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4 Ways to Get Unstuck in Your Designing Process

4 Ways to Get Unstuck in Your Designing Process

Systems.

Style guides.

Formulas.

These are all things I love. As a designer, they keep me on task and moving in the right direction. Without them, I’m a ball of disorganized creative energy bouncing from one idea to the next.

When I was the Creative and Communications Director at my last church, one of the best things I did was implement a style guide. We were a church that ran on events, so I was creating 3-4 event graphics every week on top of social media graphics, series artwork, and the random things that pop up in the church world. Without the system of a style guide, I would’ve spent too much time searching for fonts and color treatments for each of those graphics.

With the system, I had a sandbox to play in and knew the boundaries before I even started. It allowed me to speed up the process and be much more productive.

But there was a drawback to the system:

Every couple of weeks, when creating series artwork or other things that were allowed to be outside the system, I found myself getting stuck. The usefulness of the style guide had put blinders on me and trained me to think only inside that sandbox. When I was able to color outside the lines and create something new and completely different, my creativity seemed disconnected from me.

Being stuck as a designer is the equivalent of writer’s block for writers; everything you create feels stupid and you can’t get past the mental block in front of you.

These are the four things I’ve found to help get past those sticky points:

1. Put it on the shelf.

There comes a point when trying to power through and force the design produces negative returns. Sometimes the best thing you can do is close the project down and come back to it with fresh eyes a few days later. What took hours today may come together in 15 minutes tomorrow.

2. Take a break.

Sometimes you’re up against a deadline and can’t wait a couple of days. You can still take a break though. Close your computer and do something totally, 100% mindless. At our church we had a six-hole disc golf course around our property. Some of my biggest breakthroughs came while (horribly) playing that course by myself in the middle of the day. Just like negative space is good for a design, margin and space is good for the designer.

Just like negative space is good for a design, margin and space is good for the designer.

3. Learn a new technique.

This is one of my favorite things to do. Not only does it keep me on my game, it teaches me new ways to look at things. Every so often I’ll find a design technique I like and complete a few tutorials on that technique. Even if I can’t use the entire tutorial for a project, I generally find a small technique or two in the process that sparks an idea for something I can use.

4. Recreate something you love.

This is another favorite of mine. I’ll go on Dribbble or Behance and find a design of something that I really like, then I’ll try to figure out how they did it. For me, this forces my brain to see the design less as a piece of art or a typical project and more of a game to direct something someone else made. It’s enough of a mental shift to get me unstuck and allow me to create new things on my own.

There are tons of ways to get unstuck. Those are the four that have helped me the most.

What’s your go to move? Share in a comment below.

About The Author

Jonathan Carone

Jonathan loves three things: Dr Pepper, pop culture, and his wife Nicole. He's currently fulfilling a dream of being a freelance graphic/web designer for the global church. You can see his design work at CaroneDesigns.com.

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