Inspiration & Creative Block - Find it, Feel It, Keep it, Overcome It
There has been mornings where I have sat down in the studio with a list of projects but stared blankly at my screen having a complete “creative block” or feeling “uninspired". For anyone that communicates visually within their profession will know the exact feeling! Its frustrating, upsetting, tiring and deflating… but rest assured that It is very real and its part of being human.
When I first took the journey toward becoming a designer, the question of “where the hell do I draw inspiration from” was actually something I asked myself. When a connection wrote in last week to answer the following questions, I was very enthused and excited about sharing a few personal tips and tricks.
How do you continue to stay inspired with design? Where Do You Get Inspiration From? What do you do if you feel like you are hitting a creative block?
The word “inspiration” is defined as “ The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative” or “ a sudden brilliant or timely idea” and in short, I would agree.
With resources such as Pinterest and instagram, we are flooded with images of creative works, talents and ideas from all corners of the world, but while this is a great quick reference tool for mood boarding and alike, it is certainly not where I go to to “become inspired”. Inspiration is often a shaky work in the design industry and many mistake, overlook or tread a very risky line between plagiarism and inspiration so my advise to all reading this….look carefully into what you are creating, stay authentic and if you feel like you are copying something then its probably because you are.
How do you continue to stay inspired with design?
From a very young age, everything creative has grabbed my eye - from the facades on the old local bakeries and butchers to the design of the vinyl book wrapping over fellow students school books, I learnt early that design was everywhere. On a daily basis
Surround yourself with design that gets you excited. Set the scene! pin-boards, posters, journal, clippings, a well decorated notebook, new desktop background
Turn off the telly- Start designing or creating stuff for yourself just for the fun of it. Think up a cool business to create brand identity for, make some invitations, cook a new dish, draw a flower... just roll with it and enjoy those creative brain farts. Staying inspired is not something that just “happens” its something you need to constantly work at achieving! You need to seek, surround, search, summarise and of course…put into practice. It sounds crazy putting “inspiration” into practice but one only becomes inspired by something from being mentally stimulated and its what stimulates you that will impact the outcome.
Read- Whilst I have a huge appreciation and love for design reference books…I know this isn’t everyones cup of tea and area of interest! So in regards to reading…pick up a magazine that aligns with your jam or troll through online archives for blog posts that relate. Trust me…the written word is a powerful tool in stimulating very authentic visuals
Get Outside - This one is probably my favourite! Be inspire by nature, people, products, weather, sound, smell, sense… as patchy as that may sound, I can tell you right now, they all play a very big part in my everyday creative process.
Open your eyes- Look around you right now in your current environment…. there will be something that’s been designed. A flyer, a brochure, a sign, a chair, a pillow, or even this website itself! Look at these things and identify what you like about them and detach yourself from the real world for a moment and visualise what it took to make or design the thing in focus. Let's say there is a flyer infront of you… it will have branding, a colour palette, images, typography..consider all of those things and think about how or why the designer has chosen to combine those things to solve a problem or communicate a message.
Mix It Up - If you are a digital design junky..mix things up a little and go back to basics! Try different mediums to communicate your message.
Clear a space -Some of us do not have at the luxury of dedicating a whole room to our office, desk, studio or creative condo SO what I suggest is that you find your own “space”. A space could simply be the blank pages inside a journal that you dedicate to sitting down wherever you are and sketching ideas, it could even be a fresh external drive to hosts your digital content.. just clear away a space to fill and keep things organised.
Join Groups and communities -For some people groups and communities could be online facebook groups, whilst for others it could mean Wednesday evenings catch ups with the local business owners in town..it may even be signing up for a new online challenge! If an online creative challenge is something you would be after, then let me know! I would be happy to host one
Stay Healthy - Drink your water, move your toosh, eat raw and healthy foods, avoid sugars and processed goods! You need fuel to be fuelled 🙂 so choose carefully what powers you
Get Moody - Yeah ok you have probably heard the word “Mood Board” millions of times so I would encourage you to look at these how I do and call them "Compass Boards”. Regardless of what you are doing…. filming a clip, decorating a bedroom, writing a book, cooking a cake… a compass board is a very powerful reference tool to keep you in check over the duration and also communicate your message visually with clients or team members.
Jump onto the almighty pinterest and get your pin on or use the following template on canva to do little drop and drag where you can then export for save or print! Remember to make a copy so it saves to your account ( you may need to create one… but its free!) - Click on File found on the status bar. Select Make a copy. This will open a new window with the copy of your design saved to your account.
If you would like me to go into more depth about compass boards and how to compose one then let me know! More than happy to do an online tut or masterclass on this! Ask and you shall receive.
The word “inspiration” is defined as “ The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative” or a sudden brilliant or timely idea
Where Do You Get Inspiration From?
