Six Ideas For Breaking A Creative Block

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creative blockSo you’ve a new client on the books, you’re excited and raring to go. You grab your pencil and sketchpad or you flick on the computer, fire up Photoshop and … blank. Blank paper, blank screen. Several cups of coffee and a few bars of chocolate later, the scene hasn’t changed too much.

Most of us want to create a great design, one that we can be proud of and one that the client can be proud of. And as creative folk, we don’t want to replicate our last “great design.” Pressure starts to build and you start to wonder about your ability to do the job. You find yourself surfing aimlessly for long periods through CSS galleries, but nothing is inspiring you. How can you get over this hill?

I don’t have a definitive answer that will work for everyone, but I do have some suggestions from my own experience, talking to other designers and books (before the Internet there was something called books). Assuming that you have done some planning and have figured out what your client wants and needs, and what the competitors are doing, it’s time to kick some creative block bottom.

  1. Get your ideas onto paper.
    The first hurdle people face is trying to get something, anything, out of their head and onto that piece of paper. I recommend to my students that they always start with paper, no matter how much they love Photoshop, Illustrator or whatever program they design in. You can get 5 ideas onto paper in 5 minutes. How many ideas can you put together in Illustrator in that time? It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw, just scribble, sketch, doodle, write ideas, go in whatever direction you want. Distill your thoughts. Mindmaps are great for this.
  2. Start with broad strokes.
    When you’re designing a site, it’s not necessary to decide on your font face as a starting point. The fine details like this can be filled in later. Think about the big picture. What does the website need to achieve? How many sections are going to be on the site? Start chipping away on these blocks and you’ll find the path gets a bit smoother.
  3. Talk to other people.
    If you’re working by yourself, the world of creative block can be a lonely place. Forums, such as the one here at SitePoint, are stuffed to the gills with helpful people. Ask a question. I also find Twitter invaluable. I’ve made contacts through Twitter that I would never have made otherwise. There are people that I can Direct Message and ask a question or ask them to take a look at something I’m working on.
  4. Switch projects.
    This might seem counter-productive when you’re trying to get something new started, but if you’ve spent a lot of time stuck in a hole, you need to get out of it and get a new perspective. Working on, and thinking about, something completely different can sometimes be enough to break the block.
  5. You might just be bored.
    If you find yourself working on the same type of design over and over, of course you may be reluctant to get going on the same thing again. This is where personal projects are important. Recharging your creative batteries on your own small jobs can get you motivated on working for others. I design t-shirts and take photographs to fulfill my creative needs without stress.
  6. Just keep going.
    Seriously, what’s the alternative? You’re not going to let a blank screen stop you creating the next great design, are you?
  7. How do you guys get over your creative blocks? I’d love to hear.

    Image Credit: Carlos Baonas

Jennifer FarleyJennifer Farley
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Jennifer Farley is a designer, illustrator and design instructor based in Ireland. She writes about design and illustration on her blog at Laughing Lion Design.

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