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How to Overcome Creative Block in Icon Design

Iconfinder is happy to re-post this excellent article about overcoming creative block in icon design with the permission of Justas Galaburda of IconUtopia.com.

Today I woke up feeling tired and unmotivated. I know I have to prepare and upload a new shot to my dribbble profile everyday, but I just don’t feel like it. Maybe it’s the rain outside my bedroom window, or maybe that’s just the autumn blues. Days are becoming shorter, and I swear it gets darker every morning when I wake up.

It might as well be the fact that I have been working until midnight yesterday. Or did I just run out of icon ideas? I reckon that is what they call the creative block. The state of mind when you feel unmotivated and idealess. So how do you overcome this creative block?

I bet every designer experience creative block from time to time. I myself get tired of everything and sometimes feel unable to create anything decent and meaningful ever. Such doubts are natural, and creative blocks like that happen to all of us at some point. The important thing if you want to be the best one out there is to get over it and don’t give up to the creative block. Fight and demolish it once and for all.

Becoming outstanding at what you do is all about constant hard work and daily publishing of the outcomes. You have to push yourself everyday, every minute, every second. Since I understood there was no place for creative block in my design routine, I’ve found some great tips on how to overcome it.

So instead of lying in bed for half an hour, figuring how I could cheat this time: post some old icons or skip the day and don’t post anything at all, like nothing happens, I jumped out of bed, showered, got dressed, then grabbed my bike and rushed down the stairs to the yard. The rain luckily had calmed down a little to that moment, but it was still slightly drizzling.

I decided not to take the same path I ride every day to the office, and headed to the completely opposite direction – all the way to the park. It was around 7 o’clock in the morning, so I only met a couple of people jogging there. I pulled off the main road and took the narrow path straight into the woods.

This was such a nice and fun half an hour run! I drove through unseen places, jumped from every road bump on the way and got dirty head to toes! It was incredibly fun and refreshing.

Back home I took a quick shower, changed and got all ready for a new day ahead. And you know what? On my way to the office I was in a whole different mindset. I made myself a cup of hot coffee and started working on a bike icon set right away. I felt so inspired after the morning ride that I just had to express these feelings through icons. No creative block, no excuses.

Overcome Creative Block Bike Image

This story was a nice lead to my first tip on how to overcome creative block:

1. Shake up your world and daily routine.

Do something different. Break the routine. Choose an undiscovered path. Do something you wouldn’t usually do. Having a certain strict routine is a great way to accomplish massive amounts of work. But as productive as it is, routine drains your creative energy. You should shake things up once in a while and do something unexpected.

2. Experience what you’re designing in real life.

When creating my free space icon set I traveled to the Astronomical Observatory and Planetarium to watch a night sky and explore different planets. This brought my inspiration and excitement for this project to another level. If you have an opportunity, always experience what you’re designing. This will push your work forward, and plus it can be so much fun!

3. Always carry your sketchbook with you.

You never know when the creativity will strike you. You may be sitting in a park or your local coffee shop. And there is hardly anything worse than seeing your ideas go, because you haven’t had a chance to write them down. To make sure this will not happen to you, always carry your sketchbook wherever you go and feel free to doodle when inspiration comes.

Flipping through your old sketches is an amazing way to break through the creative block. You don’t sketch at all? Well, you should definitely start! I’ve written about the importance of sketching before. Check it out if you still have second thoughts.

4. Take a break.

Making and posting icons every day is quite challenging, as you have to boost your creativity and come up with brand new things day by day.

To avoid the creative block, make sure you have regular breaks. Keep in mind that it should be planned in advance! Yes, even breaks have to be planned. If you get up one morning not in the mood to create anything and simply decide to call it a break, you will only dive deeper into the creative block. Don’t fool yourself (or anyone). Take at least a few days or even weeks (if you need) to relax, sort things out in your head and try out something different.

5. Explore other creative fields.

Never lock yourself into one specific field of interest. And when to explore something different if not while on a break from your usual activity! Use this time to learn how to play an instrument, study photography or do whatever interests you the most. Just don’t sit on the couch watching TV, because lazy breaks like these are a straight path to the creative block.

6. Develop a habit of daily publishing.

It’s simple – you can’t have a creative block if you have to publish your works daily. When you have made this commitment to yourself, you should stick to it. Everybody expects you to show up. Will you disappoint them? Hell, no! You’re gonna present amazing work everyday!

7. Set boundaries.

As crazy and uncreative as it may sound, boundaries and constrains do fuel creativity. Try to set up really strict constraints and deadlines for the project you’re working on, and you’ll be surprised how this will ignite your creative juices

8. Have a good night sleep.

Productive and creative day starts the day after. Try going to bed early and getting up early. At first, it might be difficult, but you’ll see benefits of it sooner than you expect. If you’re well rested, everything is easier! Life seems more colourful, problems are less stressful, and creative block is gone!

These are just a few tips that help me overcome the creative block and keep creating and publishing icons every single day. Do you have something to add? What prevents you from getting into creative block? How do you overcome and deal with it?

Iconfinder is happy to re-post this excellent article about overcoming creative block in icon design with the permission of Justas Galaburda of IconUtopia.com.

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  1. Spending some time with Jesus might also be good. I used to work as a programmer, and we had a guy in the company praying four hours every day. He asked me what to pray and I said, well I have to debug the next three days. When sitting at my machine, I suddenly had inspiration where there could be a bug in my app, and really, there was a bug. This went on about five times, so i found about five bugs within 15 minutes, where usually I would have searched three days.