As graphic designers, we often enter this creative field as a result of our hobbies and off-the-wall way of thinking, as opposed to the more Left Brain career fields like accounting or medicine. However, combining artistic sensibilities with the very real-world need for a paycheck can be jolting and unsettling. After all, there can be (and often is) a big difference between what “sells” and what looks good on the living room wall. The phrase “Artist for Hire” never really caught on, and with good reason. When you need to squeeze out those creative juices for a deadline, inspiration can be in short supply. Here are seven tips to keep your inspiration fresh.
1. Revisit your childhood & the things you used to enjoy doing.
Nothing gets creative juices flowing like revisiting your childhood. Did you ever save any of your old coloring books, drawings, favorite books, comic books, or movies? What were your hobbies when you were ten? Blanket forts, drawing, making sand castles or mud pies? Going to the zoo? Think of such activities as feeding your inner child -- or for many of us -- muse.
Don‘t you wish someone had told you this in college? For us Right-Brainers, procrastination can be a veritable goldmine. While Project A may be at the top of the list and have the closest deadline, procrastination tends to yield unique and interesting strong ideas (if not results) for Projects C, D, and E and so on (B is probably a little too close to A for consideration here).
3. Be a Mad Scientist.
Or rather, take a “mad scientist” approach to everything you do. Decorate madly – surround yourself with nutty, silly objects – funky furniture, abstract art, etc. Cook crazy dishes. Paint your dog‘s toenails. Be spontaneous and fun in your life and it will show in your work.
4. Put in a CD you haven‘t listened to in many years.
Akin to revisiting your childhood, take an audio trip down memory lane by listening to music you used to enjoy during a different era of your life. What did you listen to when you were 18? Whether you find those tastes laughable now or it‘s stuff you still enjoy, we reach our most robust mental processing stages at this age, so the artistic and recreational choices you made then tend to have long-lasting cerebral effects. Throw in that CD (or tape, or -- yikes! -- record) and see where your mind takes you.
5. Take care of yourself.
A nutritionist might disagree that your favorite macaroni and cheese dish or a pepperoni and sausage pizza is good for you, but it‘ll work wonders for your soul. Treat yourself occasionally to your favorite comfort food and allow yourself plenty of time to sleep and your imagination will emerge fully recharged.
Inspiration can be found anywhere and everywhere in your surroundings, often when you least expect it. If you don‘t scribble down or doodle up that spontaneous idea when it hits you, it gets lost forever. Bring your sketchbook with you EVERYWHERE. The portability of it is its second most valuable asset (after being the receptacle for your ideas!). Doctor‘s appointment? Stick it in your bag. Camping trip? Don‘t forget to pack a pencil. Road trip? Set it in the passenger seat – but please – if an idea strikes while driving (and it will!), pull over first.
Shameless plug? Guilty as charged. Legitimate source of inspiration? Absolutely. Set the search results to “Random” and type into the search box the first word or phrase that leaps to mind. Create a lightbox for the images that make you smile, and continue to your heart‘s content with as many interesting and offbeat keywords as you can think of. Look at the collection in this quirky lightbox and see if a story emerges. Now you‘re on to something!
Whether you‘re neck-deep in your workload or between major projects, try these tips anytime you feel your creative reservoir needs restocking.