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The Process Book

: The Santoro Design Blog

5 Sure-Fire Ways To Boost Your Creativity

Sometimes relying too much on the computer to do the work for you can cripple you. Don't jump to digital too quickly! Grab a pencil and some paper, and sketch your ideas out first!

Sometimes relying too much on the computer to do the work for you can cripple you. Don't jump to digital too quickly! Grab a pencil and some paper, and sketch your ideas out first!

With the convenience of the Internet, creative inspiration is pretty much within a click’s reach. Nowadays, anyone can jump on Pintrest (guilty as charged), type in what they’re looking for, and in a few moments be exposed to pages upon pages of exquisitely beautiful concepts and crafts. Additionally, with so many creative and design blogs out there, it’s easy to further educate one’s self with new practices and skills. Indeed, the online creative community is hustling and bustling with every waking moment, and new trends just moments from being recognized and acted upon.

However, despite the convenience of said things, what if you find yourself in the middle of a high-stakes project dealing with a huge case of creative block? This can be an extremely inconvenient and mentally crippling experience that can put the brakes on any creative process. Instead of recommending a list of different websites to visit, I have a different approach to solving this; one that will hopefully get your thinking cap going again.

1.     Reading Design Books: When I was in design school, my colleagues would poke fun at me for either carrying one or three design books in my bag everywhere I went, or for just having a bunch of them at my desk. I will forever stand by referencing design books over most blogs and sites any day. First off, design books aren’t just about design, but they are in essence pieces of design. For one thing, these went through the same wringer as the project you’re probably fumbling over right now: loads and loads of sketches and comps, and probably more email arguments than you can handle. Plus, whether you’re reading up on logo design or brochure design, these books contain carefully organized and sometimes curated works of some of the finest in the industry. Some of these books will even contain sketches from the design process of really well known brands from around the world. So if you’re getting tired of going through every Tumblr and Pintrest page you can get your hands on, head over to your nearest Barnes and Noble and sit yourself at the art & design section. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

2.     Different Music: When you’re at work, nothing beats throwing on your headphones and just getting lost in the zone. However, sometimes the key to getting through your creative hiccup is to put yourself in a different mindset with some new music. You never know what kind of music will help you achieve some winning concepts! And don’t just settle with your iTunes collection either: with platforms like Pandora or Spotify, it’s so easy to get your hands on millions of different artists and bands. Next time you get stuck trying to solve a creative problem, visual or verbal, throw on a different set of tunes and see where they take you.

3.     Taking a break: All creatives need to take some time away from their work  and get some air. If you’re sitting at your desk for hours on end mulling over a problem with no luck, chances are you’re burnt out and need to take a walk. Being very much a city-person, I love walking through Boston neighborhoods like Back Bay and Faneuil Hall to give my mind a break. Plus, if you think about it, design is everywhere around you! From the sign atop your favorite pizza place, to the beautifully kerned Anthropologie© logotype signage, everywhere you look in your community is inspiration in context. That being said, what’s your favorite place to go? Is it a public park? Is it the mall? Give your eyes a break from the screen and get some fresh air!

4.     Sketching and Scrapbooking: As designers, we can’t forget that we began art/design school learning about art and its visual principles. We went through our initial year(s) sketching and drawing with different mediums like charcoal, graphite, bamboo reed pens and so on. And all of a sudden, we become designers with our fancy computers with Adobe software and we end up forsaking our hands! Make no mistake: a sketchbook is one of the most powerful and necessary tools in a designer’s arsenal. You can draw, sketch, cut and paste anything you want into the book as part of your process. Any idea you come up with can be instantly recorded and documented for later reference. Hell, you can make several iterations of that same idea with a good set of markers (I prefer my set of technical pens and my trusty brush-pen). And the best part of this? You don’t have to worry about going through several tutorials to learn how to execute that one idea you have, let alone learning how to execute a part of it! So go on, grab a pencil and your sketchbook, and give yourself at least ten minutes or so to let your ideas fly, even the crappy ones! You learn from each one, and it makes your final solution that much stronger.

5.     Talking with others: As a designer, I’m lucky to have an entire community of highly talented colleagues whom I can bounce ideas off of and take advice from. Sometimes having a different set of eyes and ears can really help get your process back on track. They’re able to see the problems that you may not be able to in the moment, and a lot of the times they’ll have the answers to your problem. Even having feedback from a non-designer can really give you a solid perspective of how your design is working; in the realm of advertising, getting user-based feedback on a piece of design or a campaign is usually organized into “focus groups”.  So if you find yourself stuck on that show poster you’re trying to create a concept for, try talking to a peer or someone you trust and get their feedback. You never know what ideas you’ll gain from this!

One of my favorite designers, the famous Chip Kidd, once said in an interview with Quark Software that the best creative people “have a lot of doubts about what they’re doing and they’re constantly questioning whether if it’s [their project] any good, but it doesn’t stop them from creating…”. With that said, it’s easy to find yourself in a creative block from time to time; nobody said any of this was easy, right? However, with putting your mind in a different place either by travel, music, or books, you can further extend your conceptual thinking. And if all else fails….well, you won’t because you’re better than that! So get out there and find your new well of inspiration!