For most of us, getting started is the hardest part.
The dreaded ‘blank canvas’ is sometimes daunting and no amount of hair pulling and coffee servings seem to be helping.
Here are 6 simple ways to jumpstart your creative process:
1. Let the Colors Guide You
Good design captures purpose and mood.
That’s why a great way to get in the right mindset for your next project is to think about the colors that represent what your design is about.
Playing around with color combinations and themes can not only set the tone for the entire project but also help you discover what you want to say with your design and how you want to say it. Utilities like Adobe Kuler let you mix and match your own color palette or choose from thousands of others provided by other users.
2. Take a Look at What Other Designers Have Been Up to
There’s a distinct line between getting inspired and ripping someone off. As long as you get creative and original with what you see, there’s nothing wrong with taking a peek at the incredible design work out there.
Inspiration Hut and Designspiration showcase all sorts of artwork and design pieces from designers around the world. Whether you need inspiration for illustration, photography or graphic design, you’re sure to find tons of great work that can inspire you in terms of thought, color theory, design approach or composition.
The internet is bustling with creative individuals, great ideas and brilliant designers. Here are two more inspirational resources from across the web:
On Muse, artists and designers share their stories. You can read about the inspiration behind their work.
From 404 pages to calendars and contact forms, PatternTap lets you see how other designers have solved tricky design challenges.
It can get hard to be creative if you set limits from the get-go.
If you start working on a web page using a typical three column layout, it restricts where you can go from there.
If nothing seems to be working, start from scratch and change up the entire wireframe. Go horizontal instead of linear, reverse type instead of standard and circular instead of rectangular. Play with different typefaces, switch between styles and sizes.
Another quick hit-and-trial method is to throw together some design elements from past projects and see what sticks. Is a color theme from a logo working for the web page? Will a flash slider look good on this website as well? Can you just revert to a favorite or reliable typeface?
Remember, a lot of great achievements in science and art were unintentional. So don’t be afraid of making mistakes and going with your gut. Your next great idea could be just around the bend!
4. Use a prototyping application
You may have done your sketches on paper and planned the entire structure of a web page beforehand.
But before you start writing the necessary code and transferring your ideas from your head to a busy PSD, you could save a lot of frustration by using a prototyping application first. Inspiration becomes easier when you quickly envision any idea that pops up in your head and translate it to the canvas.
Prototyping lets you make any required changes easily and quickly, and you can try out as many different things as you want before settling on a final look.
My personal favorite prototyping/wireframing app is Adobe Fireworks. I use it to visualize the look of everything from logos and web designs to magazine layouts and print ads.
It’s easier to experiment with the layout and composition of a design using a WYSIWYG editor like Fireworks than it is to make changes in any tool that requires coding or a rigid process.
Once you’ve finalized the look of your design in Fireworks, it’s a breeze to construct the finished product in applications like Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign. You don’t even need to start from scratch: a lot of what you create in Fireworks- whether its graphics, buttons or rollovers or entire navigation bars- can be exported to be a part of your finished product.
5. Make your workplace inspirational
As designers, we constantly seek inspiration from our surroundings.
Whether your workplace is your bedroom or your office, there is a lot to be gained by making it a much more fun and creative place to work in.
Your workplace should represent you as an artist/designer and reflect everything that inspires you. The wall paint or paper could be in your favorite colors and you could use some plants or an aquarium to make the room feel more alive. Your favorite books and music should be displayed prominently.
A ‘mood board’ could be used to pin all your sketches and carry all the bits and pieces you’ve cut out of magazines and print ads that you find interesting. Even posters of your favorite artists and films can sometimes provide you with more inspiration than staring at a blank white wall for hours.
6. Take a break
If you spend all your time fussing over your computer and pulling your hair out over an empty canvas or countless futile revisions, inspiration is hard to come by.
So instead of expecting the screen to miraculously produce the answer for you, get up and take a break. Take a shower and get a bite to eat. Go have a drink, kick back and relax for a bit.
Better yet, go out for a walk on your favorite track and, as cheesy as it sounds, let nature be your inspiration. Great ideas often come when you least expect them and the outside world is a good stimulant for creativity. By taking a breather and returning to your work with a fresh focus, you will be able to take alternate approaches and think up some great new ideas.
Lastly, few things are more inspirational than an inspirational quote about inspiration:
Roger van Oech once said:
“It’s easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date.”
Sometimes, the biggest obstacle in our creative pursuit is a preconceived notion of ‘how it should be’.
If that is what’s holding you back, it’s time to break the rules and follow your instinct. The creative brainstorming process is all about making mistakes and learning from them. There will be a lot of stuff that doesn’t work but you will soon stumble across the one thing that does!