How to Get Through Designer’s Block

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How long have you been staring at that blank space on your screen? The sad truth is that everyone in every creative field will get that familiar mental block from time to time – the one that slows your productivity to a crawl.

You could sleep on it – but that’s maybe not an option when your deadline is looming on the horizon and your client keeps looking at their watch.

Here are a few things which have helped me in the past when I’ve been struck down by the dreaded designer’s block.

Cheer yourself up

Feeling frustrated? That bad feeling might actually be harming your creativity. Studies have shown that being down in the dumps makes you less open to fresh ideas, so you’re more likely to just stick to the things that are familiar to you.

Take a short break, and instead do something that makes you happy. Listen to a song you haven’t heard in a while. Watch a funny Youtube video. Make yourself a hot chocolate, with cream – and sprinkles. Whatever you do, don’t get caught up in your break – you’ll never defeat that designer’s block if you never actually work!

Go for a stroll

Getting up and stretching those legs in the great outdoors can be a great way to break through that design block. Like the previous tip, this works by raising your mood; the exercise will stimulate the natural release of endorphins, morphine-like chemicals which make you feel more chilled and positive.

The change of surroundings will also hopefully provide some much-needed inspiration. Make a point of studying everyday outdoor objects more closely. Take in the shapes and colours of the roads, houses, street signs, cars, traffic lights – all the things which usually just make up the backdrop of your route.

But don’t bring binoculars. You might look a bit strange.

Try a new tool

A good craftsperson never blames their tools, of course – but using the same ones over and over can suck the opportunity for artistic inspiration out of the window. Introducing a new toy into your work process can help to get the creative juices flowing.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive new gadget. Try a different brush preset. Try a different type of adjustment layer. Take a ‘bad’ design technique (such as a drop shadow, or Comic Sans text) and explore it more thoroughly. Download some free design software and see what you can make using its simplified features. You could even grab a pen and paper and start doodling.

Call up your contacts

Whenever you network, take note to build connections with your competitors. That way, whenever you’re really stuck for inspiration, you can put your heads together to come up with a solution – and as they say, two heads are better that one.

A fellow designer can approach a task without the creative exhaustion that you’ve suffered from attempting it over and over. Just make sure you remember to return the favour, or you can forget getting help from them again.

Don’t fear the delete button!!

This is more of an extreme measure, for when you’re suffering from hardcore design block. But when you’ve been struggling with a part-finished design for a long time and you simply can’t get anywhere with it, it may be more sensible to start again from scratch.

Weigh up your options before doing this. It makes sense to scrap a logo which is only a third done – not so much an entire half-finished website.

The title of this tip is a little hyperbolic – make sure you save your existing design and save it for later before you click that ‘New Project’ button. You never know when your previous design could come in handy later, or when inspiration will strike and save the design from the scrapheap.

What tips have helped you out with your own design block? Add your piece of advice using the comments section below.

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