As a designer, there’s a fine line between your design being comfortable and being boring. It’s easy to fall into a creative rut if you’re not changing things up and challenging yourself.
How do you know when you’ve started to slip? More importantly, what should you do to climb back up and get back on track?
We’ve put together a list of some sure signs that you’re sleepwalking though your design process. Not to leave you high and dry, we’ve also compiled a list of tips and advice that might help you get back to being your best, most creative self.
How To Know When You’re Sleepwalking through your Design
Sign #1: You feel like your work doesn’t mean anything.
Do you find yourself doing repetitive tasks that are becoming mundane and demotivating? Often, it is not the task itself that’s boring or making your accomplishments feel insignificant. It’s the thought of repeating the task daily that can take a toll on the designer, especially if you are still in the experimental phase of “figuring out your own style”.
You may have a new found confidence in mastering these daily tasks, but if you’re feeling less than motivated or not particularly satisfied once you’ve finished, this may be the first sign of a sleepwalking designer!
Sign #2: You’re not challenging yourself.
Are you focusing on just “getting things done” rather than making your work the best it can be? If you have a track record of settling for mediocre work, then this could be a worrying sign!
Understandably, there are times we are confined to deadlines or working with unusual client restrictions (like sticking to existing “less than awesome” brand guides). In these situations, we need to make compromises. But stay wary if you are in it just to get the job done. You don’t want it to seem like you’re selling out or just doing it for the money.
Be the designer with a true and unique voice. Challenge yourself and embrace projects and clients. Don’t be the designer who’s only thinking about the dollar signs when a project is assigned to you.
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Sign #3: You’re too comfortable with the creative process.
Are you constantly taking the same approach to design, only to get the same results every time? Do you ever walk down memory lane and take a look back at your designs/creative work and proceed to subconsciously take a deep breath and letting out sighs?
There are various reasons why we feel the way do when we (as creative people) review our past work. It could the internal struggle of “never good enough”, or it could simply be reminiscing about the great but difficult times from your creative experiences.
Designers and other creatives get comfortable with their creative processes for obvious reasons: they’ve proven to produce great work, and we like it! It can be tricky down the road as your perception of what makes great work changes. This is normally when most designers begin their mandatory journey to find their ideal work process and their identity as a designer.
Sign #4: You’re not working with other designers.
Are you underestimating the importance of comments and feedback from your peers? Are you welcoming different perspectives into the mix?
Creative people are excited and anxious when working on a new idea. Without trying, they miss out on inviting colleagues and peers to join in on their work in progress. Creatives can have a tunnel vision approach to their processes, and that can subconsciously put off a negative vibe that collaboration, feedback, and input are not welcome.
What To Do When You’re Stuck
Understanding and owning your design style is great! Knowing when not to get too comfortable and venture into other styles and techniques is super important, too. You may or may not succeed, but the idea of getting acquainted with an unfamiliar process has its benefits if you make sure to keep an open mind.
There’s value in doing something new. It’s not always about shifting your design styles, either. It could also be the approach or method of how you reach your outcome or how you view your success.
Take Risks & Make Friends with Failure
Creative people are nurtured by ideas, creativity, conversations, TED talks, and other people. These inputs act as inspirational catalysts to cultivate the creativity within us.
We do what we can to make room for improvements, and the room gets bigger each time we improve if we believe there are always opportunities to learn and grown. But when we face failure and fail to embrace it, the room gets smaller, and our creativity is intimidated.
Make friends with failure. Encourage yourself to become familiar with failures and mistakes because it’s the only way to make room for future improvement.
Get Feedback from Anyone Who Will Give It
Encourage feedback within your team. Better yet, seek feedback from a non-designer. There’s nothing like a fresh new perspective to get you looking at your design from a different angle.
Take advantage of the comments given, and don’t be afraid to probe further and ask why. Once you have a diverse set of feedback gathered, you can analyze it to learn what works and what doesn’t.
Another tip to consider while reviewing feedback and suggestions: try to see the potential in the ideas of others. Even if it doesn’t apply to your current project, it might make a difference down the road. Doing this can help train you as a creative thinker.
Be Disciplined & Set a Goal
Setting goals before diving into a project is a great idea, but so many designers underestimate it’s worth. They prefer to “work without restraints or limitations”.
It’s great to dive into a brainstorming session and take advantage of the ideas that are budding and the creativity that’s flowing.
The important thing is to know when to stop brainstorming and start building and designing. Making that decision puts you in control of the creative process. Keep practicing until you find an ideal process and timeline that works for you.
Take a Look at Your References and Resources
Most creatives have their usual go-to sites when they’re scouting new creative works in their respective communities. It’s good to spruce things up every once in a while by branching out from your usual workflow and scouting for new resources and reference from other sites.
This isn’t a life-changing approach, but it still might take a couple of times for you to adapt to it. Eventually, it should come naturally, and you’ll feel less like you’re forcing yourself.
Be sure to keep an open mind when branching out. Try your best to see the potential in the creative works that you are reviewing. Ask yourself, “What makes this work, and what takeaways can I gather from other creatives?”
If all else fails, go analog! Let your ideas and thoughts translate into a sketch. Write it all down and document your thought process.
Try to be completely comfortable and safe in letting your initial ideas flow onto your paper. Nevermind about the details.
Treat your initial sketches like a mind-mapping process – just keep adding ideas and documenting your process. Know when to take a step back to reflect and review what works, and most importantly, see the potential and don’t dismiss “small” ideas.
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We’d love to hear some of your tactics for getting out of a creative rut! Let us know what you do down in the comments!