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If you have ever written articles for a blog or publication, you’ve definitely experienced what we call a writer’s block. By definition, this is an undetermined period during which a writer feels there is no inspiration for him anymore. Writer’s block can easily be a designer’s block and all of us can encounter a block at some point in time – if you done this for a long time, you have most probably already encountered it.
This block is not something easy to get past and it can come around exactly when you need inspiration the most. It might be right before a deadline or just after you landed a huge project, most importantly is that if (more like when) it happens to you, you need to make an effort to get past it.
The more you fight surpassing it with the techniques that seem useful at a first glance, the deeper in trouble you will find yourself. Unlike what many think, getting past a designer’s block can be done with the help of some easy and natural procedures.
Many of us use music to get rid of day-to-day stress, while others listen to it all the time, wherever they are. Music relays different emotions to people and, if you are very creative, it also relays different colors and shapes. If you ever listened to a song and created a video for it in your mind, then you are one of those who can get a lot out of music – it creates positive images in your mind, which you can use for inspiration.
Image by Doug88888.
However, this does not always work. The reason behind it is simple: we always listen to the same music, bands and artists. The same music creates the same images in your head, therefore you might not get too many new ideas if you listen to your everyday tunes. You probably know the feeling of a song which always brings back the same memories.
Find new music in the genre you like, try searching for your favourite artist’s old songs, go out there and experiment. Otherwise music, something which is so accessible to us, will not be too much of a help.
This is something I recommended before, in my article targeting freelancers that get distracted. Going out is probably the cheapest and easiest way to relax. This is also when and where creativity can hit you right away. Many times a short walk in the park or a tour to the zoo can give you ideas. You can find them all over out there, from color schemes to shapes. Only being outside on a great summer day gives you a feeling of liberty and happiness – if you haven’t experienced this yet, make sure you do it soon – this is a must for creative individuals.
Image by Mike G. K.
If nature can’t help too much, then there is still hope outside home. Use architecture for this purpose. I bet the New York architecture inspired many designers in building grandiose designs. Pretty much everything you are passionate about (which is outside the house) can inspire you.
I, myself, love airplanes and airports. If I lived near La Guardia, Schiphol, Charles de Gaulle or John F. Kennedy, I would be there the whole day. I would just sit and watch airplanes landing and taking off. That would give me a huge boost of inspiration. If there is something out there you are inspired about, go and check it if you find yourself dealing with a designer’s block.
This happens mostly when we work on multiple projects and we feel there is no inspiration left for one of them. If the deadline isn’t two days away, push the project longer down the queue. Not focusing on it and working on something else will allow you to come back later on and will free your mind for a period. Many times a designer’s block comes from lack of relaxation and for people who work way too much and exhaust themselves. You will notice that you will come back with new ideas when you take some time away from a project.
It doesn’t always help to think too much about something that isn’t there. Ideas usually come up in conversations and actions that have no relation to your project so if you stay home and think of your project, it is highly unlikely you will get past the block. It may sound weird or false, but the best ideas I have had were generated through diverse discussions; they just popped into my mind. I am sure some of you experienced this as well. Forcing ideas out is the worst thing you could do.
Now I am not saying you should steal or copy other people’s work. I am just saying it’s never a bad idea to go out there and see how others are doing similar assignments. There is no harm in this and at the very least you get ideas that you can use some other time. I think it is highly unlikely to spend time researching and looking over inspirational examples and not get anything out of it.
Image by Mighty Crumble.
However, getting inspiration from the internet is something you should do carefully. Using something another designer used before is not only illegal, but might also be a poor decision for your project. If, for example, you found a design and liked the use of italic text and a serif typeface, it doesn’t mean you can just take it and attach it to your project. Perusing others work is something you should think twice before doing.
When looking for inspiration, you might want to use this as a way to understand your website’s problems, not as a way to find solutions. If you see a webpage that sends a powerful message, learn how they do it and adapt it to your solution – don’t copy. Adapting is a different concept than copying.
The key to getting over designer’s block (as well as writer’s block) is relaxation. As fast as you can achieve this, you will become better at what you do and will be able to get past this block. If deadlines are approaching fast and you feel the block, you naturally get stressed and nervous. The simple step in solving this issue is the following: just relax.
Image by Nakic.
It sounds superficial, but this is the only way to get past such an issue. It is something natural which can only be solved by taking natural steps. Your mind will not start to execute at command – you need to relax it in order for it to deliver.
Yes, there is such a thing as designer’s block and it is also quite dangerous. It can destroy careers, make people miss deadlines or get fired; that’s how bad can it get. However, as just presented, getting past it doesn’t require years of training – it requires you to be able to relax and take your mind off the project for a while. Sure, I agree that this is not always possible because of deadlines, but whenever you can, take these steps and you will notice an improvement in the way you handle the block.
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Christian Vasile is an enthuziastic Romanian web designer currently living in Denmark. He is passionate for the industry and writes about design, usability, coding and freelancing and is a regular publisher here at 1WD. You can follow him on Twitter at @christianvasile or visit his web portfolio by clicking on the link above.