Whether you’re a seasoned creative director with layers of directs, or a college sophomore in design school with what feels like the most daunting deadline, (just an FYI you’re wrong, you’ve got it easy at the moment,) you know that a great design comes from a plethora of different ideas and inspiration. However, we all have that moment where we’re blank, staring at our artboard thinking, “Well… crap. I’ve got nothing.”
Cue the eye roll as you wonder if that light bulb will illuminate any time soon. Creatives are expected to come up with new and exciting solutions to a problem. Usually, that’s easier said than done.
Here are some helpful hints to pull you out of your design rut and encourage your “right brain” to turn the lights on.
1. Go back to research.
This is an initial step in any project. Good research is essential to all successful projects. Revisit the information that you have collected for a project and thoroughly sift through it. Look at past designs, see what the client’s competitors are doing and what a completely unrelated business is doing in the same location. Most importantly ask questions. With every piece of research, ask yourself why a certain decision was made, and what makes it effective or ineffective.
2. Books and magazines.
This is the optimal moment to pull out those design books that you couldn’t bear to sell back during design school. (When they are so beautiful, how can you?) Your professors, for the most part, knew what they were talking about. These are resources that were selected for your training and focus on design principles that should be consistently incorporated into all design applications. I personally find inspiration in looking at non-design related printed pieces such as newspapers and magazines. The interaction with the tactile nature of these things triggers more sensory receptors than a computer screen does. Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler is a personal favorite book.
3. Get outside and use your hands.
Step away from your computer and get outside. If you’re not digging the whole outdoors thing, leave your workspace. Get outside the normal confines that you typically confine your creative thinking to, and bring a sketchbook and pencil. Walk around, take notes, look twice, wander, and listen. The spacious studio can still be suffocating when you’re struggling to ignite fresh concepts.
4. Sign up for a workshop.
You’ve never learned enough, and should always seek new opportunities to gain new insight. Look for workshops that are different from ones you would normally seek. Breaking a habit or learning a new one challenges you to consider information differently.
5. Participate in local AIGA events or meetups.
Underutilized gems, local events are an awesome way to meet new people with both paralleled and contrasting ways of thinking. Get opinions, seek feedback, take critique well and try to work with new people. Collaboration is key in getting yourself out of your comfort zone.
6. Attend an exhibition.
Be it at a gallery, museum, or high school hallway, look at how someone else designs. Explore the technique of a different medium, get into another artist’s head, and figure out their process. There is something beautiful about the unrestricted expression of a novice artist’s work. Think about how you used to create without a process, without borders and rules. You just did it.
Get back to that state where you can’t write down your ideas fast enough. Find inspiration in everything, ask questions and pay attention to detail. Get out of the rut and get motivated.