The first thing to remember is that inspiration will only come to a mind that is open to explore. As a designer, I work on a broad selection of projects weekly and inspiration is something that I have trained myself to find naturally… I find that my inspiration is sought during the “water” phase in my creative process click HERE where you can view more information on this. Now it's easy to say "get the pen and paper" out but the question I need to answer for you all is - knowing what the hell to even sketch down. Below are a few places I go to for inspiration
The Ocean, Outdoors and Nature - Get outside and open your eyes to the SMALL things that nature has to offer… The shapes, forms, textures, colours and composition of the environment around you
The Shops - When I am on a packaging job I like to go to a shop that the product would be offered at. Yes, I stand like a complete fool in the shop looking lost but what I am actually doing is taking in all of the current competitors, trends, styles, themes, strengths and weaknesses. This exercise is not about drawing inspiration from other packaging, it's about getting a feel for what’s needed in order for your design to stand within the current market.
Physical Elements - Almost every project is tied to one or a series of physical elements. Let's first take the “building” industry as an example - go to the shed or research the physical items within the industry, their forms, lines ad shapes. Lets take the alternative therapies sector next - I would look closer into the physical side of the natural based elements in the industry such as plants, earth etc
Emotional & Physical Elements - As above, every industry will have attachment to emotional and physical elements. Put yourself into that industry, into that job or infant of that product… how do you want to feel? what do you want to smell?. Now I won’t go too much into this as it is more a research based thing however I will emphasise the importance of not letting your personal or religious connotations get in the way. A good example of this would be that to you red may signify love and lust to some whilst to others it may just represent death or violence to others. Taking this last point into account you cannot and will not win everyone over but the key here is to revisit that ideal client or customer and align yourself closely to this.
Magazines - For me magazines are a great tool…. not so much for “inspiration” but as triggers to see what grabs my attention first. When I come across something in a magazine that grabs me, I stop and look further at why! So why did it grab me? was it the colour? composition? typography? was it the boldness or perhaps the minimalist approach.
The Seasons - Looking at the seasons is a great way to draw inspiration for design that is based partially around products, trends, events and schedules
Light - Look at the effects light has when it hits something! It can change the mood, the feel, the effect and the overall aesthetic of a complete project
Sound - Throw on some music that aligns with the project you are working on…you will be amazed how much power music has on your inspiration, mood and ability to be creative (just for the record I love tuning into Ziggy Alberts and Ben Howard! and would highly suggest)
Signage - Signage for me is a massive inspiration for many reasons. Just as the magazines, it s a good trigger to see what works and what doesn’t work and also inspires you to step away from the “mainstream” and inject something a little different into your work
Natural formations - I have kind of covered this one already but I find myself literally picking flowers, collecting shells, feeling rocks and photographing bark! all of those elements are key players in authentic design
Ok so now so in regards to the more “digital” forms of inspiration, I would suggest but not overly promote the below
Google - this is a great research tool and helps immensely when it comes to finding out more about your topic, you’r client, your audience and all fo those elements we spoke about above. I a huge fan of the thesaurus… call me a geek but that little weapon encourages me to think “beyond” the norm
Pinterest - Yes of course give this one a whirl! is really is like an endless visual archive. Pinterest is a great tool for creating compass board inspiration and gathering information to develop trigger boards for clients. Whilst I would not recommend Pinterest to inspire your project directly, I would highly recommend you use it to get yourself “in the zone”. So do I use Pinterest? shit yeah I love it! It really is a good way to get lost for a few hours and come out the other end inspired to better yourself and your work. visit the Barnacle & Lime Pinterest HERE
Other great sources are of course dribbble, bechance, instagram, made by folk, adobe, design week, art of the menu, mind sparkle, the design files, creative boom, AGDA… the list goes on!
What do you do if you feel like you are hitting a creative block?
A very real, relevant and great question! Creative block is painful and it can really do some damage both mentally, physically and financially if you let it overtake. When I hit a creative block, I use the below methods to shake it off and push on through!
Walk away - as soon as you feel like you are bumping heads with a project, get up and walk away. Regardless of if you are in a five story building or your home office, just get up, take a breath and walk outside for five
Go back to basics. Revisit your brief and look at the problem you are trying to solve and why you are trying to solve it. Reminding yourself of the why will assist when trying to find the what and the how
Go to the ocean - for me, being in the water connects me and relaxes me….As silly as this may sound, without letting your thoughts flow freely you will fight to become inspired and focused. So the point of this one is to find a place that you feel free! A place that calms you and connects you. Now while its not possible to do this every time you hit a creative block, use elements of that freeing place such as a smell, a sound or even a visual memory.
Turn on your music and dance - Yeah I know it sounds a little left field but music releases endorphins and moving gets your blood circulating! both these things together can turn your day around.
