Beating Zombie Designer Block
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beating designer block

Beating the Zombie Curse of Designer's Block

It’s so frustrating when designer's block moves into your brain. It’s like the laziest tenant in the world, refusing to let anyone in and making a mess of all your good ideas. But you can’t just sit and stare at the screen forever, hoping that it will eventually leave, you have to remove the pesky creature!

You’re not alone. I’m sure most designers, artists, engineers and other creatives will admit to having been in this slump at one time or another – staring at a blank screen for hours, waiting for something to appear and absolutely nothing happens. Nervously, you go to sleep, hoping that elves will come in the middle of the night and do the job for you. But that rarely happens.

To get you over this hump, here are a few suggestions to destroy the zombie curse:

bike rider designer

1.  Get Moving

Firstly, you need to rid yourself of the panicked and pressured mindset. Even if that deadline is fast approaching, being anxious and nervous is never a good state-of-mind to try to design and be creative in. Your mind and body are fighting against you; you are physically wound too tight. You need to free yourself.

Get out of the office, studio or house. Treat both your mind and muscles to a walk, a bike ride, a swim, or whatever you need to get your mind and body in a relaxed state. Feel the power and endorphin release that physical exercise does for your body and psyche and allow your subconscious to discover the design brilliance that has been lying dormant.

If you’re not the exercise type, visit the closest mall and wander around for an hour or two. You might even consider taking design notes about ads, posters, flyers and other great visual input.

 woman designer at gallery

2. Feed Your Brain

Surfing the Internet shouldn’t be your only source of design input. In fact, sitting in that same chair, typing on that same keyboard and looking at that same screen is often part of the problem. When you’ve been designing without a break for a long space of time, it’s easy to get bored by the idea of designing something new.

Go to a museum, gallery, bookstore or library and seek out an artist, writer, a comic book author or other source of inspiration to re-invigorate your passion for creation. Being in the same room and the same surroundings is counter-productive. Getting out of the house and feeding your brain with fresh experiences and inspiration is essential.

Inspiration doesn’t have to be as obvious as an art gallery, either. Go see a movie, a play, or a concert on an evening. People often describe how their best ideas and “eureka” moments happen when their mind is stimulated, rather than being in a state where it’s trying to force ideas into inception.


3. Don’t Create a Fortress of Solitude

Don’t shut yourself off from the world. Being by yourself without any interaction with people is how some people work but for most designers and creative professionals it’s often self-destructive when it comes to generating ideas.

Find people to bounce ideas off. Take a break and spend some quality time with your partner, friends or family. I find that spending time with people gives me the distance from the project that I need to come back to it with new vigor. In times of great design crises I like to meet a friend for lunch or go to the beach with my daughter to build a big sandcastle.

 tutorial article designer inspiration

Find a great design tutorial to learn some new techniques and to get the creativity flowing

4. Freshen-up with New Apps and Techniques

Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, and other industry standard programs are most designer’s tools of the trade. However, it’s easy to get dulled by the same techniques and methods that these programs offer. It’s nice to find a new program, plugin, or app to experiment with and to expand your breadth of knowledge. Using something new can often lift your design spirits.

Explore new programs and apps on your tablet like Procreate, Auryn Ink (watercolor painting emulator) and Pixelmator for concept generation. You might also like to try some of Roland DG’s new tools like InClix that allows designers to create designs and video content.

Finding a great design tutorial to play around with is also a fantastic way to get back into the swing of things and sites like GoMedia Zine are a great way to hone your skills.


5. Eat! (and Sleep!)

However busy you are, don’t forget to eat. When people get stressed and panicky, eating is often the last thing people want to do. This is a bad move because food effects your mood and energy levels and in turn, dampens your creative abilities. Fill your belly full of good things, and you'll hopefully fill your head full of good stuff.

It may sound obvious but stay away from junk food with empty calories and eat veggies, protein, fruit and brain fuel. You need the energy to feel relaxed and recharged.

The same is true for sleeping. Getting plenty of sleep and not working every night into the small hours prevents poor decision-making and stops you from literally “freaking out!” If you don’t sleep you’ll feel like a slow and laborious caterpillar instead of a brilliant butterfly with colorful thoughts and fresh ideas.

And so ends my personal list of the things you might do to prevent the zombie curse of designer's block. Another good idea to beat the blues is to read some of our other top inspirational posts to get the brain juices flowing:

Color Your World Infographic

Real or Wrap? Tricking the Eye with Vinyl Wrap Graphics

Wrapping Future Vehicles

A Closer Look at the Design and Typography of Unique Labels and Products

Toy Designer Andrew Bell and the Creatures Inside His Head

Ben Fellowes

Ben Fellowes

Ben Fellowes is Sr. Copywriter and marketing expert at Roland DGA. He's designed and produced content for some of the world’s top agencies and marketing companies. He's currently working (and getting his fair English skin burned) in Southern California! He loves art, punk rock, horror films, comic books, real beer, cooking, and eating too much!