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  • Writer's pictureBrianna Wall

Get Inspired

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

Four ways to spark creativity when you get stuck

All creatives have been there. We want to freshen up an old design or do justice to a subject that deserves a well written story. We wish our company letterhead looked a little less 90s, or we really want to dive into segmented marketing, but we just don’t know where to start. We’re confident we have the skills, we just need the time and a little inspiration.

Part of the reason we as creatives sometimes hit a wall is because we’re trying to do too many things without effective systems in place. We have multiple projects either in the queue or already begun — all of them getting far less than our best — and we’ve run out of creative energy. Perhaps rather than inspiration, we need to first free up capacity in our brains by adopting a system that helps organize our projects and tasks. If that’s you, check out these posts on budgeting your time in a way that places a certain level of priority on all the things you need to complete while making room for the things you want to spend your time doing.

Also, try to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. After that puts it back into perspective for you, try these four things that I find helpful when looking for inspiration:

1. Get out of your office

If you are expected to work in an office 40 hours a week, politely explain to your superiors that you’ve hit a block and you would like to escape to a coffee shop, a park, a good patio, the library or anywhere else for the day or afternoon. Changing your environment really does work, and not only because it reduces the chances of unplanned distractions. You know how hard it is once your energy is diverted to get your mind back into the same space it was before. Setting up shop somewhere away from your typical surroundings might give you the spark you need. I know it does for me — so much that you can find me at my favorite coffee shop every Friday morning. I would venture to say I have completed more projects there than in my office over the last two years. Part of that is because I do my best work on the cusp of a deadline, but also because I can put in my AirPods, play some instrumental jams (Lofi Beats, anyone?), turn my phone on do not disturb and fully focus on the task at hand. 

If I’m needing design inspiration, I simply look around at my surroundings and begin noticing different elements of the artwork hanging on the wall, or the cool serif font on the menu, or the winding sidewalk through the trees. All of these things help me break through that wall and at least begin designing whatever project it is that’s been giving me fits. I find that once I’ve at least put something on paper (or the computer), the project more easily takes shape.

2. Flip through magazines or look at other marketing pieces that have caught your eye

Our designs are thought to be subconsciously based on previous designs we’ve seen, admired and filed away in our minds. Once we learn how to bring those designs to life, then we add our own elements, tendencies and branding to make them our own. When I first became editor in 2014, I flipped through a ton of magazines looking for elements to incorporate. One of my favorite feelings was seeing how my finished product complemented what inspired it. Toward the end of 2020, I felt I needed to update it again, but not a complete redesign. This time, I was inspired by the layout, design, text, stories and color palette of the Magnolia Journal magazine. I’ve also used marketing pieces and emails from other companies to inform the communications I create. To my knowledge, I’ve never completely plagiarized and flat copied any design, but I’m also not trying to reinvent the wheel. The key is to continually evolve and avoid letting your communications become outdated.

If you think about it, we’re exposed to an average of 6,000 to 10,000 ads per day — surely we can find inspiration from some of them. 

3. Google is your friend

I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to Google Images when I didn’t know where to even begin. You can find countless designs there that might inspire you if you get stuck, or at least find a direction in which you’d like your design to go. If, at this point, all you’re missing are the skills to bring the vision to life, let me know! 

4. Contract it out

It is okay to simply not have the answer, and to know that, no matter how long you think about it, where you go, or what magazines you flip through, you just can’t conceptualize or produce what you need to. I spent so much time trying to design a car wrap a few years ago, and everything I came up with looked and felt uninspired. I couldn’t visualize it and had to accept that the design would have to come from someone else. So, I began shopping around for someone who could produce what I couldn’t, and it was worth every single penny. Depending on what area you live in, you might be able to find a local agency or freelancer to outsource or contract out specific projects. Something else you might try is reaching out to your local vo-tech or technology center. Most of them have classes of students studying graphic design, writing, software implementation, IT, etc., and some will gladly take up projects from local organizations. Depending on your need, I might be able to help! Check out my Solutions page to take a look.

I have outsourced feature writing, logo design, graphic animation, podcast intro/outro audio, web design and more. Most of the costs associated with our type of work are very reasonable and, again, worth it!

Last but not least, be encouraged! We all need a little inspiration now and then, and there’s nothing wrong with taking a step back, sleeping on it and trying again the next day. I’d love to hear what inspires you and helps you break through that creative block. Let me know in the comments, and we can all be encouraged together!

I hope these tips help you find inspiration to knock out your next project in less time so you can create more time for the things that matter most!

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