14 Tips to Help You in Your Future Creative Projects

Passion for creation is what designers love the most. However, creating and designing different projects at the same time is not an easy task. It requires a lot of fresh thinking, observation and work.

Warning! Text heavy article.

There are many situations that keep us procrastinating the start of a project—for example: feeling blank and thinking that we don’t have interesting ideas. There are many different reasons for why these feeling arise, which is a whole different discussion, but what you need now is how to get back to your creative self. Let’s have a look at some different ways to do this.

1. Break the cycle

List all of the creative tasks you need to do, with their priorities and deadlines.

Review them and see which one you like the most and inspires you to start it now. That specific project may not be in first in your deadline and priority. But, that is ok, start it any way! What you need at this moment is to find a stimulus or a motivating force to take you out this passive mode.

It is very common to have ups and down in the creative cycle. The trick is how to break the low cycle and get back into the up.

What if none of your projects make you excited?
We all go through phases like this, so just trust that it’s normal and you will come out of it soon. But if this is a feeling that consistently comes up, you have to review your niche market and client base and also the field you provide the design work. There are great chances that this niche is not your fit. In the long term it will hurt the quality of your work and eventually result in hatred toward your career.

2.Warm up your creative muscles

Our mind is like a muscle. We always warm up before heavy exercise; this is precisely what we need to do before committing to a big project. We need to get our mind into the mood for creativity.

Start browsing, looking around, doodling, outlining and gathering some concept. I normally create a folder name it “inspirations” and save things I find inspiring.

It is very helpful to find and search other designer’s portfolios, read inspirational blogs, tutorials. There are many free resources available.

If you still feel nothing inspired you yet. Expand your stimulus circle. Instead of watching brainless TV shows, select a movie that got good reviews and awards; go cycle outside, take a yoga class, talk with positive friends; search for new music you like or listen to ones you love.

3. Start with small steps, but efficient ones

Find a time in the day that you feel more productive. Some of us are more productive in the morning and some at night. Secure 2 hours, without any email or phone distractions. Set your timer for 55 min. Normally our mind gets tired after 55 – 60 min of highly focused work. Take a break.

4. Draft your ideas

You may have a couple sketches by now (digital or hand drawn) – begin putting them together.

5. Sleep on your idea

Leave your sketches for a day or two or even couple hours (based on your time frame).
Give yourself time to detach from the project.

6. Get back to it

Review your sketches and ideas again and see if you can add or clean it up or sometimes even start something completely different

7. Prepare the first set of drafts

Start working on the first draft by scanning the hand drawn sketches; choose color swatches, typefaces, backgrounds, etc. Don’t get into details. Just make them clean enough to express your ideas. Create a separate folder in your design folder and name it DRAFTS, save your different drafts as you scan them in etc.

8. Show the clean draft to your client

It is better to have this take place in a face-to-face meeting (in person, or virtual), if possible. This way, you can engage in a live conversation.

9. What happens after feedback

Once you’ve had your meeting and presented your designs, the client usually settles on one of three things. These are usually the three options after meeting with your client:

  1. They liked it and it is time to move to finish it
  2. They didn’t like and back to sketch board again
  3. They mixed different parts, and added new ideas

The hardest part is second situation. You need to be very careful now. Why? Because if you have to come back to the drawing board without knowing what needs to be changed,you may end up in a loop that will waste your time and energy.

You HAVE to find the real cause and reason of why they didn’t like your first drafts. Explore what the client says, beyond the words. Like a doctor, tries to find the disease by asking about symptoms:

Are they looking for a different style, or is it a color or placement or marketing concept problem?

It may be a simple problem, but your client doesn’t know how express it in design terms. (I had a client years ago who kept rejecting my drafts by saying he likes “real” design. Finally I found out “real” means “3D” typography)

10. Space out your projects

If you have to work on several projects at the same time, it is better to separate the drafting and initial drafting time specially when you are in the idea building phase.

For example devote a couple days to project A. Keep all stimuli and inspiration you acquired for that project fresh while working on it. Then after you reached a good stopping point, move to second project.

11. Deadlines have two opposites effects on designers

Long deadlines may result in procrastination, or, a phenomenal project because you have a set schedule to follow through.

In contrast, tight deadlines may create more pressure, causing you to perform below your best… or, they may have a positive effect on you to work faster to find a solution.

12. Surround yourself with your favorite work

This will create a motivating environment for you to work in, which can help improve the project you are working on.

13. Record your process

Keep a log of how long it took from the first draft to the final one. This will not only help you in keeping track of how much time you spent, but it also shows you where your weak spots are. It will pinpoint areas that you spent hours on, which may have been more technical in nature than creative. Examples of these issues are: technical issues with the computer, printing the right colors, removing bugs, phone calls, emails, saving different file formats.

These frustrations are cumulative, and often will add up and adversely affect your next creative cycle. The record keeping process doesn’t have to be written, you can keep voice recordings too!

14. Continue exercising your mind every day

Whether you have a work projector not, always have a personal project on the side. Always look for new design trends, read tutorials and try to learn new things. Continue to add items, designs, music, and films and articles to your “inspiration” folder!

That’s it people. Hope you enjoyed these tips and that you will use them in your future creative projects. It takes a lot to become a successful designer, but it can be done. Keep well.

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Saya Behnam is a graphic, web and mixed media designer for over 15 years. She provides tutorials, articles, inspiration and news in her blog http://www.arterruption.net for creative design

5 Comments
  1. Reply Rizza Gamutan February 22, 2012 at 3:27 AM

    Great article, Saya! You give the best tips to help people. I’m enlightened!

    • Reply Saya March 9, 2012 at 6:18 AM

      Thanks Rizza

  2. Reply StephenCostello.com February 23, 2012 at 3:55 PM

     Nice work… hard part however is trying to implement it!

  3. Reply squeakyweasel February 27, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    Some sound advice here

  4. Reply squeakyweasel February 27, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    Some sound, well-written, advice here folks!

    Thanks Saya, I’ll be checking out your blog – SW

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