Beating Design Block

Early in my career I would occasionally suffer from design block. It’s like there’s some kind of mental block where nothing seems to work and the longer it goes on the worse it gets. In an industry that is all about deadlines, it’s the last thing you need.

A few years ago I accidentally stumbled on a very simple technique that seems to combat design block and as a result I’ve never suffered from it since.

It happened when I was working on some graphics for an online kids game in Illustrator. I hit the invisible wall, I tried all the usual techniques to combat design block – made a cup of tea (old design favourite), had a surf around for some inspiration, tried stepping back from the screen a bit – nothing worked. Then it happened. For some reason, I zipped the file that I was struggling on down to the dock and sat behind it was the last project I was working on, a very corporate site for a solicitors. I knuckled down to do some work on the site and everything was going great, design block gone! I was flying through it. A couple of hours later I switched back to the game graphics and again I was flying through it. It seems that the contrast of work style did something to my brain that took the block away.

To this day I still use this technique, I always try and work on two contrasting projects simultaneously. Obviously it’s not always possible to work on such contrasting projects, but it is usually possible to work on contrasting parts of different projects – i.e. if you’re struggling with design on one project, switch to coding on another project or if you’re struggling with some code, put your design hat on for a while.

Ok, it’s a fairly obvious technique in theory, but in practice we designers are stubborn beasts. We hit the block and we keep pushing against it not getting anywhere because we become consumed by the problem. So the next time you hit the wall – give this technique a try, I’ve been using it for years and it’s never failed me yet!


kat neville:

04 Nov 2008 17:43:19

I often do menial work to give my creative side a break, but I’m going to let you onto the BEST design method for getting inspiration…. it’s called “a nap”. What you do is, you go to sleep, set your alarm for 20 minutes, have a little nap, then after 20 minutes, have two snoozes where you’re starting to think about the project again. So, 40 minutes later, you’re rejuvinated, and, for me, I often get into the zone right away!

Glad we’ve both found something that works :)

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