The Edit Blog

How to overcome designer’s block

ARTICLE BY Abby Rose
READ TIME: 3 mins
28th January 2019

Designer’s block can be caused in numerous ways: sometimes we become locked into a way of approaching a project and struggle to think of new solutions, sometimes the stress of too much work stifles creativity, or sometimes we’re working in a routine that’s not suited to our needs.

Whatever causes you the most aggravation while designing, try some of our effective methods below to find out what works for you when beating that designer’s block.

Procrastinate.

Consider what it is you need to achieve, read through your brief, and then walk away and leave your work as it is. Take a break, go on a walk, or do something mindless like housework; your brain is working out the answers subconsciously and you will feel refreshed and ready to focus when you return.

“Best thing is to be pro-active and not let the situation engulf you,” says illustrator Johanna Basford. “Get out, move, flick through some magazines, visit a gallery, meet a friend, read a book, walk in the park. Just do something. I find that once you step away from that empty page, you soon start to imagine ways of filling it.”

Seek new surroundings.

In a similar but more permanent vein to the above, finding yourself in new surroundings provides an unlimited abundance of new ideas and provides you with immediate inspiration.

Travel is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to fuel the imagination but if this isn’t on the cards, simply altering your working environment will help, whether it means working remotely or in a different room to your usual.

Create something terrible.

Stop worrying about creating something perfect the first time around and just get started.

“Sometimes, starting out by coming up with the worst solution can help you overcome inertia. The idea is to at least get started,” says hand lettering artist Sean McCabe.

Even if your first iteration isn’t something you want to use in the end, you at least have something to work with and can alter it as many times as you need. Sometimes a blank canvas is the most intimidating part of the creative process and you just need to push beyond that.

Find what works for you.

It’s important to acknowledge ideal working conditions vary from one person to the next. If you come up against designer’s block it may be you’re trying to force yourself to work in a routine that you’re not compatible with.

Perhaps you’re more creative in the mornings, or at night, under pressure, with a strict routine, or with no routine at all. Is there a pattern to when your creative block crops up? Figure out what works best for you and apply where possible.

Painter Audrey Kawasaki says she struggles to sit still and concentrate for a long period of time, but podcasts tend to keep her in place.

“For years, I would just have music on headphones, but for a while now I’ve been addicted to various podcasts of informative shows, stories, and ideas,” she reveals. “Working while listening to these keeps my conscious mind stimulated in a different way and seems to let my creative/visual side run loose and work without worry.

“Disconnecting from life’s daily distractions, and sort of separating myself into two halves feels like it’s been the best tactic for me to almost feel meditative while I paint.”

Capitalise on your subconscious.

Utilise the creativity of your subconscious by writing or sketching any ideas that come to you at unusual moments or while drifting in or out of sleep.

“The best ideas often come when doing completely random, uncreative tasks,” says Johanna Basford, so make sure to capture them as they come to you.

Use a moodboard.

If you’re feeling excited and inspired by a project in the beginning stages, make sure to capture all your ideas in a moodboard so you can keep referring to them throughout the process. The likelihood is your vision will become blurred while you move through the project, so having a moodboard to look back over will really help you stay focused and keep those great, early ideas in sight.

Don’t rush yourself.

Allowing yourself time to think about what you want to create is as important as the creating itself. If you’re not sure where to start, simply look online for inspiration. Keep a bookmark of inspirational sites and blogs (like Awwwards for web design) and allow yourself the headspace to browse for ideas.

Inspiration doesn’t just have to come from a specific area of design either; you could look at photography, fashion, or even beyond that to designs within your environment.

Personal wellbeing.

“Whenever I feel like I’m in some sort of ‘rut,’ it’s usually just being distracted or worried about something that’s not relevant to the piece I’m working on,” says painter Audrey Kawasaki.

Perhaps your mind isn’t on the task at hand because there are more pressing personal or emotional issues taking its place. Maybe you have issues with your partner, a family member, or a neighbour, or perhaps you’re overrun and stressed out from taking on too much work.

If this is the case, try not to put extra pressure on or criticise yourself when you have other issues to deal with. Take time out to switch off and look after yourself, and return to your work when your energy is fully restored.

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