Designer’s Block 3 ways to conquer and create

Designing websites is a time-consuming and often tedious process. It takes patience, attention to the most minute details, and the ability to surrender control, accepting that your creation is an evolving organism that will never fit perfectly into your carefully-crafted mold.

Just like any creative endeavor that requires a balance of expertise, problem-solving skills, and raw intuition, sometimes the mysterious process of creation gets curiously derailed. And regardless of whether you’re tackling a new project or you’re weeks or months into a complex one, Designer’s Block—the feeling of being completely out of ideas—is frustrating and inconvenient.

I’ve put together a list of some antidotes I’ve learned over the years to help combat the burned-out feeling and give a burst of fresh air to your creativity:

Surf and stumble

The inspiring visual archive at Colossal.
The inspiring visual archive at Colossal.

If you’re not too blocked, and just need a quick gust of inspiring winds to get the creative storm brewing, you need not venture further than where you’re already sitting. Online design galleries, blogs, and sites like Pinterest and StumbleUpon (yes, I still use it!) are great for getting lost in beautiful design. There are endless places to browse, just make sure you bookmark your favorite stops so you can find them later on. My colleague, Chris Silverman, recommends LittleSnapper for organizing and easily accessing your findings; I keep an “inspiration” bookmark menu that is synchronized through Firefox Sync.

Here are some of my favorite places to get lost:
SiteInspire – website design gallery
Colossal – “art and visual ingenuity”
Design You Trust – design blog covering much more than graphics
FormFiftyFive – design inspiration
Visual.ly – infographics

Shift your perspective

Desk

Sometimes all you need is a little change in scenery. What is the problem that’s got you stumped? Chances are, a little sketching, writing, reading, or brainstorming will help you make headway.

Give yourself some extra brainpower by stepping away from the computer… in fact, consider leaving your desk altogether. Grab a sketchpad, leave your screens behind, and find a space that feeds your brain waves. Feeling drained and tired? A quiet nook by a window will give you peace and privacy. Wired and unfocused? A busy corridor bubbling with activity could get your neurons firing in tandem. Spend some time soaking in your new surroundings, and take a few minutes just creating whatever comes to you, giving yourself a break from the problem at hand. Let your ideas wander and enjoy where it takes you, eventually circling back to your “block” when you feel ready. You may find that your brief detour has sparked new and useful solutions.

Problem Swap

Two minds are better than one, and if you’re really stuck, don’t hesitate to ask for help. In fact, you may find that a colleague could use your input, too, and exchanging “design blocks” might shed light on unforeseen answers.

Start by finding a friend, co-worker, or online colleague you can trust, and offer to swap ideas. Frame your dilemma, provide files and notes, if it’s complex, and ask them to do the same. Determine a set amount of time for the two of you to ponder each other’s problem, and take that time to fully shift gears and immerse your mind in a fresh challenge. When you’re both finished, meet, Skype, or have a quick chat to share your findings. While having a fresh set of eyes on an issue doesn’t guarantee that you’ll immediately find a solution, it will certainly get you thinking in another direction—one that may eventually lead to the perfect resolution.

Designer’s block doesn’t have to crimp your creative process. The next time you feel like your treading water, take a break to try one of these techniques to wake your inner genius. You’ll be back on track and crafting killer websites in no time!

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