CareerFoundry UI Design Short Course - Day 06

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Welcome to day 6 of your UI Design Short Course. Today we're going to explore a very important aspect of the design process: creativity and inspiration.

Just like writers, designers can develop “designer’s block”. But don’t worry if this happens to you. When you find your creative juices are tapped, there are tons of things you can do to get the machinery running again!

Finding Your Creative Muse

Every creative has a muse. It may be a beautiful individual, a stunning landscape, or curious shadows cast on the wall. What a muse actually is or looks like isn't important. What is important is what it does for a creative’s mind: it fuels ideas.

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Getting your creative juices flowing can be one of the most exciting parts of the design process. Looking at awesome work produced by creatives all over the world, becoming exposed to their ideas and ways of thinking, and learning new things every time you set out to find inspiration is an incredibly rewarding process. It reminds you that you are part of a giant network of artists and designers and feeds your creative hunger—which feels pretty great.

Unfortunately for most creatives, inspiration doesn't always respect its curfew. From time to time, it comes when you least expect it. Don’t be surprised if you have to bolt out of the shower in search of a notebook; great ideas tend to be untimely.

The process of finding inspiration is organic and varies from person to person. However, there are a few general steps you can take that will have you generating new ideas in no time. Let's take a look!

Step 1. Give Yourself Enough Time

As you define timelines for projects, give yourself more than enough time to gather inspiration and begin forming ideas. How much time is enough time depends on you: the process is entirely personal. With time, you’ll gain an idea of how long it normally takes you to find inspiration and will be able to define how long you need to devote to the inspiration phase.

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If you find that it normally takes you half a day to feel inspired and happy with your ideas, give yourself a full day. If it takes you 2 hours, give yourself 4. Because inspiration can be capricious, it’s always better to have more time than what you'd normally need. This way, you’ll be able to avoid the frustration that comes when inspiration is MIA and you’ve got deadlines to meet.

Step 2. Take a Break

After you’ve spent a bit of time browsing through sources of inspiration, drop everything and head outdoors or watch some TV. Do something completely counter to creative work or finding inspiration. Pet a dog, feed some flamingos, or grab a snack. Just refocus your attention.

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Removing your thoughts from creative material allows it to settle in the background. It's common lore that our brain keeps processing material and working in the background even when we aren’t focused on doing so. This is valuable. It lets your brain draw connections and process everything you’ve just fed it. Often, it is during this time that inspiration strikes.

Step 3. Head Back to the Drawing Board

After you’ve looked through different sources of inspiration and have fed flamingos, head back to your creative workspace. Jot down your newly found ideas. Try to define at least 2-3 creative directions. If you’ve only arrived at one solid idea, go with it.

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Still stuck for inspiration even after step 3? Go through the process again. If you feel that you’ve never had a eureka moment and must start working to meet your deadline, go with the strongest idea you’ve developed up until that point.

Creative Block: Not As Nightmarish As You’d Think

Creative block is every creative’s nightmare. It is an incredibly frustrating mindset that will paralyze your creative flow and can be difficult to get out of. But it’s not entirely negative. Creative block can give way to some of the best work you’ll produce, ironically turning it into your ally.

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Experiencing creative block near a deadline will prompt you to push harder to produce great work. This extra effort, coupled with the desire to escape the nightmarish grip of a creative block, pays off. The pressure you feel turns into fuel and, with the right attitude, can be a great motivator. If you ever experience creative block, remember to approach it with a positive attitude.

Although you can benefit from creative blocks, you’ll still have to overcome them to yield the reward that comes with crushing them. To begin this process, determine the source of your creative block.

Creative block can normally be traced back to:

Mental Block

To understand mental block, think of a hamster running on a wheel**.** You think and think and think but end up going nowhere. You box yourself in. In this case, take a break, go feed flamingos and come back with a fresh mindset.

Bad Working Habits

Bad working habits don’t necessarily mean working at night and sleeping through the day. For some, this works wonders. For others, it doesn’t. Find what works for you, build a schedule around it, and stick to it!

Personal Problems

Having a hard time with something outside of work? Lost another pair of socks to the evil dryer? As cliché as it may sound, leave personal troubles outside of work where they belong. Remind yourself that the time you’ve set aside to work needs to be used to think about work exclusively.

Feeling Overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed can lead to a great deal of frustration and, yup! Creative block. If you feel like you've got too much on your plate and begin to feel anxious, take a walk. Take a deep breath and clear your mind. Sometimes a brisk 15 minute walk around the block can make a huge difference.

Sources of Inspiration

Today, many creatives choose to look for inspiration online. With dozens of websites and apps devoted entirely to helping you find your muse, it’s tough to consider looking elsewhere.

But don’t hesitate to hit up your local library, museum or gallery. Look at work from all creative disciplines, not just UI. Look at work outside the creative realm as well. You might not find a UI pattern but you might find a great color combination or a novel idea for a new gesture.

A huge problem with online inspiration sources, which you’ll find below, is that the work on it begins to look the same. Entire galleries can sometimes feel homogeneous. This is often the result of individuals looking at the same inspiration sources and copying each other. Keep this in mind as you use showcase sites online.

A few great common inspiration sources on the web are:

So, how do you feel? Are your creative juices flowing yet? I sure hope so, because we’re approaching the final day of the CareerFoundry UI Design Short Course.

Further Reading

Have you enjoyed this lesson? Check out our recommendations for further reading:

How To Get Over Creative Block And Free Your Inner Designer

Why We Have Our Best Ideas In The Shower: The Science Of Creativity

What Qualifications Do You Need To Become A UI Designer


This page was last updated: 11-6-2019