Cultivating Creativity – how to encourage inspiration to strike

Graphic Design

For most designers, it’s not an uncommon thing to experience ‘creative block’ when working on a project – regardless of how much people label you as a naturally creative person. The role of a graphic designer is to produce visual content that conveys the correct message to a specific audience, we are creative archers, aiming our Adobe arrows at your potential clients / target audience and gunning for a bullseye but sometimes we are hit ourselves with lack of motivation and ‘tunnel vision’.

If you ask any designer, they will tell you that it is impossible to be at your most inspired 8 hours a day – this statement becomes even more apparent when you realise that the common estimate for sustained attention to a freely chosen task is around 20 minutes for the average adult. To put it simply – nobody can create innovative and inspired content constantly. It’s a battle that we face daily and although we know that it’s impossible for prolonged periods of creative flow – there are many ways that we as designers can encourage inspiration to hit us.

Creative triggers are subjective and what works for myself would not necessarily work for another person; fun can be had discovering what sparks inspiration within you as an individual and then noting this so you can utilise it on days when you have no muse and you’re staring at a blank canvas in despair. My personal go-to method to stir up some inspiration is to get away from the project at hand; go for a walk, play with my dogs, look at social media (especially LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram), call up a friend – anything that draws my attention elsewhere. Once I feel a shift in my mood then I take a note of what I’m doing and decipher what it is that has sparked inspiration within me, using self-reflection to understand more how I function as a designer (and a human). Then, when I come back to the project with a fresh approach – things tend to fall into place easier than before. Reading self-help books such as ‘Pig Wrestling’ by Mark Bowden & Pete Lindsay can really help you grasp the process of problem cleaning and master the art of clear perspective. 

Some other ways that you can cast your mind net out and catch those creative koi carps are;

Get social

This can either mean using social media as a platform to gather content that inspires you or making connections with other creators and having a conversation that can manifest ideas and lead to creative flow. Some good social platforms to utilise are;

Pinterest – this platform allows us to bookmark and ‘pin’ things that grasp our interest to our own boards, it resembles a new digital way of constructing a collage/ mood-board of things we like and find visually appealing. 

LinkedIn – this platform is great for connecting with professional individuals from the same / similar backgrounds as yourself and allows you to start conversations regarding topics that you’re all passionate about. The more you bounce ideas into one another’s court, the more likely you are to come across an idea that can be grown into an innovative and inspired deliverable. People also share inspirational stories / analogies that you can often relate to or that evoke strong feelings which can be the fuel you need to start that creative fire.

Behance – this platform shows the portfolios of creative individuals, from graphic designers and UX UI developers to musicians, photographers and artists. It’s a brilliant way to look at other people’s work and be inspired by their talents. Bookmark creator’s portfolios that inspire you and tune into what draws your attention more – you can then build upon this.

Get Outdoors

It’s a fact that being outdoors enhances creativity.  The outdoors is free aromatherapy (stop and smell the flowers), it helps restore focus, it is proven to help shrug off societal pressures thus relaxing us more, it boosts your energy levels and it can even increase your immune system. So, the next time you’re stuck in a rut at your desk – turn your ‘out of office’ on, grab a coat and start walking!

Headphones On

Studies have shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety and improve moods – these shifts can help facilitate creative insight. Different types of music will evoke different reactions and once you find the music that enhances your creativity, there’s no stopping you from whacking on your ‘Inspo Playlist’ and seizing the task in front of you.

Take a step back

When you find yourself wrestling with a problem and it seems like no progress is being made – it’s time to take a step back and look at the problem at hand. You could be struggling with designing a trifold leaflet for a florists and no matter how you layout your design, it just doesn’t feel ‘right’. Don’t let this frame of mind make you think that you are failing the task – the problem could simply be that you don’t have access to the right sort of imagery which can elevate the visual aesthetic and enhance the overall design. If you’re finding it difficult to take a step back from the problem, ask someone from their perspective – there is a reason that design teams exist, no two people think the same which is beneficial when you are looking for a new approach to a problem. 

The main factor when trying to find inspiration is that you must understand that what might work for one person may not work for you. Somebody can be inspired by a sunset at dusk and how the colours fall onto a beach, others may be inspired by the energy they receive from a morning jog, some may take inspiration from reading about success stories and others may use music as their muse. Whatever it is that awakens your creativity, find it, take note of it and use it. Once you’ve practised the process, in time it’ll become more of a second nature to automatically seek inspiration from your known sources and in the process, you’ll trust yourself and your abilities more. 


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