Struggling for that killer idea? Here are 20 expert tips for beating the block and keeping the inspiration juices flowing
1: Tap into your unconscious
"Strange things happen in a semi-sleep state, when your unconscious takes over," says Shotopop's Casper Franken. "Wake up and write down whatever was happening before you forget it."
2: Get it down on paper
Write your main ideas down in columns, and list absolutely everything that comes to mind. You can mix and match the lists for unusual combinations.
3: Always carry a sketchbook
Don't go looking for inspiration: "A visually loaded word or phrase can jump out from a passage of text, or a song," proposes Craig Ward. "Be sure to sketch those ideas down when they come."
4: Don't be afraid to step away
Completely open briefs can be the worst for causing creative block. Try to distance yourself from the project and come back to it with a clear head.
5: Finish what you've started
"There's no such thing as a bad idea: the creative part is in seeing it though to completion, and turning dreams into reality," argues Mills, creative director at ustwo.
6: Put some fun in your studio
"Sterility leads to an empty void of nothingness," says Mills. Always try to inject some colour and life into your studio, and don't run it like a clinic or a prison.
7: Don't retread your steps
"Inspiration is intangible: you can't do it on purpose," believes illustrator Alex Trochut. "If you just try to reproduce how a good project happened in the past, you'll never get the same result."
8: Expect the unexpected
"The best ideas don't need to be sought out at all; you just have to train yourself not to swerve out of the way when they jump out in front of you," remarks Jon Forss, co-founder of Non-Format.
9: Look in unlikely places
Go and do something else entirely. You'd be amazed at where new ideas are hiding out. They're often where you would least expect them to be.
10: Expand your mind
"It's like mushroom picking: you wander through the magical woods of inspiration and see a big, beautiful mushroom," are the surreal musings of Slovenian duo Kitsch-Nitsch. "Pick it, make a delicious meal, and if your friends like it, go into the woods for more."
11: Explore other creative disciplines
Inspiration can come from anywhere. Look beyond other illustrators and designers: photography, typography, fashion, film, packaging and signage, for instance.
12: Go against the flow
Try to approach every brief with the opposite of what everyone else would do. It might not be the direction you choose in the end, but it can help to avoid clichéd scenarios.
13: Grab some 'you time'
Working on too many projects at once can stifle your creativity. If you're feeling burned out, take some time to yourself and turn everything off for a couple of days.
14: Take notes on life
"The best ideas often come when doing completely random, uncreative tasks," confesses Johanna Basford. Jot them down as they come to you, or snap a photo of things that catch your eye.
15: Don't be bound by the brief
On smaller jobs, less information can sometimes be better to avoid forced influences. "Your solution might open the client's eyes to new things," points out Jeff Knowles.
16: Broaden your horizons
Immersing yourself in particular arts or cultures that you wouldn't normally be interested in could lead to interesting mixed-context inspirations, so get involved.
17: Push the boundaries
Experiment in your personal projects or, if you haven't got the time or energy after a hard day's work, go off on a tangent for an hour while working on an actual project.
18: Get a fresh perspective
View things from different angles. Some upside-down lettering in a stack of papers or a scrunched-up sketch can create unusual shapes and spark off new ideas.
19: Shake up your surroundings
Try different working environments to keep things fresh. Sketch at home or on the train, refine final work in your studio, and brainstorm in coffee shops, for instance.
20: Sleep on it when you can
"Try not to think and do on the same day," suggests Jessica Hische. "You tend to sort the good from the bad naturally, and occasionally come up with some really off-the-wall things overnight."
Thanks to Shotopop, Craig Ward, ustwo, Alex Trochut, Non-Format, Noma Bar, Kitsch-Nitsch, Radim Malinic, Johanna Basford, Jeff Knowles, Jonathan Edwards, Jessica Hische