Overcome Designer’s Block: Tips and Tricks

• 5 minutes READ

During the last few weeks I seem to keep having those days where nothing creative seems to happen. I try – really hard – but the creative juices just aren’t flowing. And trying harder just seems to make the problem worse.

Ever get stuck in those situations?

How do you get out of them?

For me, the answer was two-fold. First, I had to get away from the desk and re-energize my brain. Then I had to start working … but with the help of a few easy tools. Sometimes overcoming “designer’s block” is not easy, but you can do it. Here are a few tips to break the block and examples of creative design to help inspire you.

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Nothing provides inspiration like good work. Take a break and look through creative design projects – web, print, whatever. And create an idea board for later.

It is a good idea to catalogue and collect creative or inspiring pieces as part of your daily routine, but do you really go back and look at them? Now is the time.

Use a tool like Pinterest or Springpad to collect images, sites, articles and tutorials that strike you. Regularly look at good design on Behance and Dribbble and make sure to follow designers that inspire you.

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Music really does encourage creative thought.

A study by The Dana Foundation, pinpoints how certain areas of the brain are activated and deactivated by music and the creative process. From jazz to rap, artists who add freestyle lyrics to their music employ a more creative part of the brain.

How does that relate to your work?

Music can also drown out other distractions – from office noises to people talking. By not focusing on other things, you can stick to and better think about the design project at hand.

Sing along. And experiment with different types of music.

Do you work better listening to a certain genre? You know music can make you feel a certain way. Take this one step further by using these feelings to help influence your projects. And remember to think outside your typical playlist – the songs that help me work are not necessarily the same songs I jog to or listen to in the car. Use a service such as Spotify or Pandora to discover new tunes.

Take a Risk

Re-imagine a past project in a new way. Take a project that is done and rethink it using new trends (maybe in a flat design style) to get outside of your comfort level. Working on a project that “does not count” can sometimes relieve the pressure of working under constraints or under a deadline. By designing something that is just for you or what you want, you can get loose with the design — freeing your mind of design limitations that often come with other projects.

Go out on a limb with a current project. You have the details but there is an inkling of an idea in the back of your mind. Go with it. Mock up the “out there” design in addition to what is expected.

Doodle or Color

Create something unrelated to your web design projects. I keep a coloring book and pencils in my desk drawer for these moments.  Don’t spend two hours coloring, but 15 minutes can really put your mind at ease.

Doodling is fun – and effective– too. This is a great tool when working through a complicated project. Stop wireframing and sketch. Drawings are limitless. This different way of thinking about a project can help get you out of a rut. (And sometimes these drawings can end up being part of the project.)

Writing can offer a similar release. Form a Haiku or limerick about your project.

Walk Through a Museum

Go out and look at creativity in action. Walk through a museum, go to a concert or just take a walk.

Physical activity and visual stimulation are beneficial in similar ways. Both activities help you shift your focus but allow the nagging project to settle in the back of your mind. Add on another creative process, such as looking at art, for an extra bonus.

Write it Down or Talk it Out

Keep a log of when you have designer’s block and what you are working on when it happens. Are there certain triggers? Is stress to blame?

By better understanding what is causing you to blank on projects, you can help combat it. You might just find that all you need is a vacation.

Trying talking about your project with someone else. From a team member to your spouse, just explaining what you are working on can really make a difference. For projects that have really given me fits, trying to explain what I am doing to someone who has never seen it works wonders because I really have to make them understand why I am doing something. And sometimes, the block comes from you not quite getting the concept yourself.


Sometimes you just have to step back and be inspired. Or just free your brain of design-related thoughts to really feel creative again.

Now that I’ve shared my tips, what do you do to stimulate your creativity? Share your experience in the comments and with me on Twitter.

Carrie Cousins

Carrie Cousins has more than 20 years of experience in online media, web design, and content marketing. She has worked with a diverse range of clients, from small businesses to large corporations, helping them create engaging and effective digital strategies that drive results. Now, she serves as the Director of Digital Marketing and has been featured on Blue Ridge PBS (Roanoke) and VPM's Buzz4Good (Richmond), where she helps nonprofits get more from their design and marketing efforts.

Posts by Carrie Cousins