We’ve all been there, haven’t we? You sit there at your desk with a blank piece of paper, or perhaps a new document on the monitor, in front of you—perhaps you’re about to begin on a new brand identity project—and you stare at it and… nothing… happens…
Minutes turn can turn into hours, which then give way to days and before you know it entirely new civilisations have formed at the bottom of your coffee cup and you still haven’t produced anything.
Frustrating, I know.
In light of this, I’ve decided to share a few little tips with you that I know have helped me in times of mental blockage.
Import, Don’t Recycle
The header above is one of my favourite quotes from best-selling author Terry Pratchett and I’ve held it true to my heart for a long time. It is, I feel, one of the keys of creativity. You can only gain limited inspiration from admiring the work of those greater than you yet who are still in the same field of design. You end up recycling ideas and concepts that you’ve learned from others until eventually stagnation, dissatisfaction and a mental block occurs.
Break this jam by seeking inspiration in other design fields or entirely separate sources altogether. Go for a walk in a park you’ve not explored before. Read a book you’ve never read before. Play a video game. Listen to some new music. Delve into art you’ve never studied. Go to the opera. If you’re a logo designer, dive into the works of famous poster artists. I know I personally gained enormous inspiration after a recent drought through an in-depth study of famous Swiss style typographers and poster artists. The world is literally full of inspiration, waiting for you to feast your eyes and ears on. Drink it in!
I also find inspiration in nature quite a lot. The photo above, for example, is one I took whilst exploring the beautiful scenery found in Williamson Park, Lancaster.
Stress can do all sorts of things to the human body—back pains, headaches, The Dreaded Greying Of The Hair—but it’s also amazing what stress can do to the mind and your flow of creativity.
Now, I fully admit to being a bit of a hippy. There’s no shame in that. And I find that if you’ve got a lot on your plate, managing workloads, deadlines, finances etc., stress can leap on you and stifle the very thing that you, as a designer, rely on for a living: creativity.
For me, meditation is a brilliant way to relax, but I can appreciate that it’s not everybody’s cup of tea or hot beverage of your choice. So, firstly, find an activity that helps you to relax. Secondly, make time for it. As designers we all lead very busy lifestyles, but if you can’t find the time to relax then you may end up paying for it in aches, pains, a distinct lack of creativity and, if left unresolved, loss of business.
Developing a strong sense of self-discipline is, I feel, key to maintaining a consistent flow of creativity. A good piece of advice I recently read came from Vineet Kothari in an article he wrote for inspiredology.com:
But you should never stop working. Producing mediocre designs is better than producing nothing at all.
These are wise words, I feel. Very quickly a link needs to be established between being able to consistently create and putting bread on the table. If you’re stuck in a rut, and you need to be getting work done, force yourself. Get a pen and paper and sketch out whatever pours forth from your head. It doesn’t have to be incredible work, but the mere act of “exorcising” these ideas can kindle the embers of creativity and help you to develop self-discipline along the way. If you still can’t produce work, edit previous designs. The point is to keep working. This will develop your sense of self-discipline and stop you lingering over why you’re having a creative clog.
I hope my little tips help you out but I’m curious: what do you do to unblock creative jams? I’m very interested to hearing your opinions and tips.
Ian Cylkowski aka Izo
Logo & Brand Identity Design
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