Design insights & tutorials.

4 Tips to Combat Creative Block

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lightbulbman3.jpgI was asked a question recently how we keep the creativity flowing at Go Media and not get bored, uninspired, and lazy. Well, we have a handful of designers here and they’re often working on a variety of different jobs at any given time. So things are usually really busy and it’s hard to get lazy. But when we are given the job to come up with something creative, and we’re feeling uninspired, here are somethings that seem to do the trick:

1) Coffee or other stimulant. I’m not a regular coffee drinker but if I make a trip to my favorite coffee shop, I usually have a bunch of creative ideas and motivation. But I must not be distracted with other things because I’ll end up freakin’ out and working on 5 things at once and my focus will be lost. But if I have time to work on that ONE project that I need to be creative on, this almost always helps. I hate to rely on caffeine sometimes, but it’s usually that extra boost to get my natural creativity flowing again.

2) Change of scenery. If you have a laptop, move somewhere different. Go outside! Go to a coffee shop. Change your surroundings somehow. Even if you have a desktop, go for a walk and come back. This usually clears the cobwebs and puts your focus back on track.

3) Surf the web for inspiration. Tons of sites out there, tons of amazing designers. Find those that inspire you and admire their work for a bit.

4) Try to do something different. Don’t stick to your same design routine. Try new styles, that will spike your creative thought process. It will prevent you from slipping into old habits and get your brain working again.

Also, check our comments for more suggestions on staying inspired and if you have any suggestions feel free to add them!

About the Author, Jeff Finley

I'm a partner at Go Media, a Cleveland web design and development firm. We also specialize in print design and branding. I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and wrote the book Thread's Not Dead, teaching artists and designers how to start a clothing company. In my spare time, I write songs and play drums in Campfire Conspiracy. I'm a happy husband and an aspiring b-boy and lucid dreamer.
Discover More by Jeff Finley

Discussion

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  • adam

    Jeff, this is a great list! I’ve read that in large advertising agencies creatives often spend the workday at a film festival, or hiking, etc in order to get juiced up for a new campaign.

    I think your “try something different” recommendation includes trying different media, but that seems like the best route to get inspired. Going from pen tool to pencil to watercolor to photography…

    One other thing I’ve done more than once is to artificially stimulate an emotion that might help in the creation process. In other words, I convince myself that I have just fallen in love, or have just experienced the death of a loved one, or whatever it is that could break me out of a rut.

    Anyway, this is a an awesome list, and a great title.

  • adam

    Jeff, this is a great list! I’ve read that in large advertising agencies creatives often spend the workday at a film festival, or hiking, etc in order to get juiced up for a new campaign.

    I think your “try something different” recommendation includes trying different media, but that seems like the best route to get inspired. Going from pen tool to pencil to watercolor to photography…

    One other thing I’ve done more than once is to artificially stimulate an emotion that might help in the creation process. In other words, I convince myself that I have just fallen in love, or have just experienced the death of a loved one, or whatever it is that could break me out of a rut.

    Anyway, this is a an awesome list, and a great title.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Jeff

    yeah Adam, those are great too!

  • http://www.gomedia.us Jeff

    yeah Adam, those are great too!

  • http://www.78republic.com Matt

    Music helps a ton too. Especially ambient music, like Tycho. (http://tychomusic.com/)

  • http://www.78republic.com Matt

    Music helps a ton too. Especially ambient music, like Tycho. (http://tychomusic.com/)

  • Shea

    i go to http://www.gomediazine.com

    that website helps me alot ….LOL
    and my ipod

    keep up the good work

  • Shea

    i go to http://www.gomediazine.com

    that website helps me alot ….LOL
    and my ipod

    keep up the good work

  • http://www.williambiwer.com Bill

    I tend to stare into space when I hit a block. Just sit back relax start thinking about random things and as a designer I tend to get that light bulb over my head. I also like to take a walk or if its Friday get the hell out of dodge and do something completly unrelated to work.

  • http://www.williambiwer.com Bill

    I tend to stare into space when I hit a block. Just sit back relax start thinking about random things and as a designer I tend to get that light bulb over my head. I also like to take a walk or if its Friday get the hell out of dodge and do something completly unrelated to work.

  • Guido

    @Matt

    great reply!

    yesterday I had a major non-creative loop for like 4 hours! :( and I did all the above, got some food, watched a poker game, used my paper and pencil and I looked trough portfolios, spend an hour on deviantart but still I couldn’t get the mind spinning again so eventually I went to bed :P
    I talked about this with my teacher and she told me that sometimes you just can’t help it.. Is this your opinion also or do you guys think there are other ways to become creative again?

