What To Do When Your Creative Well Has Run Dry

Things to Do and Places to Go When Your Creative Well Has Run Dry

You’ve been busy creating campaign concepts, logo designs or ad copy and things are clicking and when the next job comes along you feel like your creative tank is empty. We all know and dread that this day will come. You think and think and the ideas just don’t come easily or at all. What do you do to get that creative spark back? Depending on the project you are working on, there are several things you can do to help yourself. Keep in mind this is not an exact science. One or all of these suggestions may or may not work for you or as they say… “Your mileage may vary”.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

When given the assignment, if client is present or you’re working with the art director, don’t be afraid to ask questions and take good notes. Also, if you are working with a copywriter, good collaboration can make all the difference in the world. There is a great article at Roundpeg, “Help Me Help You: 5 Tips for Working with a Copywriter“ that offers great tips on the subject.

  1. Try and talk your way out of it.

Sometimes talking about it with others can help trigger an idea. Talk with other co-workers and designers about your creative funk and be open to suggestions. If you’re a freelancer and work alone, talk with other designers you have collaborated with or friends that are designers. You never know, someone may just say that one word that triggers a spark. Friends help friends.

  1. A change of scenery might do you good.

If sitting behind your desk staring at the screen isn’t helping you, then grab yourself a pad and a pencil. Moving away from the electronic routine is what I sometimes prefer rather than bringing along a tablet or laptop. Changing up the usual modus operandi can make you think in a different way. Go sit on the couch, go to a Starbucks, or grab some fresh air on a balcony or terrace. Just by changing your surroundings, you’ll stimulate your brain just by what you see going around you. Sometimes if things are too hectic in the office and there’s too much commotion, opt to move somewhere else. If you can’t, put on some headphones and play some music you really like to groove to. I have found that going to your local bookstore is great place for inspiration. Looking at design books or magazines can get the creative juices flowing. You might even find a new magazine you’ll want to subscribe to.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of the thumbnail sketch.

I know we are in the digital age but sometimes you can’t beat roughing out ideas or layout compositions on paper with my personal favorite… Post-its. If you have a tablet with a stylus that works too! Sometimes I might have a small kernel of an idea. I start with simple roughs of the layout and pretty soon it will snowball to several thumbnail iterations. I will take that and go back to my Mac and build on. Sometimes simpler beginnings are a better start in getting an idea to grow.


  1. Rev up the search engine!

With the Internet, we have an unlimited archive within reach of our fingertips. There are hundreds and thousands of sites that can guide and inspire. They can offer great case studies of how others have tackled creative challenges. The Internet can also offer you a global perspective. The worldwide web really is worldwide and can offer ideas and suggestions from freelancers and firms from around the world. Some of my personal favorite sites are:

creative well

http://www.deviantart.com/ (Illustrations)

https://www.behance.net/     (Graphic Design, Photography, Interaction,  Design, Art Direction, Illustration)

https://www.tumblr.com/     (Graphic Design, Photography, Interaction, Design, Art Direction, Illustration and more!)

http://www.adteachings.com/ (Copywriting and Print Campaigns)

http://www.aiga.org/ (American Institute of Graphic Arts)

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