I’m sure all designers or illustrators have had a moment where it seems like there is just no new, fresh way to solve a design problem and it feels like you want to squeeze your head to find a creative idea.

I have been there and spent many nights staring at a blank page too. Throughout my design career I have figured out a couple of things that I think could be useful for designers going through a creative dry-spell.

Things that kill creativity

  • Stress
  • Tunnel vision
  • Lack of research
  • The Internet and other people’s work

Stress

When a deadline is looming and you are sitting with a blank page in front of you it almost feels as if your mind shuts down. First of all find out what is causing the stress. Is it too much work being piled on? Is a deadline too close? Make sure you space your projects out so that you are not under so much pressure.

Tunnel vision

If you work in a field where you often do the same kind of work it is easy to get stuck in a pattern and to end up with projects looking alike. I work on a lot of web design projects and I constantly need to make sure that every project is 100% unique. You don’t want to become a cookie cutter designer that just applies the latest trends to every design.

There is no better place to find unique solutions than in the real world. Look at how a problem is being solved in the real world and see if you can make a connection from there.

Try doing something totally different from your line of design now and then. If you work on websites everyday, try playing around with a different medium and see if that sparks something.

Lack of research

99% of the time I find that research can solve a creativity block. It’s all about getting as much information on the subject,client or problem and then making the connections from there.

Look at the kind of research that you are doing. You might need to go on site or have interviews or even visit the library to really get a fresh angle on something.

The Internet and other peoples work

I know the internet can be a wonderfull place with endless information and resources but it can also be a very limiting channel.

Most of us do a Google Images search to see what is out there when starting a project (go on, I know you do). That is really not the greatest way to start. An image search normally shows the most cliché results on a topic.

Other Internet resources like Dribbble and Behance can be great but be careful not to step into the copy/paste trap. When you are already stressed and pressured on a project it will be easier to just imitate a style or layout that you see and not investigate further. You also get limited to a specific channel and the work that gets displayed or curated there.

Rather use the internet as a secondary source of inspiration or to validate the originality of an idea.

Some tips and tricks

Here are some of the tips and tricks I use to keep myself on my toes and excited about projects:

Plan properly

Make sure you schedule your work in such a way that you have time to calmly think and work on a project. If this isn’t possible I find it best to divide the work that needs to be done into manageable chunks and then tackle each one from there. Essentially it comes down to breaking it down and then building the solution one block at a time.

Sleep on it

I find that doing some research the night before and then sleeping on it really helps my brain to go into a creative gear. Having time to just do research and not having the pressure of needing to start a design right away is great. Even with some tight deadlines I have spent time the night before on research and then got to a solution the next morning.

Look around you

When working in a digital format you can easily get sucked into just Googling a solution. Rather look at the world around you and try to find something that connects with your problem. Also try to look at completely unrelated objects or environments to see how you can bring them together.

Pen and paper

This applies especially to web based projects. Don’t get caught up in the digital format. Work with your hands, make things, draw it out. The best tools for creativity is still the good old pencil and paper. Make hundreds of small, quick sketches or layouts and once you find the one that you think works, make about 10 more. If it still works, you’ve got a winner!

Just start

One of the big problems is procrastination. Don’t blame procrastination on a creativity block. In most cases it’s all about doing. Getting started and drawing that first line might be what is hindering you. By doing research and sketching it out you get eased into the process.

I hope this was helpful in getting the creativity flowing!