Every graphic designer has to start somewhere. Inspiration does not grow on trees after all. While there are times when your capabilities overflow, there are also times when you feel like you have reached an impasse. Creativity, the very reason why you became a graphic designer to begin with, gradually becomes a burden.
There is much more to the design process than many of us believe. Just because you have an eye for design, that does not mean you can design anything you want at the drop of a hat. Design takes time and designers cannot place themselves in a box. Following the same patterns and designing with the same mindset time and time again may endanger creativity.
But then again, we all have our fair share of good days and bad days.
The Truth About Creativity Lulls
Rest easy because your graphic design slump – much like writer’s block – is normal. Not just once, you will continue to experience it for as long as you remain in the design field.
The good news is that there are ways to avoid or overcome creativity slumps. You never know how long it takes before ideas start flowing again.
In 2016, The Creative Group conducted a survey involving 800 professional designers. Respondents cited 3 main obstacles to creativity: tight deadlines (31%), company not willing to take design risks (30%) and repetitive projects or lack of project diversity (14%).
Designers should ideally work at a comfortable pace in a conducive environment. But it’s a different story when you’re in a team setting. You have deadlines to beat, design projects to deliver, company standards to mind, superiors hovering and clients to please.
How to Generate New Design Ideas
Rather than wait for your situation to improve – much to the detriment of your team – you may want to find a way out of your slump instead. Try meeting your team half way while being a productive designer at the same time.
These recommended techniques can help you stimulate your brain and generate design ideas quickly:
1. Use Mind Maps
Nothing beats training, or encouraging your mind to think. With mind maps, the sky’s the limit. You explore one idea after another until you can discern connections and patterns. It’s like laying your thoughts out in the open and seeing them take shape. Use these visual images to create new designs.
What’s great about mind maps is that you can do them at any design stage. You can also utilise it as reference from time to time just to get your creative juices flowing. Manual mind maps are good but you can opt to download apps if it is easier for you.
2. Recreate Your Environment
The environment matters when it comes to design. To some extent, companies give due deference to creative freedom. You should at least be able set up a work space that’s conducive to creativity and helps you design faster.
Decorate your walls with your favourite art works. Install colourful and interesting items on your desk. If you prefer a dimmer work environment, you can change the lighting on your station.
According to a behavioural scientist from the University of Texas, decorating your work environment, especially with flowers, generates ideas by 15 percent.
3. Establish a Thinking System
This system is optional. You’re free to choose easier and less time-consuming . However, if you prefer a methodical approach with the end goal of remaining productive despite being in a slump, structuring your design process may work to your advantage.
Seasoned design professionals recommend one effective system. Called Six Thinking Hats, this method stimulates ideas by associating facts, feelings, negative and positive thoughts, items and more with six different colours.
For instance, white is associated with facts, green for random ideas and red for emotions. You create a debate within yourself and resolve them by enumerating your resolutions under the colour blue. Thanks to this colour-aided thinking system, many designers have overcome creativity slumps.
4. Engage in Extracurricular Activities
When asked by The Creative Group how they overcome creative blocks, 80% of respondents said they participate in outside activities or pursue hobbies. Another study shows that extracurricular activities contribute to employees’ work productivity.
Without sufficient inspiration, working in the digital marketing or web design field can sap your creativity. But if you draw inspiration from your experiences outside of work, you expose yourself to new ways of designing. Hobbies and external interests expand your horizons, letting you think outside the box. Your experiences beyond work will add a fresh perspective to your usual methods.
5. Attend Design Expos, Conferences or Seminars
Slumps also happen when you are doing the same design or methodology over and over again. Designers need to connect with their community to know the latest design trends and choose what they can adopt. Exposure to designs you had not encountered before could break the cycle of monotony you might feel towards your job.
Participating in design expos, conferences or seminars give you a glimpse of how other designers master their trade. Moreover, you acquire information about design trends and incorporate them into your own designs.
Keep Moving Forward
While slumps are normal and no designer is immune to them, learning how to overcome them is important. Repeatedly using the same skill, perspective or approach can take a toll on your creativity. And when graphic designers feel stagnation, it affects the quality of their designs.
Do not wait for slumps to get the better of you. Waiting is counterproductive especially in a team setting. It will only prolong rather than resolve the situation.
Map out your challenges, diversify your environment and create a system that works for you. Have the initiative to develop yourself through hobbies, interests, conferences or new skills.
You have the discretion to approach your creativity slump however you want to. The goal is to keep moving forward. By not standing still, you break the monotony and find your rhythm in the often convoluted world of web graphic design.