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9 ways to boost your creativity as a designer

For a professional designer, there’s nothing more intimidating than a blank screen, a client brief, an approaching deadline, and…a complete lack of creative ideas.

The ticking of the clock becomes deafening, and you start to panic as you wonder how you’ll get out of this one — and whether you chose the wrong career.

Sound familiar?

Don’t worry — even the best designers experience creative blocks from time to time. Especially professional designers, who are under pressure to constantly churn out creative ideas every day.

So what do you do when you’re staring at a blank screen (or page) trying to come up with your next Big Idea? This article has got you covered.

In it, we’ll share nine tips you can use to boost creativity and uplevel your design work. Let’s dive straight in.

Seek inspiration

For a creative person, design inspiration is quite literally everywhere. It can sneak up on you in the most unexpected places, moments, or settings — a casual remark from a friend, the way the light hits the city at sunset, or a particular color combination can all spark your creativity.

But don’t just let inspiration find you — go looking for it, too. Invest time in research and find different design elements that will inspire you for the project you’re working on or in general.

Some ways to find inspiration include:

  • Going to art museums or discovering artwork online, reading literature, and spending time in nature.
  • Following people and designers who inspire you on social media. Be curious and look for inspiration from other people’s work — including things that are not strictly related to design. You can also follow design blogs that offer a wealth of resources and inspiration.
  • Collecting ideas and keeping them for when you need inspiration. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you can take photos of the architecture or street art around your city that inspire you. Store these in a single place that you can refer back to when you need a hit of inspiration, such as a Playbook board.
  • Sometimes, taking yourself out of your comfort zone can be a source of inspiration. For example, you could try new styles and techniques, add a design element you’ve never used, or follow a different art direction. The change can help your brain think differently and spur creative ideas.

Keep a notebook, sketchbook, mobile note app (or all 3!)

You know when you have an idea that’s so amazing that you don’t need to write it down because you could never forget something that good…but later on, it’s completely gone?

That’s why most creatives we know depend on the holy trifecta of the notebook, sketchbook, and trusty ol’ Notes app to capture creative ideas on the go.

If you want to get a little more advanced, download a dedicated sketching app, such as the aptly-named Sketchbook, which is available on both iPhone and Android.

As long as you have at least one of these items with you at all times, you’ll never forget another amazing idea again.

Connect with other designers

Creativity is much harder to come by without community. That’s why connecting and sharing your ideas with other designers from different backgrounds is a great way to gain new perspectives on design, learn new skills, and get a creativity boost.

The beauty of today’s connected world is that it’s easier than ever before to connect and interact with people — such as the Playbook community, where artists and designers come together to share their work and participate in competitions and giveaways.

Ask for feedback

While asking for feedback can be daunting, it’s actually one of the best ways to get a different perspective on your work. Seeing your designs through someone else’s eyes can spark creative ways to improve them and provide inspiration for future projects.

Try to be selective about who you ask for feedback, though. Remember that too many cooks spoil the broth, and you don’t need to take everyone’s opinion on board.

This is why online design communities are good places to go, as you can get the opinions of professional designers whose feedback will be more valuable than your auntie Joan’s. Unless auntie Joan’s a designer of course. In which case, ask her.

Redesign other people’s work

Seen a design you love but think you could do better? Give it a go. Add a few personal touches or redesign the whole thing.

Go as wild as you like and treat this as a bit of fun rather than a serious exercise — you might be surprised at how many creative solutions you come up with.

Redesigning someone else’s work can help you unearth design elements and techniques you can use in future designs.

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes

Fear is the enemy of creativity, and playing it too safe can prevent you from taking the kind of creative risks that lead to breakthroughs.

You can only get better as a designer (and have more creative ideas) if you learn what works and what doesn’t — and for that, you have to allow yourself to make mistakes.

Often, what seems like a setback or limitation can turn out to be a valuable lesson in creative thinking and innovation. As award-winning graphic designer Paula Scher put it, “it’s through mistakes that you actually can grow.”

Switch up your routine

Routines are funny old things. On the one hand, following the same routine every day can boost your creativity by reducing decision fatigue and leaving your brain with more capacity for creative thinking.

(That’s why Steve Jobs always wore a black turtleneck.)

On the other hand, too much repetitive action can lead to boredom and actually reduce your creativity.

While a daily routine has many benefits, if you’re faced with creator’s block, it might be time to switch things up. Doing things that deviate from the norm gives your brain time to rest and think in different ways, which can lead to new ideas.

Practice, practice, and practice some more

Creativity is a lot like a muscle — the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. So the more you practice sketching, designing, and coming up with new ideas, the more you train your brain to think in creative ways.

Experiment with different techniques or media every day, and don’t be afraid to create things that aren’t that great — that’s the whole point! You get better by practicing, and every day will be different, so just keep going.

Take care of yourself

It might seem trivial — frivolous, even — but self-care is vital for your creativity.

Think about it — if you’re tired or have low energy or brain fog, it’s a lot harder to come up with creative design ideas. Getting a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of regular exercise are three lifestyle tweaks that can do wonders for your creative abilities.

Another creativity killer is stress. So if you’re feeling tense at work and struggling to create, give yourself permission to step away and recharge your batteries. Use this time to do anything that refreshes and energizes you — whether that’s a nap, a walk in nature, or a living room dance party with your favorite feel-good tunes.

Say goodbye to creator’s block

Your creative juices will always ebb and flow, but if you make these tips a habit, accessing it on tap will become much easier.

And for the days it’s more of a trickle than a gush? You’ll have sketchbooks — both analog and digital — bursting with ideas you can always go back to.

Another resource for creativity is Playbook — not only can you store your creative inspiration and connect with other designers, but you can also download and use free templates and illustrations created by our community of awesome artists.

Need more of a leg up in getting out of a creative block? Check out our top 7 tips to maintain a steady supply of creative design ideas.