Every graphic designer, artist/writer/blogger hits that massive brick wall periodically where it seems as if you draw a complete blank. Definitely been there…So here is what I do, it’s far from perfect but hope it helps you out.
1. Start Fresh – Eliminate The Clutter
This is almost a given if you are surrounded by junk, random papers, dust, etc. Your thought process is almost guaranteed to be blocked, therefore stifling your creative flow. When it comes to graphic design and generating new ideas the creative process is never the same, the pathway to a solution requires clear concise thinking. Keeping an organized workspace will keep you one step ahead of the game with fresh ideas. Get a compressed gas duster, spray down your monitor keyboard and mouse, clear out your entire workspace and make it happen!
2. Get Up And Get Out
Sometimes changing your environment or surroundings can blitz a hot idea or concept… This always works well for me as soon as I hit the streets, walk down my block or hop on the train, I see something or someone who inspires me to take action whether it’s taking a photo of a billboard or sketching out a few ideas from a situation I just encountered. Being outside getting fresh air especially on a nice day can free your mind… Being around like minded, positive creative individuals is always inspiring. Go to a local event meet new people and get new perspectives on life in general, the more people you meet the more ideas you can draw from. Hit the museum or the zoo; find out which days are free in your city.
3. Exercise – Stay Healthy
Working as a freelance graphic designer and sitting at a desk hours at a time, it’s pretty easy to get fatigued. Take some time out to stretch, if you aren’t the ‘gym type’ take a walk in a park or yourneighborhood for 15-20 minutes. Invest in a jump rope… a good friend and fitness coach once told me that jumping rope for 10 minutes (which is a long time btw.. try it) is just as good as running for 30 minutes! Just start moving to get your blood and energy level flowing and the graphics will flow as well.
4. Figure Out Where And When You Work Best
If you have a job you may not always have a choice in the matter, but ultimately you need to know when you are most productive. For some it may be between 4a.m. – 8a.m. or you may discover that design ideas and creative juices are solid when you’re working at a coffee shop or library. Sometimes there may be too many distractions if you work from home or have a home office. Learn to turn off your phone, stop texting and shut down your email for 3 or 4 hours at a time if possible. Learning how to control and maximize your time and productivity while being consistent is a formula for success. Find out what suits you best.
5. Planning Is Crucial
Not having a plan of action or “to do list” is a blueprint for failure. Everyone has their own opinion about how long your list should be or the priorities set in your plan of action. Personally I try not have more than 2 – 4 items on my list daily which may seem small but realistically over time you will get more accomplished and clear items off your list fast. I like to focus on putting out quality product and projects that will deliver quality results as oppose to producing a massive amount of projects which are less than. Diversify your plan of action so you will not get bored. For instance you may spend an hour or two writing a quality post for your blog, for the next few hours you may want to hit the streets and do some research taking photos or videos for your post, another hour you may use to design some killer logos or ads to promote your business.
6. Build An Arsenal of Graphics
There are an abundance of vector graphics or stock photo related sites online that are excellent and can save you a lot of time but nothing beats having your own original arsenal you can pull from or refer back to. You could add this to your ‘to do list’ and build it over time. Hit up your local flea market, mine is Brooklyn Flea and you are bound find some hidden gems. A designer friend told me she got a crate of vintage vogue mags from the 1950′s for little or nothing. A few of my fave spots are Strand Books, Rizzoli Bookstore and Housing Works. I’m not into stamps but I picked up this insane out of print stamp book that has some wicked graphics I use for inspiration or integrate into new media or other forms of design.
7. Typography and Fonts
When it comes to communication and design I’m a huge fan of typography. Check out some graphic design magazines or just magazine covers in general, pages and posters for ideas and variations in type, layout and font usage. There are countless graphic design logos, type, images and symbols placed throughout your house tagged on everything from stereo speakers to canned goods in the kitchen. Type is an excellent tool for laying the groundwork of any graphics project, design or composition. Maybe I’ll do a post one day on the “Anatomy of Lettering”… I took an old vintage style monogram from a dated out of print alphabetic devices lettering book a few years back and transformed it into a t-shirt design. Look for it in the t-shirt category in the coming months.
8. Get a Second Opinion
If you are working on a tight deadline, before you complete your project it may be a good idea to solicit a fresh pair of eyes to review your work. When generating new concepts it’s always makes sense to test your findings with a trusted source or associate to make sure the design or graphic is 100%, meaning does it read well? And are you communicating a real solution visually? Working numerous hours at a time, it’s likely your vision will become impaired/cloudy (figuratively speaking) at some point, and what may appear accurate to you may not always be clear. Getting a second opinion and someone to review and test your ideas if you can’t, can save you time and money at the end of the day. It will also give you a new perspective and possibly a new take on your idea.
9. Current Events and Trends
Plug into the media and the news; find out whats trending with google.com/trends/hottrends also compare search volumes and patterns with google.com/insights/search. Find out what is getting a lot of traction and press in the media nationally or locally and see if you can somehow connect it with new website design ideas or graphic design ideas. Check out a new movie or watch TV for awhile…Research other design blogs for the best graphic design ideas, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, find something someone has done or created that got stellar reviews or recognition and use it to your advantage, don’t steal or jack their idea of course but learn from it or figure out how you could add a new component or angle to it for an absolute new design. Some people call it ‘knowledge arbitrage’.
10. Interview a Unique or Successful Individual
Reach out to someone in or outside of your network who is doing extremely well or is just someone you view as a unique individual and request an interview. This can be executed a number of ways; through phone, email, video, skype and even on a more subtle level as a lunch date. The key here if you get the appointment, is to be a great listener and to get someone who is working in design or an area of your interest directly or indirectly. Have a list of well thought out questions to ask and just focus and tune in.. this could create a whole series of new ideas and concepts and possibly even a new joint venture! You never know, people enjoy talking about themselves which leaves a huge opportunity for you to benefit from and receive true design knowledge and ideas that are priceless.