind. You can see what’s been done, what hasn’t been done, what works, and what doesn’t. It does the rapid iteration process of designing for you in a sense; at least it does the first round of rapid iteration for you. It’s a good way to get those first sparks to fire.

Another method that I personally really like, is looking back on the work or sketches that you’ve done in the past. I’m a hoarder when it comes to my sketchbooks. I don’t throw away a single drawing or doodle no matter how small or insignificant. The reason behind this is when artist block hits, I look back on what I’ve done in the past. Partly because it’s fun to see how much I’ve improved and it restores my confidence; but mainly because there’s a lot of unused ideas sitting in that pile of sketchbooks. A small doodle from two years ago can become a logo for client. Some weird drawing becomes a poster. Bonus: because it’s your own doodles, chances are you won’t be doing something someone has already done. Always a good thing if you ask me.

An unconventional method: looking at something that is completely unrelated or a different medium. Every once in a while I’ll find that conventional visual research isn’t giving me the spark I need. So I take a mental break and look at something else; photography, paintings, drawings, even shows or videos can give me something to hold onto. Looking at what someone has done or captured in their own medium can give me an idea for mine. A picture of a flower I’ve never seen before can give me a shape, angle, or color palette that I never would have come up with on my own.

Take a step back. Walk away from what you’re trying to do (temporarily). Breaking the vicious cycle that you put yourself in trying to come up with a solution can sometimes be the magic ticket you need to come up with something. There’s a reason we come up with so many great ideas in the shower, we’re not focused on one thing in particular. Make some coffee or tea, watch a stupid video on YouTube, do some yoga, take a shower, just do something that isn’t fixate on your project. It’ll make things go a little more smoothly.

Find something that works for you. While all the things I’ve listed above will definitely help you at some point, they won’t work every time. There’s a good chance they won’t work for everybody either. People all work differently and find inspiration from different sources. That’s the biggest takeaway from this, there’s a source out there that’ll be your biggest inspiration. Plus it gives you an excuse to explore things that maybe you wouldn’t have before because you’d been so focused on trying to work in one particular way.

October 25, 2018

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