Welcome to Design Insights! Here seven remarkable practitioners and studios discuss the creative and the practical side of working in the design scene, featuring Kessels Kramer, Studio Lowrie, Lauren Harewood, Sthuthi Ramesh, Jennifer Whitworth, Barkas and Vanderbrand. Check back each week for more wonderful words of wisdom!
Creative block. We've all been there. Sometimes you just can’t see the solution. It’s a reality many creatives face, after all, when your job is to constantly create, it’s no surprise that now and again your artistic fuel runs a bit low. There is always, however, a way around the problems you may be facing. Speaking to our resident creatives, we’ve chatted about breaking down the wall of creative block, and how they come out the other side.
Over to you, team!
WHEN A PROJECT ISN’T GOING WELL FOR YOU, WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET OUT OF THE CREATIVE BLOCK OR TO GENERATE NEW IDEAS?
God this is the worst. In all honesty I find it really hard and there is no simple fix for me. I think a lot of people find it hard to separate their creative ability with their self worth, and it can be a cycle that feeds itself and is super hard to get out of. In this sense I think the best thing for me is to get out and forget about being productively creative all together. To remind myself that I’m a full human with varied interests whether I feel creative that day or not. This probably involves getting out in nature and listening to what is simply there. It’s somewhat helpful to me to be in an environment that just ‘is’ and isn’t trying to force itself to be a particular way. I feel like the essence of true creativity shouldn’t have a right or wrong. I think I make my best work when I feel liberated from expectations.
A creative director I interned for in India once told me about the 40 box method. So you basically draw 40 boxes and start filling these boxes with visuals or words. By the 10th box you will run out of ideas. Then you just either go for a walk or open a random book and the first thing you see or read you try and connect it with the rest of the box. Sometimes this has worked in terms of coming up with fresh ideas. And if you still have a block, take a nap. It has helped me in the past. It’s not ideal to force ideas, the outcome is rarely worthwhile.
I used to sit and stress and get in my head but now if I’m stuck I just leave whatever space I’m in and find a new one. Take an hour out, watch birds in the park, grab a coffee, call a mate, anything that can bring my head out of the fog and back to the ground. Taking that step away from my desk usually resets my outlook and I remember it’s never that deep. I'll then have a stern word with myself something like “Lauren, the sea is on fire, you can do this re-brand.” Once I’ve taken that pressure off myself things usually slot into place.
The exact method will be different for everyone in the company. Some scribble ideas, titles or random words. Others collect seemingly endless images and links. More often than not, it's about changing your headspace rather than ‘looking for inspiration’.
So, don’t panic, try not to cry and do something else, drink tea or go to sleep. Everyone gets blocks from time to time, they pass.
Creative Directors Julie Vander Herberg and Anna Vander Herberg of Vanderbrand
Often, we will flip between projects to try to break that barrier. But when that doesn’t work, we take a much needed break from our screens when we hit a creative block. We encourage our team to really enjoy their weekends and time off, as it is important to live in the moment and experience life itself.
I often just step away from the computer and get distance from the project. Grab some books or magazines from the shelves and browse through them without any real direct purpose. If we can afford a day or two, I’ll just park the project and come back to it. Having some time provides distance and provides spaces for new thinking.
That's a good question. We try to take a step back and re-focus on what is essential for the project, we ask ourselves what problem are we really solving. Clarity is what we navigate towards, the clearer the ideas, the fewer creative blocks. A clear idea unfolds itself, so if we end up in a creative block, maybe the core idea is not strong enough.