By Frank Brault, Product Marketing Manager – Entertainment
I was working on a project the other day and I just couldn’t get it done. (Sometimes I even have trouble writing these articles.) I know that you’ve had those moments, too, where you just can’t think of what to do next with your design. Somehow we always manage to get through this, but it would help to have a few tips on how to avoid that panic you feel when you realize your brain just isn’t doing what you need it to, which is why this “Frankly Speaking” is all about getting past creative blocks.
Know When to Take a Break
Sometimes no matter how hard you work on something, or how much you try and force yourself to focus, you just can’t think of what to do next. That’s when you need to recognize that you’re not getting anywhere and take a break. Whether it’s for a few minutes, an afternoon, or even a few days, as long as some time remains before you have to deliver your project, taking a step back from your work and giving your brain time to think about other things will give you greater clarity when it comes to your current design problem. It takes some real courage to do this when you have a looming deadline and not working is the last thing you can afford to do, but I’ve found that my subconscious mind still keeps working on a problem even when I’m not.
Think Back to Your Original Idea
When you get to the point where you’re struggling with a project that you were once excited about, it can sometimes be because you’ve lost your initial creative vision. Whether you’ve tried to add too much to a design or you pivoted your creative direction without realizing it, taking a moment to think back to where and when that original inspiration hit you can help. By reflecting on your first concept, you’ll be able to realign your current goals with the ideas that first prompted you to start designing, which gives you a way to start working.
Go Against the Grain
Do the opposite of what you’ve been thinking. I know it sounds a little crazy, but hear me out. Turning your design upside down and inside out will help you come up with a totally different way of looking at your concept. And while scrapping all of what you’ve been doing isn’t advisable, following this train of thought can help you discover unexpected solutions. This kind of thinking can also work in group settings. If the whole group has a set idea and starts moving forward, it sometimes helps to think in a converse way, throwing out new ideas that challenge the way things are going. Even if the conversation you start just forces the group to defend their ideas, doing so can help everyone move past a creative block by thinking passionately about their project.
Look at What Others Have Done
Every idea has been pondered before, and with help from the Internet, you can just type in a description of the design problem you’re trying to solve and then scan through the pages. Once you’ve traveled down a few rabbit holes of thought and tested out some different search queries, let your mind go back to your design concept and view it through the filter of what you’ve learned. You’d be surprised how the way a designer approached something from far away can inform a project you’re creating.
Explain Your Project to Someone Who Doesn’t Know It
In explaining your design to someone who has no idea what you’re talking about, you’ll have to work on outlining your concept in clear, simple, and direct terms. Doing so forces you to consolidate your project into a few sentences, which can show you that your next steps are simpler than you thought. Also, the questions that are asked of you as you explain your ideas will help you see your project from different angles and develop new insights into your work.
So don’t panic! Go ahead and use these tips to find that creative spark you need to move forward with your next project. And if you have any tips of your own for getting past creative blocks, you can share them with me on Twitter at @FrankOnDesign.
This article first appeared in our bimonthly academic newsletter, For the Love of Design.