Seven Great Sources of Inspiration

Every artist needs stimulation once in a while.

If your art form happens to be graphic design, advertising, marketing, copywriting, or anything else that puts food on the table, it's important to have fast, efficient ways to break down that creative block and get back to work.

It seems like the folks at the HOW Conference are a bit too busy (or are having a bit too much fun!) to update all of us back home on what's happening at HOW. To fill the gap, we'll just have to find inspiration elsewhere. Here's a list of resources and strategies available to any creative in need of a little push in the right direction.

Give Yourself Time
This is never the easiest thing to do in the design field. You've got deadlines and co-workers breathing down your neck for results, but you can either spend the next two hours banging your head against a wall, or you can put an hour towards feeding your creative spirit, and an hour producing something great. So allot time to get inspired, or you will find yourself looking back on a lot of wasted time.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors
I'm not talking about going for a walk to clear your head, I'm talking about getting outside and actually observing nature. Amazing studies in line and form can be found in the natural world. It's also the best place to discover unique, stunning color palettes that you might never have come up with in your dull, grey office. Example: Colorlovers just put up a great post on the color palettes of butterflies.

Look to the Masters
Pay a visit to a conveniently located art gallery or museum. The sense of perspective that can be obtained by interacting with history, and great movements in art and thought, can not only feed the brain, but remind you that you're not alone. For centuries, brilliant minds have been struggling with problems just like yours. A modern art gallery can be just as stimulating, as it will give you a look at current trends in style, form, and color.

Start a Best of the Worst Scrapbook
Next time you come across a piece of graphic design that disgusts or horrifies you, hang on to it. Start saving print ads in a box or an album, and when you need inspiration, have a look through your stores. This cringe collection can give you a good sense of what you definitely DON'T want to do, which is almost as good as knowing what you do want.

Find Some Good Listeners
There's nothing like bouncing ideas off other people to help clarify your own thinking. However, the people you've been working with for that last twelve hours straight aren't always the best candidates for the job. Develop a list of people – friends, family, one-time colleagues, old professors, even a pet, if that's what works for you. Make sure your network is easy to contact and receptive to listening to you rant. These people don't always have to be design professionals, they just have to be willing to listen. An audience that makes you think self-consciously is often all you need.

Go to the Gym
Or better yet, have a way to work out in your own office, such as a treadmill, weights, or a yoga mat. Exercise is shown to improve both mood and cognitive function, and study subjects tend to perform better creatively after exercise. But you don't need a bunch of tests to prove that! Next time you're stuck, get your blood pumping and your body sweating. Everything does look brighter after a workout, and odds are you'll be running to your computer before your session is even finished.

Carry a Creative Toolkit
You know those moments of creative blockage or burnout are going to come, so prepare for them. You can do this by always carrying the basic toolkit of any designer or artist: a camera, paper and pen/pencil, your iPod, and a snack. These tools of the trade serve two functions. First of all, they allow you to record inspiration when it comes your way, for whom among us can truly afford to let it pass by? Secondly, they can be used to stimulate all your senses – sight, hearing, taste, and even scent – during periods of creative fug.

What's your favorite way to get out of a creative coma? If we didn't list it here, let us know!


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