Feed yourself - When you walk away go grab yourself a good bite of food. Now I don’t mean a extra large red bull that will give you wings, I mean protein, carbs and fats
Now what I would like to emphasise is that there is a REASON behind your creative block… I am an avid believer of finding the source to solve the problem. So with this being said, kets look at the TYPES of creative block, what they all mean and what you can do to shake them. Source
1. The mental block. This is where you get trapped by your own thinking. You’re so locked into a familiar way of looking at the world that you fail to see other options. You make assumptions and approach a problem from a limiting premise. Or maybe your Inner Critic rears its head and stops you thinking straight. Solution: You need to change your mind. Question your assumptions, ask yourself “What if…?”, and adopt different perspectives. Go somewhere new, or read/watch/listen to something new. Talk to people you can rely on to disagree with you, or offer an alternative point of view.
2. The emotional barrier. Creativity can be intense. It’s not a comfortable pursuit. Faced with the unknown, you may be scared of what you’ll discover or reveal about yourself. Maybe your subject matter is painful, embarrassing or plain weird. Whatever – all of these fears and qualms are just different forms of Resistance, leading to procrastination Solution: You need to face the worst and come through the other side. There are plenty of things that can help — such as routine, commitment and meditation. But ultimately you are going to have to endure the fear, pain, or other unpleasant emotions. It’s like getting into a cold swimming pool — you can dive in head first, or inch your way in. Either way, it’s going to be bone-chillingly cold. But once you’ve got over the initial shock, done a few lengths, and got into the flow of it, you may be surprised to discover how invigorated you feel.
3. Work habits that don’t work. Maybe there’s no great drama — you’re just trying to work in a way that isn’t compatible with your creative process. You work too early, too late, too long, or not long enough. You try too hard or not hard enough. You don’t have enough downtime or enough stimulation. Or maybe you haven’t set up systems to deal with mundane tasks – email, admin, accounting, etc – so they keep interfering with your real work. Solution: Step back and take a good look at how you’re working, and where the pain points are. If it’s email, learn a new system for dealing with email. If you don’t have enough energy, are you working at the right time of day? If you feel paralysed by freedom, introduce more structure and order into your day. If you feel constrained by routine, find room for improvisation. There are no hard-and-fast rules — the only standard is whether your work habits work for you. Look for the right balance of routines, systems, and spontaneity for your creativity to thrive.
4. Personal problems. Creativity demands focus — and it’s hard to concentrate if you’re getting divorced/ dealing with toddlers/battling an addiction/falling out with your best friend/grieving someone special/moving house/locked in a dispute with a neighbour. If you’re lucky, you’ll only have to deal with this kind of thing one at a time — but troubles often come in twos or threes. Solution: There are basically two ways to approach a personal problem that is interfering with your creative work — either solve the problem or find ways of coping until it passes. For the first option you may need some specialist help, or support from friends or family. And it may be worth taking a short-term break from work in order to resolve the issue and free yourself up for the future. In both cases, it helps if you can treat your work as a refuge — an oasis of control and creative satisfaction in the midst of the bad stuff. Use your creative rituals to set your problems aside and focus for an hour, or a few, each day. When your work is done, you may even find you see your personal situation with a fresh eye.
5. Poverty. I’m not just talking about money, although a lack of cash is a perennial problem for creatives. You could also be time-poor, knowledge-poor, have a threadbare network, or be short of equipment or other things you need to get the job done. Solution: Like the last type of block, this one has two possible solutions: either save up the time/money/or other resources you need; or make a virtue of necessity and set yourself the creative challenge of achieving as much as possible within the constraints you have. If you’re doubtful about the latter option, consider the first and second Star Wars trilogies, and ask yourself whether more resources always equal more creativity!
6. Overwhelm. Sometimes a block comes from having too much, not too little. You’ve taken on too many commitments, you have too many great ideas, or you’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of incoming demands and information. You feel paralysed by options and obligations, or simply knackered from working too hard for too long. Solution: It’s time to cut down. If you take on too many commitments, start saying ‘no’. If you have too many ideas, execute a few and put the rest in a folder labeled ‘back-burner’. If you suffer from information overload, start blocking off downtime or focused worktime in your schedule. Answer email at set times. Switch your phone off, or even leave it behind. The world won’t end. I promise.
7. Communication breakdown. Creative blocks can happen between people as well as between the ears. If you work in a team, tensions are inevitable, and can make it hard to do your best work — especially if you have one of those proverbial ‘difficult people’ in your working life.Sometimes you get blocked by phantoms — merely imagining your work being booed by audiences and mauled by the critics. And sometimes this happens for real and you have to deal with it. It could just be a marketing problem — after years of plugging away at your art with a minuscule audience, you wonder why you bother. Or maybe you just don’t have a hotline to the people who matter in your field, so you struggle to land the right opportunities.
Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion. Jack Kerouac
Remember to get moody and start a few compass boards! Here is the link again to navigate over. Still have questions? Email me! Would you like a FREE masterclass created? Email me! Get in touch! Tell me what you want to learn and I will make it happen. Ebb X