By: Betsy Sherertz

Date: April 11, 2017

Trying to write a blog post about creative block has a similar feeling as when you’re trying to multitask and binge watch a Netflix show. You rewind it back to the start of the scene and say to yourself, ‘Ok, I’m going to watch this time’! Then that text pops up on your phone that you MUST answer, or the kettle is goes off in the kitchen, or it’s raining harder than usual so you look out the window…

The point is, creative block comes in many forms. Whether you’re easily distracted one day, or feel like you’re the most focused person on the planet, sometimes it takes a minute for things to fall into place.

As a designer, creative block is something I run into just about every day, but I would argue that it’s just as common for any person out there in our industry. Whether you’re a developer, project manager, or an intern, you’re bound to run into a road block where the solution is just not obvious.

In an effort to combat creative block, I’ve developed some strategies for getting over the hurdle.


01. In a time crunch? Inspiration sites or blogs can help with perspective

I think it’s important to know what type of inspiration you’re looking for when it comes to inspiration sites. Otherwise they can quickly become a black hole. If I’m stuck on a specific design element (i.e. button style, navigation orientation, etc.), then I may look to certain blogs to spark ideas of how others solved a particular problem. Some of our favorite sites at Subtext are:






When all else fails, Google is your friend. 🙃


02. Accept that bad ideas are inevitable

In order to get to a better solution, you have to get the ugly ones out. Every good designer has a terrible design somewhere buried in their portfolio. Whether you’re writing a strategy recommendation or trying to code something with javascript, sometimes the first pass (or first 7 or 8) can be a little messy. Accept it, don’t dwell on it. Better ideas will follow.


03. Guess what, you’re human, you have to eat and sleep

I once had a Creative Director say he’d rather be a robot in order to get more done in a day. Until the cyborg days are upon us however, we have to eat and sleep. Typically this realization occurs once you’ve been working yourself in circles for hours with no solution in sight. Before you know it, 6 hours have passed and you suddenly notice you’re dying of hunger (or caffeine deprivation). At this point, it’s safe to say your brain is shot.

If you’re at work, find a snack and CHEW IT (this is not life and death here, we have time for this). If it’s later in the evening, sometimes it’s best to just call it a night and go to sleep. I reluctantly admit that sometimes I’ve discovered design solutions in my dreams. Not that I enjoy dreaming about work, but if my brain can continue to chug away while I rest, I won’t argue.


04. Stop what you’re doing, and go do something else, ANYTHING else

This one is very important. Not that eating and sleeping are not, you need those to survive, but to get your job done sometimes you need to just change your environment entirely. Whatever this means will vary from person to person, and where you live and what you have access to. Sometimes simply leaving the office and commuting home is enough to help clear your mind in order to approach your problem differently.

For me, if I am really stuck on something work related, I like to hike. Even as we speak, I had to walk away from writing this blog and get outside for a bit. It’s hard to give advice on defeating creative block when you, ahem, have creative block.

The important thing to remember overall, is not to try not to panic (too much). I tend to panic every time it’s my turn to write a blog post. That being said, I have survived every article to date.
Our industry is deadline based and time does seem of the essence. If you take a minute and look back at some of your hardest deadlines, I’m sure you’ll recall several you thought you would never meet but somehow did. We all struggle at one point or another, just find what works best for you, take a deep breath or a hike, and you’ll surprise yourself.