We have all felt it before, the thing that no amount of caffeine, exercise, or meditation can seem to cure: designer’s block. The inability to just get things done. It can strike at the beginning of a project, the middle, or even the end, and you can all but guarantee that when it does, it will not let up easily.
But as dreaded as designer’s block can be, it is worth remembering that no designer is immune to it. So what is better than skirting around it? Planning for a way to deal with it when (not if) it comes knocking.
You might remembering pulling an all nighter for that High School exam or handing in a college paper just minutes before it was due. Even with weeks or months of time to prepare, many of us choose to function on the adrenaline of a time crunch. In fact, we often thrive on it. Having deadlines set in stone is a good way to kick procrastination to the curb and make sure that you stick to a rigid timeline.
If some of you do not work with clients and find it difficult to set deadlines, it could be a good idea to talk to people in your life who could help you stay accountable. As our community member Kat Lynas recommends, another course of action could be to reach out to a fellow designer who wants a support buddy, and you could check in with each other on a daily or weekly basis.
Recreate work from your favorite designers
Copying art for the purposes of learning can be incredibly valuable practice and help you get out of your mental fog. Many students around the world learn their craft by attempting to recreate the works of great artists, so why not go back to the basics? Our recommendation to you is to find a piece that you love and copy it. You never know when inspiration will strike, nor if this exercise will free your mind up to new styles, techniques, and possibilities.
Our Learning Hub also contains hundreds of free videos & written tutorials from a range of graphic designers, so you can learn from them and follow along as they create their pieces!
Talk to someone about it
If you find yourself at your desk for a majority of the day, it could be beneficial to get out of your environment and have conversations with people whose opinions you trust. We are social creatures at heart, but what is perhaps more important in this situation is that talking to others about our creative blocks can be the key to breaking them down. Some of our best ideas come from organic interactions with our friends or colleagues. So the next time you are experiencing designer’s block, grab a cup of coffee with someone and talk to them about the project you are stuck on. Or better yet, do not talk to them about it at all. Pushing it out of mind and being present for that meeting can be just what you need to reset your mind.
Go for a walk in nature
This tip is quite self-explanatory, but it can do wonders for your creativity. Not only does nature offer the best escape, it is also full of potential inspiration for shapes, color schemes, elements, patterns, textures, and quite simply, beauty. Instead of staring blankly at your screen and letting yourself overthink and negative self-talk, stretch your legs and do your best to put your concerns aside. If you can, bring a sketchbook or a camera (preferably not a distracting phone) to capture those little bits of inspiration you encounter throughout your walk.
Revisit your past projects
In an episode about creative block, our Honest Designers hosts discussed what they do when they hit that dreaded wall. Among their tips were: putting a time limit on looking at others’ work, avoiding negativity at the start of the day, and getting away from their desks. But perhaps most notably, they mentioned revisiting past designs with a fresh pair of eyes. They felt this could help put things into perspective, particularly when they feel at an all-time low.
Although you can be in a creative rut in the moment, it is worth looking back at your design portfolio to illustrate how far you have come. It might also bring back memories of times when you struggled to complete projects or felt creatively uninspired, and still managed to push forward. Our minds can convince us that we are are imposters, but looking back at our history can show us that we are constantly moving in a forward motion, even if at times we may feel stuck.
We hope these tips will help you next time you find yourself hitting a designing rut. However, if you would prefer to take preventative action against creative block, feel free to check out our article on 9 design micro-habits that will change the way you work!