Three Tips to Get out of a Creative Rut and Learn the Secret to Making Things Look AWESOME.

Day 4 of 200 Days of Blogging! (FYI, I take weekends off because I'm smart!)

I find myself occasionally getting into a creative rut, and as a designer, I'm sure this compares to "writer's block." But, what I am looking for is a "runners high!"  Not something that will make my design skills come to a screeching halt!  So you can imagine how frustrating this is, and perhaps you have experienced this yourself.

I have some solutions to overcome this before I get ready to work on a big project.  

Sometimes I feel burnt out, other times i just feel like I couldn't come up with a bad idea, let alone a good idea to save my life.  If I design like this, some of the worst most pathetic and cliché ideas come out.  It's really quite frustrating  when I feel like I suck at my profession.  Fortunately this doesn't happen often because I have learned over the years how to get out of it and get out of it fast!  I have found a series of things that I do to get out of this rut before I design something truly unique and awesome.

One of the biggest mistakes I've seen with DIY entrepreneurs, new designers, and newbie creative types is that they feel as if they should have to make the most brilliant idea, logo, brand, advertisement, and  website the world has ever seen by themselves with no help to be truly unique (This just isn't true!)  ---then they get overwhelmed, start second guessing everything, and feel like everything they're doing isn't good enough. OR worse they settle for something mediocre because they're sick of working on something.  This is all considered being stuck in a rut and it is how you may end up with the dreaded "design shame" that I'm sure you have felt when handing out a business card and have bowed your head in shame saying "Don't go to my website it isn't ready yet."

How do you get unstuck from a creative rut?

  • Take a break and get feedback from a project that you have been working on for a while and can't seem to make progress with.  A lot of times our brain is just strained and stepping away can really allow breakthroughs to come.  Sometimes someone who isn't close to the project (but is either a potential client or someone in the industry) can give feedback that is valuable and can catapult you in either a different direction or encourage you to make small changes in the right direction.   Sometimes just a mental break can make a world of difference -- if you are feeling stuck or frustrated, go to sleep and approach things with fresh eyes the next day.   You can also try things like taking a nap, taking a walk, doing some yoga, meeting a friend for lunch -- anything to get time away before you start plugging away again.
  • Look at things for inspiration - This is my favorite thing to do! Pinterest is fabulous for this.  I also do google searches for award winning things in my industry -- I'm sure there are award winners in your industry too.  Analyze them!  What did they do to become a huge success?  Look at their style, colors, typography, imagery.  Now don't rip them off completely but collect  5 or 10 of these pieces and then steal away!  Remember stealing from one is plagiarism -- but stealing from 10 is research!
  • Stop comparing yourself to everyone  If I have learned anything, things come in divine timing.  If you want to create something unique and amazing, it might take a lot longer than you expect.  Just don't settle!  It's okay if what you are doing doesn't look exactly like your favorite guru -- in reality you truly want something that is uniquely you, and sometimes that can take time.  Time to find the right designer to work with and time to figure out what it is exactly you are trying to accomplish.  So instead of beaming full of jealous and comparison, why not take the time needed to do things right.  

If you can take the most important tip from this blog entry,  to truly make things look awesome -- is look for things for inspiration.  It's helpful to learn simple graphic design principles - ie. contrast, repetition, proximity, and alignment to fully understand what makes for good graphic design, but then start creating your own *swipe file of inspiration.   

*Swipe File - a folder you keep on your computer where you keep screen shots of everything that inspires you.

How do you get out of a creative rut?  Share your ideas and comments in the box below!