Working in a creative profession is a job unlike any other. Every day you show up to work expected to create something new and fresh (while staying under budget, of course) and find a way to visually sell your product or tell your story. Often times we find ourselves spinning our wheels without knowing what angle to attack the current task from, which can leave designers drained and frustrated. It’s the ultimate hassle that we have to deal with and can heavily impact the final creative product if not handled correctly: creative block.
In my short time in the industry, I’ve prided myself on focusing on strategy before creative, and concept before computer. I find that if you can solve your problem with words on paper first, then the visual will come naturally, and creative block becomes a thing of the past. If you’re trying to find your next big idea at the bottom of your 6th cup of coffee, give these techniques a try to get your brain moving in the right direction.
- 5 Words or Less
Try to identify the selling feature, service or benefit that you’re highlighting in a short, 5-word phrase. The goal here is to break down what may seem like a complex problem into a quick, direct one. This allows you to cut away all the fat of the project and focus on the most important factor. By keeping it as a short phrase, you don’t limit your potential solutions by getting super specific early on. It’s fine if you need to create multiple phrases. Keep trying to condense until you’ve found that magic phrase. Think of how many iterations Nike has come up with to show “Just Do It” and the endless ideas they have left available to them. Without some sort of basic foundation, visual solutions have nothing to stand on.
It’s great to pinpoint the problem, but how do you find the most appropriate solution while staying on brand? One trick I like to use is to personify my solutions. If I’m presenting two possible solutions for a campaign, it helps to imagine those solutions as people. What type of person would identify the most with the solution you’re proposing? What would be their gender, age, background, musical interests, job, etc? By crafting a person instead of a headline, you’re able to create a richer pool of inspiration to draw from instead of locking yourself up on Thesaurus.com.
- The Blender
Finally, it’s always important to think outside of the box. It’s hard to convince a client to go outside of the norm, but sometimes there can be magic meeting in the middle. One way to do this is to imagine your client in a completely opposite industry. How would your stiff, corporate client’s website look if it were designed to look like an edgy BMX website? By looking at a radical extreme, sometimes there are ways to blend the two and create something fresh, yet relevant. Maybe a certain type of photography would translate well or the way content is presented onscreen. While it’s important to stay true to the client and brand, sometimes this play can create something they didn’t know they wanted, and something you’re proud to put your name behind.