5 Steps to Break Through a Creative Block

We all get into a comfortable place, especially when it’s the same routine Monday through Friday, nine to five. Have you ever realized as you’re designing a layout for one of your clients that it is starting to look strikingly similar to the one you just created last week for a different client? We’ve all been there, and once you realize it, you might try changing colors and moving elements around, and yeah, it could probably pass, but deep down, you know it’s lacking and you definitely know your creative director won’t let it slide.

I’ve started to feel like this lately with the gloominess of an early winter settling in fast. The nights grow longer and my creative spark is starting to fizzle. When there’s a push from project managers to get things done quickly, it’s difficult to allow yourself to take a step back and get your creative juices flowing rather than just going through the motions. So, how do you put a stop to this monotony mindset? Be proactive—intentionally break out of your routine to expand creativity when boredom sets in.

After gaining some inspiration from several sources, I’ve put together a five-step plan that’s easy enough for any stuck designer to enact. Let’s dive in.

Five Steps to Break Your Creative Road Block

Step 1: Take a walk

To get moving before sitting down to ruminate on an idea is extremely beneficial, even just for five minutes. It clears your mind and you may even be inspired during the journey. An article in Psychology Today states that walking helps boost creativity by 60%.  

Step 2: Get inspiration away from the computer screen

It’s easy to rely on Pinterest or Behance to grab some fresh creative spark… but when was the last time you opened up a book? I have a few gems I’ve collected over the years, including my favorite, New Vintage Type by Steven Heller and Gail Anderson, that showcases unique posters and other designs created with typography inspired from the past. It’s refreshing and unique, and it helps break away from current, overused design trends. Another resource I love are men’s magazines. Surprisingly, the design in men’s magazines like Men’s Journal is crisp, utilizing great type and visual elements that have inspired me to create innovative layouts.

New Vintage Type Book

Step 3: Talk to someone outside your department

Collaborating with a co-worker who doesn’t know anything about the project or even a friend outside of the field can help bring out-of-the-box ideas into your field of view. They may be in the demographics of the problem you’re trying to solve, so they can offer insight into the proposed solution. Even if you don’t reach that “ah-ha” moment, you’re still churning those gears by talking through the problem.

Step 4: Switch to a new project

Work on a different project if you have the time. Switching things up will give your brain a rest and allow you to see the project in a new light when you get back to it. If you don’t have something else lined up, try one of these fun creative exercises that can rev your artistic engine.

Step 5: If all else fails, try the SCAMPER Method

I recently ran across the SCAMPER method (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Another Use, Eliminate and Reverse) for creative thinking, created by Alex Osborne in the 1950s. Although it was created to help innovate a product or service, you can apply it to design. Click here for a list of questions you can ask yourself about how you can change certain processes and effectively apply to portions of your design or design elements.

What helps you discover creative inspiration?

We’d love to hear your secrets! Drop a comment below with some of your best creativity-sparking ideas, and tag us at different points in your creative workflow!