How to Spring Clean Your Creativity: Four Exercises to Jumpstart Your Mind
Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth. The flowers are blooming. The baby birds are singing, and your creativity is…maybe feeling a little stale. Have no fear. Spring is the perfect time to rejuvenate your mind.
Many designers use mental exercises to restore their enthusiasm and fuel new thinking when stuck in a creative rut. Try these four techniques to get the inspiration flowing.
1. Restrict yourself
Authors often give themselves short challenges to overcome writer’s block, like writing a complete story in six words, or writing a composition without once using the letter “e.” Designers can take on similar challenges to fight off “designer’s block.” Choose a design goal, then give yourself a limitation like only creating the image using two colors and a single shape or only using straight lines.
Putting restrictions on your work allows you to both focus harder on the project and think outside the box. Resolutions often get stale because you’re working at the same thing over and over again, and it can be especially frustrating when your efforts don’t lead to any incredible breakthroughs or significant progress. Challenge yourself to do something new and difficult, and you will gain a different perspective on the project and restore the excitement of creating.
Image source: Marin Gorea Jr.
2. Break traditional rules
Another technique for igniting a creative spark is to go in the completely opposite direction. Remove all restrictions — especially the “rules” of good design.
Once you have a solid handle on composition, contrast, hierarchy, proximity, and the other basic design standards, you can start to disregard them. Freely designing without consideration for what makes a design “good” can be liberating, and can produce intriguing and dazzling pieces. You can avoid having your designs become an afterthought and create something that will stand out and make you excited to get to work.
If you decide to break the rules to create a masterpiece, make sure you understand the rules first. The difference between a thought-provoking piece and a design that makes the viewer cringe is a careful understanding of why the rules exist and what effect breaking them will have. For example, Pablo Picasso, father of cubism, started his career with a traditional artistic education and mastered the naturalistic style before he started experimenting.
Image source: Omar Aqil.
When the principles of design become second nature, designing can feel routine and boring. Mix it up by doing what you were told never to do.
3. Experiment with new tools
Trying to use a new program — or even trying out new features on a program you’re familiar with — can be overwhelming. It’s safer and easier to stick with the design skills you know, but that’s not as fun. Give yourself some time to experiment with the newest design technology, and you might find yourself incorporating the features you learn into your work.
For example, if you work primarily in Illustrator, and have a pretty good handle on how the program works, consider exploring Adobe Capture on your phone or tablet. It allows you to design on the go, and then take assets and bring them into your desktop apps. It is not a hard platform to learn, and working with something new might make you more eager to work on your goals. You could also experiment with 3D image compositing using Adobe Dimension CC, prototyping apps and websites with Adobe XD, or creating beautiful social media posts with Adobe Spark.
Even if you don’t end up using any of these features for a finished project, it can be fun to just experiment and learn what you’re capable of. When you play around with these tools without worrying about perfection or total mastery, you can bring the fun back to your art.
4. Seek out trends and make them your own
Sometimes, all you need is a little bit of inspiration. Use a design sharing platform like Behance to follow other designers and get an idea of what other people are excited about. Pay attention to popular design trends to see if any catch your eye. You can often find tutorials if you aren’t sure how to achieve a particular effect.
Don’t worry about trying to incorporate all the trendiest techniques into your work — find something that makes you happy, and learn how to do it. Spanish artist and art director Jenue says, “You should look at any trend that inspires your mind and brings you excitement enough to create just for the sake of it and makes your life happier.”
Image source: Jenue.
The best thing about creativity is that it is constantly being refreshed and reinvented. Challenging yourself, experimenting with new trends and tools, and breaking out of your comfort zone can help you experience your own rebirth of inspiration and help you spring into a new era of your personal design.