Creative block a designer’s worst enemy

If you are a creative person you know that creativity doesn’t work like a tap. You can’t just turn it on and let the creativity flow. There are just some days where that tap dries up and your brain is as useful as a potato.

It’s important to be aware of what is causing you to have this mental blockage. The 1st step is determining what type of block you are experiencing in order to come up with a suitable solution.

Types of blocks:
  • The common mental block – Overthinking about the problem and fixating on set solutions that have worked in the past.
  • Emotional – The way the project makes you feel, the over welling feeling that a project can bring.
  • Personal – The outside factors that shape our ideas and motivation.
  • Communication – Lack of communication being passed between client and designer.
1. Sketch, sketch and sketch

One of the best ways I find to push through a block is sketching or writing down my thoughts, especially because I am a visual person. These quick doodles and notes allow me to explore multiple ideas, one crap sketch or idea can provide that breakthrough moment in a project.

Source pexels.com: Take a different route to work.
2. Do the opposite

Stop what you’re doing and do the exact opposite. If I get stuck I immediately stop and switch projects and focus on a task that requires a completely different skill set. If I have the time I’ll leave a project overnight and look over it the next morning with a fresh pair of eyes. Doing something you have never done before is a great a way to fire up your brains pathways as its programmed to think to the default or the same solution that worked last time. Take a different path to work, go for a walk in a different part of town or my favourite go out and try something different to eat. This will force your brain to fire up different pathways and expand your thinking.

3. Relax

This isn’t always easy, if you’re on a deadline its harder to take a breather. But taking your mind off the work for 10-20 minutes and focus on yourself by practising mindfulness techniques or just doing some physical exercise will help your brain organise its thoughts and put yourself in a calm, relaxed state of mind to allow you find that breakthrough moment. It’s common to hear how people think of their best ideas while they were in the shower, apparently, this called the alpha state of mind and the neurons in your brain begin to charge up and fire off in all areas of the brain.

4. Conceptual Blending

Practicing conceptual blending is a great way to push through a mental block. We tend to build walls that separate different concepts. These same walls can hold us back, but by picking 3 items, topics or animals at random and then trying to blend them together as one concept either through a sketch or written story will force you to start thinking outside the box. The exercise is to find relationships between 3 completely different things and breakdown patterns of logical thinking.

5. Talk more

Not so easy for all the solo freelancers but is very handy. Gather as much information from the client as possible and don’t be afraid to dig deeper. Lack of valuable knowledge about a project and make it very difficult to solve the underlying problem. Discuss your frustrations with a co-worker or anyone who will listen. They don’t need to have knowledge or expertise in your problem they just need to be willing to provide honest responses. Just having someone there to listen to you will force you to physically articulate your problem and make you break down your issue while you're explaining, thus allowing you to see any potential flaws in your current thinking.

So don’t panic if you are having a mental block day, just give your brain an excuse to do something different. If you want a good read on how the creative brain works I suggest picking up a copy of The Agile Mind by Estanislao Bachrach. It has heaps of fun brain activities to solve creative block and kick-start your creative process.