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Tips for overcoming a creative block

Sometimes it can be impossible to come up with ideas. A little while back, I put together a selection of tips for overcoming a creative block for Amsterdam Ad Blog. Starting 2016 with fresh eyes, I’ve refreshed these so that I can share them here with you…

You’ve just been briefed on an exciting project, a pristine new sketchbook is at the ready but you’re scared to ruin that first untouched page. A tumbleweed gently breezes past in your mind; the dreaded creative block has set in. We’ve all been there.

I for one have experienced this situation and often wondered what others do when faced with the intimidating blank canvas. What is the best way to conquer a ‘creative rut’ and let new and hopefully brilliant ideas flourish?

Here at Design Bridge we try to keep projects as loose and research as fresh as possible; exploring the world for inspiration that can be found anywhere from typography in architecture to the little details on old book covers. Occasionally though, we also need a helping hand; I asked the studio to share their insights and have chosen my Top 10 methods:


10. Frame the problem
What do you want to communicate? Set yourself parametres to work by. If it is a very open brief, try and think about one key message that needs to be communicated and to what audience. Are you restricted by colour, tone of voice or typeface? Use this to your advantage, consider how you can push these as far as possible creatively whilst staying on brand.

9. Mix and match
Create unexpected combinations and ideas by mixing juxtaposed elements together – a certain sound or text with an image can create a completely different message than the image alone.


8. Be curious
Leave your everyday working environment, whether it’s a desk or studio, and discover a new place. Explore new sights, sounds and smells, you never know when a little idea could pop up on a walk through the park or browsing through local shops.

7. Talk it out
It might seem an obvious one but talking through a design problem or even just a seemingly incomprehensible concept can break through that traffic jam of thought. It can also be useful to talk to a non-designer as they may have a completely new perspective that could be the key to an idea.

6. Music
Can you tailor a playlist for the project to help you create the right atmosphere, pace or mental picture from listening to it? Plus it’s just so much better for your mood!


5. Go offline
Turn your phone off and log out of Facebook. The no distractions approach can be great to really focus if you need to develop an idea you already have but can potentially make you more stuck if you’re completely blank. In that case, go make a cup of tea.

4. A change of perspective
Look at the brief from another angle – flip the target audience. If the project is for young people, what if it was for animals? What if the outcome had to be an object or a building instead of packaging? You might be surprised at the ideas that come out of it.

3. Play!
Force yourself to start making and sketching rather than thinking too much. You may well come up with something great whilst focussing on a hands on task.

2. Make mistakes
It’s great to start off a project by coming up with lots of ideas, good and bad, to get them out of your head and down on paper; even if that’s where they stay. Getting things wrong is part of the process and allows for the best ideas to shine through. It also makes you just start doing rather than just dwelling on finding the ‘perfect concept.’


1. Kill your babies
One that I fondly took away from uni – you have to be able to realise when to ditch your idea and move on to another. Even if it’s a great thought, if it’s not right for the brief then it has to go. A few other perhaps less efficient yet popular tricks included eating Monster Munch and getting a cat. If all else fails though, just buy a tent, pack your bag and go and live with woodland creatures.

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Jo Hawkes is a designer based in our Amsterdam Studio. You can read more from her here.

by Anna Stanford

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