  • Guido

    @Matt

    great reply!

    yesterday I had a major non-creative loop for like 4 hours! :( and I did all the above, got some food, watched a poker game, used my paper and pencil and I looked trough portfolios, spend an hour on deviantart but still I couldn’t get the mind spinning again so eventually I went to bed :P
    I talked about this with my teacher and she told me that sometimes you just can’t help it.. Is this your opinion also or do you guys think there are other ways to become creative again?

  • adam

    Guido,

    Was the creative drought on your mind while watching the poker game?

    If I am having a really, really bad time (like you describe), I try to do something that will consume my thoughts – especially if it is something that needs to get done anyway and I’ve been putting it off. Reading, other analytical homework, or chores might qualify.

    But yea, sometimes nothing works.

  • adam

    Guido,

    Was the creative drought on your mind while watching the poker game?

    If I am having a really, really bad time (like you describe), I try to do something that will consume my thoughts – especially if it is something that needs to get done anyway and I’ve been putting it off. Reading, other analytical homework, or chores might qualify.

    But yea, sometimes nothing works.

  • John

    Jeff,

    It’s really awesome that you guys take the time to help other designers out. I don’t think there’s enough people out there willing to “share the knowledge & wealth” and treat the design world as a brotherhood.

    Y’all have become one of my biggest inspirations, not just because of your talents, but because you share your style, techniques, and any other knowledge you may have with anyone and everyone. Y’all rock.

    Oh, and as far as “creative block” – we all have those days and I think your suggestions are perfect. Music is always something I can rely on to get my creative turned back on. I just shut my eyes (as long as I’m not driving, lol) and crank it up. Great post man!

  • John

    Jeff,

    It’s really awesome that you guys take the time to help other designers out. I don’t think there’s enough people out there willing to “share the knowledge & wealth” and treat the design world as a brotherhood.

    Y’all have become one of my biggest inspirations, not just because of your talents, but because you share your style, techniques, and any other knowledge you may have with anyone and everyone. Y’all rock.

    Oh, and as far as “creative block” – we all have those days and I think your suggestions are perfect. Music is always something I can rely on to get my creative turned back on. I just shut my eyes (as long as I’m not driving, lol) and crank it up. Great post man!

  • Guido

    adam,
    I kind of like the poker game and like to try to think what they think, if you can follow me, but yeah maybe I was still thinking about it a little.. but because I was honest against my teacher I got an extra week to complete it!

    And yeah John says it perfectly! I watch this site everyday, even without the an update!

  • Guido

    adam,
    I kind of like the poker game and like to try to think what they think, if you can follow me, but yeah maybe I was still thinking about it a little.. but because I was honest against my teacher I got an extra week to complete it!

    And yeah John says it perfectly! I watch this site everyday, even without the an update!

  • Rui Melo

    4 simple steps that truly work, good read for those on the brink of madness.

    What I find helps best is the scenery change. Especially with the ever evolving corporate world where the average day cubicle zombie can now venture off outside with a handy laptop, and stay connected through Wi-Fi. Not only does this apply to the creative world, but generally every aspect of well, anything.

    I find now, that everywhere I go, everything I see, I can visualize pictures within the creases of curtains, or in the foil of a burger. Getting “breathing” room is essentially a very important aspect to keeping your designs fresh, not to mention actually feeling good with what your doing.

    One of my most frequent solutions to getting rid of shitty mammoth blocks, rip a piece of paper out, and just doodle. Nothing related, just, doodling.

  • Rui Melo

    4 simple steps that truly work, good read for those on the brink of madness.

    What I find helps best is the scenery change. Especially with the ever evolving corporate world where the average day cubicle zombie can now venture off outside with a handy laptop, and stay connected through Wi-Fi. Not only does this apply to the creative world, but generally every aspect of well, anything.

    I find now, that everywhere I go, everything I see, I can visualize pictures within the creases of curtains, or in the foil of a burger. Getting “breathing” room is essentially a very important aspect to keeping your designs fresh, not to mention actually feeling good with what your doing.

    One of my most frequent solutions to getting rid of shitty mammoth blocks, rip a piece of paper out, and just doodle. Nothing related, just, doodling.

  • Corey

    It may sound degenerate, but I find a shot or two of good alcohol really helps me get a perspective change and to relax a little hehe. Im not a professional designer, but I have been trying to learn, and this site is so awesome. Thank you for all you give :)

  • Corey

    It may sound degenerate, but I find a shot or two of good alcohol really helps me get a perspective change and to relax a little hehe. Im not a professional designer, but I have been trying to learn, and this site is so awesome. Thank you for all you give :)

  • B

    Playing also works too. Try to play a while in your xbox or any gaming console you like. If you don’t have any, try online games.

    Games are also a good place to see cool designs which may help you.

  • B

    Playing also works too. Try to play a while in your xbox or any gaming console you like. If you don’t have any, try online games.

    Games are also a good place to see cool designs which may help you.

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  • Dan

    Excellent job..
    dizi izle