Getting Unstuck: How Rapid Ideating Can Help You Break Through Creative Blocks
There Are No Shortcuts: Breakthroughs Require Effort
Creatives of all stripes around the web seem to have an opinion or 500 about "getting out of your comfort zone" to achieve "interesting" results. While switching up locales or experimenting can garner new perspectives, the realities of working in a fast-paced agency environment won't always allow us to throw a wrench into the plan. Remedies for creative blocks like taking a break to go for a walk (...which of course I do) or designing websites on an ayahuasca retreat (... haven't done that yet) are in my opinion, platitudes. Ultimately, pushing through and doing the work is the only thing that is going to redeem your soul.
Design is Important; It's Just Not Precious
With that being said, it’s not always easy to make exciting creative work on demand. The aforementioned comfort zone posts exist for a reason. We get stuck in ruts because we are human. Each of us has an internal toolbox that we keep coming back to because it has worked for us previously. When those tools yield similar results — as they often do, it is at the very least frustrating. As a designer, I constantly challenge myself to create unique concepts for our clients. One sea change for me which has has been to stop treating design conceptualizing as a precious activity.
An Agile Approach to Design
Before coming to Fastspot, I would often spend the better part of my design time honing in on a concept and polishing it up. This practice was born out of working in relative isolation and hoping to please clients instantly (does your design have enough pop?). Photoshop was also not a very agile application (I’m using Sketch now), and it would take time to turn that Adobe ship around. Ideating felt like a slow, sculptural process. Over time, this rigid approach became foundational to my creative process. Once I found myself at Fastspot, where collaboration and innovation are essential, I struggled to navigate gracefully. Expanding my comfort zone to include rapid sketching (getting lots of ideas out fast) — and understanding design as a place to get one’s hands dirty — advanced my skills as a designer.
Build Your Design Muscles
Once you have a design started I suggest that you blow it and reimagine it a few times. It’s ok to loosen up and try many different approaches to the same design challenge. It’s also ok to keep these designs at or around mid-fidelity; not quite wireframe, but not buttoned up. Working briskly allows one to quiet the analytical part of their brain and create from a subconscious state. This mindset isn’t quite as concerned about getting something right and therefore allows for innovation. Designs at this stage will be messy, but you can go back and refine later. Creating multiple options also enable you to solicit a greater breadth of impressions from your colleagues, giving you more informed feedback that will help you on the best path forward. Lastly, and most importantly, this practice will make you a better designer; the more reps you get, the stronger you’ll grow.