Stuck in the creative block? All you have to do is RUN!
I know you’ve been tired. You’ve went through N design reviews, iterated your work, showed it to your peers, and it is the same feedback. You iterated it again, showed it to your mom, and yet still, even her, she gave the same feedback. Your last hope was your 2 year old brother. You showed your work to him, but he cried because he was too hungry.
“I’m done” you told yourself, while opening that damn Sketch file at 12am and moving the button 8px to the right.
“I’m done” you told yourself, as you lay your tired being on bed, while thinking how you’ll add that design component as feedback given by your manager.
Yes, you say you’re done. But no you’re not.
As long as you keep pushing and moving pixels, even though you’re saying you’re done, you will never be. You are in a creative block, my friend. And here are the steps you have to do:
Run away from your keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Run away from your laptop. Don’t let the screens of your project stop you from running, not even the deadline that comes 2 days from now, because if you stay longer you’ll just get stuck in your creative block.
Go out and breathe that fresh air. Get the cold beer. Listen to some Jason Mraz’s song.
Spend the hours without thinking anything about your screen or possibly your work. Let your mind wander around. This precious hour is for you my friend. Grab it. Take it.
2. Go back and zoom out.
After you run, make sure you go back. I know it doesn’t sound nice, but you have to. Remember, there’s a deadline in 2 days time, and your job could be at stake — Reality. Go back not to your monitor nor laptop. Go back to your pen and paper. Having a pen and paper at hand, and not a mouse is the key to zooming out.
“Zoom out so you can zoom in”
You have take a step back from your tools, and go back to that drawing board. For in the drawing board, is where the treasure is — the fundamentals.
Sometimes we’re too buried on our own design solutions, that we go straight to designing pixels and crafting solutions without understanding the basics — the problem.
Re-write the problem you’re trying to solve, who are your users, what are the goals. Draw those irregular boxes and have your wireframes. Place sticky notes of How Might We’s, test it with your users or peers, and once you’re done. Zoom in.
And now, at this moment, you’re back at your chair. Keyboard at your left hand, mouse at your right, and a monitor staring at you eye to eye.
You are now in reality, and the next step is evaluate.
Zoom in to the details and evaluate the designs that you left on your screen hanging for a while. Since you have fresh new eyes from running, you now have the right to question the design solutions you’ve made, and why the same design feedback is given, even though how many times you iterate. Check that drawing board you’ve made earlier and you will see what is going wrong all along, and what should be done.
“We’re too busy evaluating other’s work, giving valuable feedback to them, and helping them out, that we forget evaluating ours, which is is the first thing we have to do”
If there’s something I’ve learned about evaluation, it has to start with you first. Our notion of evaluation is giving feedback to others, but oblivious of giving feedback to ourselves. Evaluating our own work is a manifestation that we do care. We care about the work we do. And giving that attention to self evaluation, relays that we value our users. Why? because we took care of ourselves first, so we can give them the best kind of product experience.
4. Show off your work
Open that door. Enter that design review again. Walkthrough your panelists not to your screens, but to your thought process. Explain the Why, the rationale behind your design decisions and not the What. They can see your work, but not how your mind worked as you made those designs.
I know that showing your work is dreadful, but no designer grew without being critiqued. And no great designer reached the place they are right now without going through it.
“Design feedback is not about how bad you are as a designer, but about challenging you to push the boundaries”
And now as you present, keep in mind that it’s not about if there’ll be feedback or none after your review, because if ever there’ll be, and you find yourself stuck again, you know what to do…
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Riel M is a Filipino Product Designer in Grab, crafting and building design solutions to help improve human’s lives. You can ping her through email@example.com 💌