How to Be Creative in Graphic Design

Creativity is a huge part of being a great graphic designer. Unfortunately, you can't just turn your creativity on when you want to do some design work. This makes being an artist or designer a little tricky. If you're feeling stuck, don't worry! Every great artist experiences this at some point. Luckily, there are plenty of simple little tricks to get the creativity flowing again and tackle any project in front of you.

Work at Your Most Productive Time of Day

Creativity doesn't work on a 9 to 5 schedule. There might be times of the day that you're more creative than others. If you can, work during those times so your creativity is at its highest.

Some people work better in the morning, and some might like working at night. Take advantage of the time that you're at your best. This is most helpful if you're a freelancer or work from home. It might be tougher to plan if you have a day job at an office, but you could still try other tricks to boost your creativity.

Sketch Your Ideas Out First

While most designers use a computer, don't neglect your sketch pad. Ideas flow differently when you're working with a pen and paper versus sitting at a computer. Get into the habit of sketching your ideas before trying to do them on your computer. You might just come up with a brand new idea that you wouldn't have thought of at the computer!

If you use a drawing pad or tablet for your computer, still try sketching on paper. Changing the medium you work with could help stimulate some creativity.

It's a good idea to keep your sketch pad with you at all times so you can start working whenever inspiration hits. This is another reason that a sketch pad works better than a computer drawing pad.

Don't worry if you're not very good at sketching. This is just for your own personal ideas, and you'll definitely get better if you stick with it.

Work on Your Own Personal Design Projects

You don't have to work with a client to be creative! Doing your own little design projects each day is a great way to get into a creative mood, so don't hold back. Some of these projects might even end up in your portfolio, which will help support your design career. Some good activities to get the creative juices flowing include:

Redecorating your work space or another part of your home.
Drawing or painting in your free time.
Redesigning the graphics in your favorite magazine, website, or movie poster.
Volunteering to do the graphics for a community organization.

Branch Out by Using Different Mediums and Programs.

Working with the same medium all the time might make you feel stuck. Break the routine by branching out and working with a different medium or program. This might spark some creativity and give you new ideas.

For example, if you're always sketching your ideas, maybe painting would be a nice change of pace.

You could also change the program you work with. If you're normally working with Photoshop, then switching to Illustrator might give you some new ideas.

Take on More Challenging Jobs to Improve Your Skills.

This is one of the best ways to grow as a designer.

If you always take jobs that you find easy, your skills won't improve. Furthermore, working on some more difficult projects could inspire you to come up with new, creative ideas. Make a commitment to expand your portfolio and seek out some challenging jobs.

If you normally design product logos, for example, branching out and doing some web design might be a welcome change. It might be frustrating to try something that you're not very skilled in, but stick with it! This is how you'll learn and get better as a designer.

Save Content That You Find Creative or Inspirational.

Take creative inspiration from everywhere! Whether you see a nice logo on a website, a good font on a magazine cover, or a nice movie poster, save that image. Create a file or portfolio of inspiring work and look at it whenever you feel like you need a boost.

Scrapbooking with the designs you like is also a great way to stimulate creativity. You'll keep all the designs in one place while doing a fun craft activity.

If you use Pinterest, it's very easy to pin creative ideas or designs that inspire you and look at them later.

It's fine to take influence from other designers and projects, but don't directly copy them. This will hurt your reputation as a designer.

Look for Inspirational Designs on Social Media Sites

Beyond Twitter and Facebook, there are tons of creative sites. Try checking out Tumblr, Designspiration, Niice, Baubauhaus, or Dribbble, sites where artists can upload their work and ideas. You might see some great work that gives you new ideas.

Remember to save any designs you like on these sites! Having a look at them when you need some inspiration can give you a nice boost.

Learn the History of Art and Design

There's so much to learn from the past! If you feel like you're in a creative slump, try looking back into history. Study how artists have expressed themselves throughout the years. This might give you some great new ideas that you didn't think of before.

There are tons of great art books, so your local library would be a great place to start. You could also look on websites for museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see thousands of pieces for inspiration. If you see any pieces of art you particularly like, add them to your scrapbook for inspiration.

Continue Your Education to Get New Ideas

Learning new things is a great way to expand your creativity. Consider yourself a perpetual student and make a commitment to learn new things all the time. With more skills in your back pocket, you can find more creative solutions to your design problems.

If you don't have a degree in graphic design, then going to school could teach you some extremely valuable skills and tricks to boost your creativity. You could also complete a certificate in design or using a particular medium. Many of these are available online for a reasonable price.

Clear Your Head to Get Rid of Distractions.

It's tough to be creative if your head is cluttered with other thoughts. Stress can especially hurt your creativity. Try doing some daily exercises to clear your head and let the creative thoughts flow in. Some good choices include:

Taking a walk
Doing deep-breathing exercises

Spend More Time Outside

Artists have taken inspiration from the outdoors for thousands of years. No need to end that now! It can be tough to think creatively if you're in your office or home all the time. Try spending some time outside by taking a walk, sitting in a park, or heading out for a hike. This change of scenery could really get your creative juices flowing.

Even if you don't live near a rural area, any small park or quiet area will work perfectly. Urban landscapes can be inspiring too. Go and check out the trains, bridges, architecture, cars, and people interacting to see if that gives you a creative spark.

Remember to bring your sketch pad when you go out! You never know when inspiration will strike.

Put Music on While You Work

Happy and upbeat music could give you a creativity boost. A lot of artists and creative professionals leave music on while they're working and agree that it helps them feel inspired. If you normally work in silence, give this a try and see if it helps.

Note that this might not work for everyone. Some people find music very distracting when they're trying to work, so don't worry if you need silence to be creative.

Taking a Break is a Good Way to Boost Your Creativity

Sometimes taking a break is a good way to boost your creativity too. Spending hours on your computer might not be helpful, but a break could clear your mind and get the creativity flowing. If you're feeling stuck and uncreative, don't be hard on yourself. Every artist feels like this occasionally! It doesn't mean you're a bad artist, it just means you're human.

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