All creative types have hit a wall, probably multiple times, during their careers. At one point or another, there was that one project that stumped you for seemingly no good reason at all. Whether you are looking at marketing, design, business, or a variety of other fields, sometimes it is hard to strike the right creative vein you need to deliver a product worthy of use. Having thought about this myself throughout school and now in the real world of graphic design, I would like to share some of my tactics for overcoming the creative block and turning the impossible project into portfolio quality material.

I am a firm believer that our experiences outside of work fuel creativity. When I say outside of work experiences, I do not mean just the creative ones. Something as simple as going to the grocery store could work, but more zestful experiences are even better. Do what you are passionate about and it is sure to fuel your next creative endeavor, even if the product isn’t related to your activity.

For me, time spent outside is a must or I go into a tailspin trying to come up with good ideas. The organic, outside world provides so much inspiration that even a short walk can change the direction of a project. The millions of colors, textures, sounds, and smells you are exposed to, even on a walk during your lunch break, can make a difference. The further I can immerse myself, the better.

The next best thing for me is to create a mood board; I usually use Pinterest for time’s sake. This method can be somewhat dangerous as there is so much content already out there that it can be easy to simply pull apart someone else’s work and rearrange it into a Frankenstein project. When used correctly though, it can be refreshing to have a place to look back and recapture the right mood and feel for a project. I save images, color swatches and groups, textures, and as many references to design history as I can in order to have a wide array of material for inspiration, which leads me to the next tactic: design history.

One of my favorite designers of all time, Massimo Vignelli, once said something along the lines of good design will never die and that good design is timeless. I look back at work from Vignelli and other greats from the design world for this reason. Grids, textures, typographic styles, and colors that have worked successfully in the past can usually be updated and used again as long as they fit the criteria for the project and accurately represent the client and their goals within a project, like a logo or rebrand.

Finally, just pick up some markers or pencils and draw – anything goes. Listen to a song you think relates to your project, then draw on paper what the song makes you feel. Use abstract forms, write words, and play with different colors. Even experiment with the drawing utensil itself. Pay attention to the textures it leaves behind on paper and how it behaves with more or less pressure. This method is also something I firmly believe is integral to good design. Do not limit yourself to a computer screen. Working without a computer can usually be more productive than attempting to experiment within one. If nothing else, remember that the best of the top designers from history might have never had the option to use a computer and they created some pretty spectacular work that made them memorable.

The next time you hit a creative block, try one of these methods – you might be surprised at how much it helps.

Jayson Alexander
Design Strategist