“Do some magic!” People often think of a designer as a magician, as if we can always create an amazing design upon request. Of course, as idea generators, we may deliver a great idea in a split second, but sometimes designers can get stuck in the creative side of their work. It can become frustrating. When it happens, some may hit the design books or surf online resources to find inspiration, but if this is the only avenue one pursues when stuck, eventually this can become limiting, less creative and inefficient.
I would like to share some tips that both designers and nondesigners can use to exercise the brain, inspire creativity and come up with fresh ideas. All you need is a little kick to boost that brain metabolism.
- Embrace uncertainty.
The journey of an artist’s life is not always an easy one. Nothing is ever certain, and the nature of our job is to create something from nothing, often concerning things that are not so familiar to us. You are less likely to face a creative block when you get used to the feeling of uncertainty with unfamiliar projects. This is probably one of the most important steps in going through the hoops toward success. In philosopher Erich Fromm’s words: “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” That’s where I start to find my true inspiration.
- Erase and start over.
Ideas may come to mind when beginning a project, but when you get stuck, it is better to wipe out everything that you “think” you already know about the project. Sometimes it’s better to start over with a blank canvas. Try to look at the subject from different perspectives. When you consider that the sky is the limit, thinking outside of the design box is usually a start to unlocking the mind and filling it with new and exciting clues.
- Dare to go against the norm.
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Often, we tend to go with the familiar, but heading outside the norm can inspire us further. Begin by starting a list of questions: What if? What if NOT? Perhaps you need to deny the facts so you can discover new ideas. It will free the mind to go beyond what is already known. You must be flexible. Don’t always go from A to Z, but try going from Z to A. Be a rebel. Start a trend. Become a leader. Let your mind wander.
- Brainstorm efficiently.
Begin brainstorming by making a list. Never let an idea slip away, no matter how small, even if it doesn’t seem relevant to the puzzle you’re putting together. Brainstorming should never be about making judgments on ideas. Every thought should be considered as a “maybe” and not ever a “yes” or “no.” However, as you start this process, you will become more efficient in collecting puzzle pieces by considering what it’s about and what’s behind the meaning. By focusing deeper, over and over again, and then filtering and refining the process, you will get a clear picture.
- Get a different view.
When you get into a project, your focus can sometimes become centered on the small details, which may cause you to miss the big picture. Take a step back and share your ideas and creative process with others to get a different perspective. Ask them what they think, how they see it, what comes to mind. Seeking out a group of designers will give you fresh ideas, but don’t limit the people you speak with to only those who are artistic by nature.
- Think like a child, play like a child.
When we begin a new project, we often feel pressure to generate unique ideas and satisfy clients’ needs within a short deadline. However, consider how children play in their own world. They can just simply have a blast. I know it’s not easy, but try to learn how to handle the pressure by having some fun with it instead of stressing out.
- Expand your resources.
You might want to step away from the computer or the office and grab a sketchbook. If you never get out from behind the desk, you rarely get a fresh idea, so find a place or search out an activity that inspires you. Visit an art gallery, a bookstore, a library or even a craft store. You must have creative momentum to get you to the end result, but you must not wait for inspiration to come to you. Taking on a new venture will also facilitate the mind’s creative side.
Coming up with creative ideas requires a lot of concentration and mental energy. Instead of staring at the computer screen, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Meditation will not only help you relax and clear your mind, but will also give you a chance to seek out new and inspiring ideas behind what you can see.
- Indulge yourself.
Everyone has a guilty pleasure. When you’re happy, you’ll be at ease, aware of the other senses, and heighten your imagination. You should indulge in your own desires every so often to boost the creative energy. Maybe yours is eating ice cream with a double chocolate brownie, drinking a Starbucks Frappuccino loaded with whipped cream, having dinner at the fancy restaurants, drinking a glass of wine, going to a movie, or having a massage. Your indulgent happy moment will inspire imagination.
- Build your creative muscle.
Becoming a mature designer doesn’t happen in one day. It requires a lot of time and dedication, but it entails a lot of failure as well. You are born with an artistic mind and a passion for design, but you have to build it and make it stronger until it becomes a part of you. Just like exercising our physical bodies, you must exercise the creative muscle daily. Start looking at objects differently. Appreciate and enjoy your surroundings. Figure out how you can use things in ways that they are not necessarily meant to be used. Pay attention to the greatest and latest design trend. Bring your sketchbook everywhere. Collect objects that inspire you. Think outside the box.
As designers, we do NOT want to be labeled as pixel pushers. We are pioneers, problem solvers, rebels with a cause. Even though uncertainty, fear or a creative block may seem to strike at any time, you will eventually find ways to untangle the mess that sometimes tries to hold us back. Never forget: If you are facing a creative block, it means you are only a few steps away from creating a masterpiece.