How to Get Over a Graphic Design Slump

Have you hit a figurative wall in your career? Are the ideas not coming? Despite graphic design being a creative job, it’s not always filled with bounties of inspiration and an abundance of original logos.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I disagreed with an article that claimed graphic design is a low-stress job. All those deadlines and self-obsessed clients can really get to you, after all. And despite it being a creative career, you’ll face periods when nothing comes to mind for a project. Console yourself by knowing you’re not the first person to face a creative crisis – others have done so before you, and they have some solutions.

Work in chunks. E-mail is a total distraction. How often are you working on a task when the e-mail indicator lights up, and you immediately open it? And then you start in on that request, leaving your original job behind. The phone, IM, e-mail, Twitter and Facebook all steal away our focus from the project at hand. Then deadline looms, and your rushed product is not what you’d expect from yourself. Dawn Foster at Web Worker Daily explains that she works in chunks of time. She allots herself a day for meetings, certain hours dedicated to clients, and smaller chunks for breaks to make tea, sift through e-mails and read news feeds. Read Foster’s blog for details on how she utilizes early and later hours and even finds time to exercise.

Take a sabbatical. Sometimes a creative block isn’t temporary – it’s a whole mood that doesn’t seem to go away. And often that’s when you just need to go away. Gina Trapani on the Harvard Business Publishing blog writes that taking sabbaticals – sometimes long and other times short – is just what’s needed to recharge your internal batteries. There’s the extreme sabbatical, like that of designer Stefan Sagmeister – every seven years, he closes his New York City-based studio for an entire year of creative rejuvenation, according to Trapani. Or there’s the example set by Bill Gates, who takes twice-yearly “think weeks” to just read technical papers. Either way, often you just need a change of environment to get the creative juices flowing once again.

Just don’t work as hard. If you’ve ever toiled at 12-hour days – only to still not come up with a brilliant concept – then you might be working inefficiently. Cliff Kuang on the Fast Company blog writes that what we often consider “hard work” can actually be harmful:

“Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on. Paying attention to what is going on in the world. Seeing patterns. Seeing things as they are rather than how you want them to be. Being able to read what people want. Putting yourself in the right place where information is flowing freely and interesting new juxtapositions can be seen. But you can save yourself a lot of time by working on the right thing. Working hard, even, if that’s what you like to do.”

The blog points out that allowing yourself to daydream has been scientifically proven to assist in complex problem solving – and that’s why your best ideas sometimes pop into your head when you’re in the shower or about to fall asleep.

I love the idea of incorporating these ideas into one’s workday and seeing how much more productive it’s possible to be – I’ll get to that just as soon as I check the e-mail that just popped up in my inbox.


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