Creativity is intrinsic to a designer’s career, yet as we all know, sometimes inspiration runs dry and we can find ourselves in a serious creative rut. For freelance designers, maintaining creative flow can be tricky for a myriad of reasons; for instance, the isolation of working remotely, juggling multiple clients at once or slogging through a project that you just don’t love.
Thankfully there are some practical things you can do to stimulate your creativity when the well of inspiration is empty.
Create a designated creative workplace.
For any designer, nothing is worse than a clinical, boring office space. Artists always have their studios, and designers should too. Creating a space that inspires you is key to fostering creativity. We recommend filling your workspace with art, meaningful or sentimental objects, colour and a house plant or two, to create an artistic, welcoming vibe and a place you are happy to work from.
Natural light, organised spaces and a comfortable set-up all play into how you feel when you enter your workspace. Investing in ergonomic furniture makes a difference; the same goes for electronic products. Noise-cancelling headphones and blue light reflective glasses are high on our recommendation list. You want to feel comfortable and at ease, not agitated or distracted. Whether you work from an at-home office or a co-working space, you can take steps to enhance the workspace around you. When you distil our advice, we recommend creating a workspace that is relaxing, inspiring and pleasant to be in.
Overcoming creative blocks during your work day
Creative blocks are a frustrating reality for any designer, so how do you overcome them during your workday? It may sound contrary but sometimes when things simply aren’t working, it’s good to step back and pause. Taking micro-breaks is more important than we realise, letting your mind rest and returning with fresh eyes is always helpful.
Sometimes when you just can’t find inspiration in your work, engaging in other artistic practices can help you find a new spark. Picking up a paintbrush, going to a contemporary dance class or even writing a poem can rejig your creative juices and passion. Trying something new often gives us an endorphin kick as well as changes our perspective, which is crucial to breaking out of habits that may be holding us back.
It’s also really helpful to always seek inspiration from others. Here at Creative Launchpad, we recommend consuming diverse content, be that reading books from authors you love or those who challenge you, listening to music, attending a local art gallery or getting out to see a play. Our creative communities are rich with talent in Aotearoa, and sometimes seeing other’s work is all you need to be re-inspired.
Social media platforms also provide us with great access to artists, musicians, photographers and filmmakers. When consuming other art consider how themes, colours, shapes, and even words can be used in your own work. It’s also important to have people in your field who inspire you - regularly check the portfolios of your favourite designers, exploring their techniques can help influence your own style.
Harvard Business Review (HBR) notes that “contrasting opinions spark new possibilities, and allow us to make connections we hadn’t seen before, leading to better decisions.” Seeking diverse opinions, perspectives and experiences in life is crucial to our creativity as we begin to think of the world in new ways. If you work in a co-working space, make sure to engage with new people outside of your industry and culture. If you’re working from home use social media to follow and connect with these people.
The importance of habits and rituals.
Consistency is critical for creativity. Establishing routines can be very helpful in resetting you as a person and getting you in the right frame of mind to produce great work. Exercise is the first habit, and we really shouldn't underestimate its importance. Being well physically, getting outdoors, connecting to nature and enjoying the endorphin kick that comes from moving our bodies are all beneficial for a designer. As Forbes notes, the positivity we feel from exercise brings a sense of accomplishment that influences other areas of our lives.
The saying ‘early bird gets the worm’ has some serious merit. Highly successful people often have morning routines that set their day up for success, for instance, Oprah Winfrey, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Michelle Obama to name a few. Establishing a habitual morning routine can be great for creativity and productivity, starting the day off with some exercise to get the endorphins flowing, followed by some intention setting or mindfulness time seems to work a trick.
American Dancer Twyla Tharp is an early bird, who writes about the importance of rituals in her book The Creative Habit, “It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it—makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.”
Reflection is another essential habit for creative flow. It’s important to sit back and look at your successes and failures, review what worked and didn’t, and identify patterns and processes that work for you. Journaling, meditating or scheduling a debrief session with yourself or others are all forms of reflection. HBR notes that meditation is crucial to creativity, as by stilling our minds “we allow our minds the freedom and space to be still and creative.”
Remember being accretive isn’t always a linear journey and we will have ups and downs in our career. Our last piece of advice is to lean on your community when inspiration is lacking, our Rocketspark community is filled with designers who get the realities of solopreneurship and are always willing to lend a hand or simply have a chat.