I believe that creativity is a journey, not a destination. You can spend your entire life exploring and building on your creativity. Everyone’s path will be different, some longer than others, but as long as you keep travelling you will eventually reach your creative goals. I believe the key to building your creativity is to keep moving, keep exploring, and keep learning. If you stand in one place you’ll never know what is around the corner and you’re not going to explore the true depths of your creative potential. And it’s not just about moving, it’s also where you go that’s important. 

Okay, so you may be thinking, well that’s a nice sentiment, but how does this manifest in reality? What are the things I can do as a creative person to keep moving and build on my creativity? A few things you could consider to increase and build on your creativity are: 

  1. Get Off The Computer
  2. Explore More Styles
  3. Don’t Follow Trends
  4. Don’t Repeat Yourself 
  5. Learn a New Skill

In this article I am going to discuss each point in a bit more depth which I hope will encourage you and help you build on your creativity.

Get Off The Computer

That’s right people, it’s time to get old school! With the advances in technology and a new gadget on the market everywhere you look, it’s no wonder many creatives feel the need to use technology to be, or at least feel, creative. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love a new gadget and, yes, in today’s world we all use computers in a commercial sense. But have you ever noticed how all computers seem to do is imitate and play catch up with traditional creative means? The iPad just wants to be an infinite digital sketchbook. The computer aims to make what once took hours, days and weeks only take minutes and hours. It’s all wonderful stuff and certainly comes in handy, but it’s nothing that we can’t do without. I feel the only true innovation a computer will bring to creativity is AR and VR, but that’s another conversation.

Be ideas lead, not computer lead 

The problem with computers and using digital creative tools is that they are always making you take action. They are action based. Just take a look at Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator and see how they’re always offering you quick ways to do things. Their goal is to make your process easier, quicker and more streamlined. Great right?

Wrong. Yes, these tools are super helpful and, yes, they help us artwork our ideas in a great way. But the problem with digital creative tools is they don’t encourage you to think, only to do. So if you’re the type of designer who jumps straight on the computer, then by default you’re skipping the crucial thinking, ideas-generating stage of the design process.

When I tackle creative projects, I always start off the computer with a humble graphic pad. I complete my research and ensure I fully understand the brief, then it’s just me, my ideas and my sketch pad. Only when I’ve captured something magical, which can sometimes take days, do I take my ideas onto the computer and bring them to life.

Getting off the computer and connecting more with physical mediums can increase your ideas-based creativity. Don’t be influenced by the machine – think of it only as a tool, like the pencil. Spend more time exploring your ideas off the computer and away from digital creative tools. Embrace the rawness of sketching! It’s here where accidents can happen… and who knows what magic you may stumble upon. Remember:

Idea over function not function over idea

Explore Other Creative Disciplines

As graphic designs we can spend a lot of time at our desks looking at and doing the same sort of work. Logo after logo. Brand after brand. It’s what we love to do, and how lucky we are to do what we love! But after 10 years of doing the same thing, mastering the process and perfecting our technique, it may be time to change things up a little. Whatever you do, if you do it a lot and, at times, feel you’re lacking in creativity, the journey of discovery can sometimes start to feel all too familiar and, some may say, a little monotonous.

“Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.” 

Picasso

You may be a practising graphic designer, but there is so much to be learnt from other creative disciplines. If you’re feeling uninspired and lacking in creativity, try looking at other creative disciplines that are quite different and see how they approach solutions. Get some books or magazines about architecture, fashion, product design, surface pattern design and interior design. See how other creative disciplines approach different problems and use colour, texture, materials, shape and form to solve creative problems.

Visiting museums and galleries always charges my batteries. I always come away feeling excited and invigorated. Looking at new, dynamic and exciting work can be refreshing and fill me with excitement to take to the drawing board. Looking at creativity from a different perspective can inspire you, helping you think differently and in ways that you could incorporate into your work.

Do Not Follow Trends!

I believe that, as a designer, if you want to take pride in your own creativity, develop your creativity and create more fresh work, you should avoid following trends. I believe following trends is lazy. There’s nothing unique or exciting about doing what someone else did simply for the sake of it. They have created something for a specific purpose and executed it in a way that suits that purpose. The trouble with trends is that they soon become ubiquitous and lose their value and meaning, so become cheap and less special.

Innovate, don’t imitate.

When developing your creativity and design, you will be solving specific problems and looking for creative solutions for specific qualities that come out of a brief. Every brief will be different and trends tend to be a one size fits all solution. 

Avoiding trends is going to encourage you to think of new ideas and take a more fresh approach. Now this is not to say you can’t take inspiration from what you see in culture, but avoid imitating too much.

Aim to think differently and seek meaningful and relevant solutions! 

Avoid making work that you think ‘looks cool’ first, but rather seek to make work that works really well and reflects the values and qualities from the grassroots level. If you can make that look cool then you’re onto a winner!

Stop Repeating Yourself

If you feel you’re lacking in creativity, you may be doing too much of the same type of work. Move out of your comfort zone and attempt something that is the total opposite of what you are doing. Sticking to a particular style may be familiar, but monotony can be draining and diminish your creative flair. Try not to repeat yourself; mix things up and experiment with a new style. 

Whatever you’re doing, whatever style you are using, ask yourself, what would the complete opposite look like?

If you do a lot of 2D work, what would the 3D equivalent look like? 

If you do a lot of slick digital work, try a more handcrafted approach.

If you do a lot of static work, try animating your work.

If you do a lot of logo design work, why not try your hand at illustration?

If you do a lot of screen work, try some screen print work. 

If you do a lot of slick work, use more texture.

If you are inclined to do safe work, try and be bolder and riskier. You can always reign it in or dial it down. 

Think what your opposite is and have a go. This will only encourage you to explore a new look and feel or approach to your work, where you may stumble upon something fresh and find yourself in a new and exciting place creatively. Which brings us to the last point…

Learn a New Skill

After doing things a certain way for a long time we can find ourselves niched in a particular style or using the same methods and tools. Exploring new ways of doing things can encourage creativity and will often require you to learn a new skill. Don’t be afraid to expand your skill set and step out of your niche. If you do a lot of 2D work, look into learning 3D software to bring a new dynamic to your work. Blender is a great (free) open source program to help you learn 3D.

If you do a lot of digital work using typefaces and vector graphics, look at using a graphics tablet to give a more personal touch to your work. Create your own typefaces, illustrations and icons that you can incorporate into your work. 

If you do a lot of screen based media, then perhaps look at ways to create using more tactile mediums like paint, ink, or screen print. These methods provide a more hands on experience that may just rekindle your creative flame. 

Set yourself a challenge where you may do something over a set period of time, like a 30 day challenge. At first you may find it hard and perhaps won’t be that good at it. You may even want to give up! But if you continue every day and see it through, you will soon see real incremental improvements and progress, which is really rewarding. 

Learning a new skill will encourage you to think and do differently. It opens you up to new possibilities and can add to your profession repertoire, therefore increasing your creative opportunities.

Conclusion

I’ll say it again – creativity is a journey, not a destination. It’s about getting back to the grassroots and getting up close and personal with your creative side. Get off the computer, explore different types of design and try something new. If you keep walking down the same street you’ll never know what’s down the other streets. Stop what you’re doing and think, how can I do this differently? Explore a different aspect of design and challenge yourself. Remember what brought you to design in the first place. Let the uniqueness and freshness of your ideas run free and you’ll find your creativity continues to build and develop. 

What do you do to build on your creativity? Have you tried any of these before? Let me know in the comments! And if you’ve got a question about design eating away at you, comment below or email me at creative@garethdavidstudio.com and I’ll do my best to answer it.