Real Ways to Spark Creativity
If you are in any type of creative field, it can really be difficult to keep the creative juices flowing. You sit behind a computer for hours a day, and one day seems to blend into another. The problem is that after a while, you begin to become uninspired. You feel like everything that you are doing is either mediocre or boring. I have been doing a lot of work lately, and I started to feel like my creativity was dwindling. After reading a few articles online, I realized how little they help. Take a walk? Go on vacation? That doesn’t help me when I am sitting here at 2am trying to come up with ideas for a new article, or an idea for a clients website. I can’t just pick up and run away from my problems and in the real world, we have something called deadlines. So, what are some real ways to spark creativity?
One reason why Pinterest is so popular is because people can snap any image that they want from the web and pin it to their own account. Each image is placed within a category, and you can make as many categories as you want. I love this, because you can search keywords and you literally have a supermarket variety of images and ideas, that match your keyword. It is like doing a Google search, but more personal. It is literally like having your own focus group that allows you to see into the minds of the average person. If your silent has a sleep comfort products website (Pillows, throws, blankets, etc.) you could type in comfort. When the results come up, there could be hundreds or even thousands of images of products or concepts of comfort. One might be something you might never think of, and sparks a unique idea or concept for your project. This is one of the most organized ways to spark creativity.
This is an exercise that helps me a lot. You start with your basic keyword. From there, you write out every word that you can think of hat has to do with that word. Make solid connections or make loose ones. It doesn’t matter with this exercise, because there is no right or wrong. You might think this word association exercise is elementary, but it will help you to make connections that you might not normally make. You aren’t doing anything that could hurt anything if you’re wrong, and no one will know what you wrote except for you. You can either write lists, or you can start off with a central idea. Put a circle around it, and from that, branch off as many ideas and concepts from that one idea as possible. From those ideas, branch off even more ideas, and the goal is that eventually you will hit an idea or something will spark an idea to get a solid concept going. This is one of the best ways to spark creativity.
Look at Other Creative Work
I want to stress that this isn’t a copying exercise. This is more of a way to loosen up your mind. Images are the most powerful way to make great connections. An image, a color, a scene, a person, and virtually anything else can spark a moment of epiphany or inspiration. Images is one of the simplest and most effective ways to spark creativity. Choosing where to go for inspiration is the tricky part. What inspires you? It could be anything, but there are a few places that are great for getting inspired. Here’s a list of a few of my favorite 3 inspirational sites:
This is one of the most remarkable sites I have ever seen for just pure inspiration and beautiful work. Artists upload digital paintings, photography, posters, type design, logos, illustrations, poster designs, beautiful products and more. It is all set up in a continuous flow, where you can just scroll downward until you are blue in the face. You’ll see artwork that will blow your mind, and at any time you might see a concept that sparks a unique idea for your next project.
Dribbble is an amazing source of inspiration. Designers upload screenshots or pics of what they are working on, and then others can see it, comment on it, or vote on it. Plug in a few topic keywords in the search bar and see what comes up. Someone might have worked on a similar project, or you might see something that sparks an idea. To become a member, it is invite only, but you can still browse people’s work.
Creattica is a great site for inspiration. They have broken down the projects featured on their site into different categories, such as email design, icon design, inforgraphics, Photoshop, type, logos and more. You can easily click on the type of project you are working on, and have tons of examples at your finger tips.
Research the Competition
I know you’re thinking “Steal their ideas?” No, just hear me out. Let’s say you are creating a website for a travel agency. Hop on the web and Google travel agencies nationwide. You might spend an hour or two looking at different sites, making notes, taking screenshots, etc. You gather shots of sites that you like and the notes that you make will be based of features that the site has that you feel must be incorporated into your site. This makes sure your site isn’t missing a common feature that everyone is used to. Then, you can look at what they aren’t doing that users would love, and you incorporate those features in your client’s site. Your site will be unique because it has a feature no one else has, while making sure your client offers everything the competition does. You might even add your own twist to these features so that the site is even more unique, and a step above the competition in every way.
Maybe the competition’s site’s menu doesn’t work well, or the selections are confusing. Maybe a site has won several design awards and you might gain inspiration by seeing what worked for them. Seeing what’s been done and what hasn’t is one of the smartest ways to spark creativity.
Don’t Be So Critical
Criticizing and dismissing your ideas before they ever get started is a surefire way to block your creative flow. Explore ideas, work them out, and see them through. Sketch them out and if they don’t work, then your brain can gain some closure and move on. Otherwise, your brain will keep coming back to the same dull idea over and over again until you do lay it to rest. Keeping a journal or sketchbook is a great idea, because it is your own private playground where no one can judge you. You can draw, think and say whatever you want without consequence. Combine images idea and words and let it flow. No one should be looking over your shoulder.
Disconnect From Tech and Other Distractions
How can you concentrate with your phone buzzing with text messages every couple of minutes? How can you formulate new ideas and focus when you are checking your email each time you get a new message? Turn them off. Set your phone to silence unless you are expecting an important business call. Turn the TV off, the radio off, and focus without tech and other distractions. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done when you can actually sit down and focus. This is one of the best ways to spark creativity. Being able to keep your mind on one subject uninterrupted should eventually lead to at least a couple of good ideas.
Write Your Ideas Down As You Go
If you keep a notebook, or at least a per-project file folder, make notes that you can refer back to later. At a later time, go back and refer to your previous brainstorming sessions. With a fresh mind, you might spark an idea you hadn’t thought of before. The idea was initially there, you are simply approaching the problem on a different day, with a different mode, attitude, outlook. There are so many outside factors that determine how our mind works.
There are many ways to spark creativity. What is really important is that you find what works for you. Make lists, doodle, surf the web, look at a few of your favorite online inspiration galleries, skip stones at a lake, go for a run, have an in-depth philosophical conversation about life with your dog- whatever works for you, do it! Creativity is such a personal thing that you can’t fit yourself into a mold. You can’t always do what your design heroes do. Sometimes you have to follow your own path, which may lead to your own individual greatness. Whatever you have to do to get yourself into the right frame of mind to knock your client’s socks off with your latest design or idea, the important part is to pick one of the ways to spark creativity within yourself and get there.