December 10th, 2020

Everyone has heard of writer’s block: knowing what you want to say, but not being able to put it in words. Creative block is the designer’s equivalent. You have a project that needs completing and you’re stuck—everything you layout looks blah, the words just look wrong on the page, or you’re staring at a stark white document and nothing comes to mind. Creative block is the last thing you need when LITERALLY your entire job is to be creative. Here are a few techniques I find helpful when I’m just not feeling creative:

Look for inspiration elsewhere

Search for design inspiration on Pinterest, read up on the latest design trends, peek at some design portfolios, look at materials from a similar industry as your client’s, or watch a video on a new technique. As designers, we take inspiration from the world around us, whether we realize it or not. Seeing new work might just be the inspiration you need.

Work on something different

You’re stumped on a project, you’re on a deadline, so rationally, it doesn’t make sense to step away. Start another project that you have on your to-do list and come back later after you’ve given your brain a break. You may be pleasantly surprised at what happens after a little time to recharge.

Get a fresh perspective

With this whole work-from-home thing we’re all dealing with, I’m no longer sitting next to my coworkers, who I’d go to for help when I’m stuck. I’m shut in my apartment with my fiance—who, by the way, does not have a creative bone in his body—and my cats. While my cats can’t offer me any design advice, my fiance can. I just pull up what I’m stuck on and ask for some opinions. Sometimes (most of the time), his suggestions aren’t the right answer. BUT more often than not, they spark a new idea that I haven’t thought of yet.

Turn off the computer screen

No seriously. Turn it off, walk away. Get out a piece of paper and a pencil, and think about the project at hand. Doodle things that come to mind, make lists of word associations, colors that might go with what you’re designing. When you’re working on a computer, day after day, the act of putting a pencil to paper can help you look at things differently.

You’d be amazed at where new ideas are hiding out. They’re often where you would least expect them to be.


Rachel Baumgartner, MorningStar Graphic and Web Designer, is a troubleshooter. You can trust Rachel’s fresh-eyed, yet masterful, approach to your marketing visuals. She takes a page from the pros in her design philosophy – the client deserves effective and alluring materials every time. This Northern Illinois University visual communications graduate can find a unique angle on any project to give it the desired effect it requires.


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