8 Ways to Spark Creative Ideas

We have all been stuck on a project. Usually we end up looking at the computer monitor, waiting for an idea to pop up on our screen. How can we spark true creativity? Here are 8 ways to spark creativity in your design work that work for us.

Image by: Mirco Zett

1. Expose yourself different design mediums

This is probably the easiest, most effective thing we can do to spark an idea. We know that staring at a computer screen all day long can really wear you out after a while. Refresh your creative brain cells by: going to a movie, seeing a band, drawing thumbnails on paper, or painting a picture. Whatever you do, get out of your comfort zone or area of expertise and immerse yourself in something creative that might inspire your on-screen designs. Finding elements you enjoy in these things will help understand your creative approach.

2. Try color combinations as the starting point

We know how certain colors can evoke an emotional reaction in users. Why not use this technique on ourselves? Take advantage of tools like colourlovers.com and color theory books to explore different colors and combinations. You should even try browsing and looking for unique palettes in magazines or other printed art. Ask yourself: What makes these colors “work”? What kind of adjectives would describe them? Which type of client or audience would this work for?

3. Brainstorm

A great way to start a project is to get your team together, do some quick sketches on a whiteboard, and get as many ideas out of everyone as possible. Having an “idea board” of some kind will help visually collect the ideas in the collaborative session. This could be a dry-erase board, or even those big sheets of cling paper so you can illustrate the concept. Try to illustrate a thought into a rough, but tangible visual concept. Using those illustrations as talking points will allow others to bounce ideas off of them. This will get a project off to a good start, and ensure everybody is seeing eye-to-eye on the project.

4. Be active

Physical activity will give your mind a break from the fast-paced workday and give your mind a chance to concentrate of something else or even think a project through. Take a walk outside, go to the gym and get your heart pumping.

5. Add variety to your daily routine

Stagnation is the incubator for stale/boring concepts. Keep your mind sharp by getting out of your daily routine. Try starting the day off with a walk, listen to a new band, draw a sketch, or read a book before you start your work day. This break in repetition will force your mind to work harder and open new channels of thought.

6. Focus

Turn that iphone off. Close the door. Close your IM-programs. Do not check email! Create a space where you can be creative and focus without being disturbed or having to worry about someone interrupting you.
Clean up your workspace so your mind does not have to focus on unnecessary things on your desk. Decorate your space in a way that makes you feel relaxed, centered, or however you want to feel to improve your creative process. You may also want to experiment with music and silence. I personally, have found that music boosts my creativity – music without lyrics seems to work best for me.

7. Practice

Creativity can come at the weirdest times, so keep a small sketchbook close by: in the car, on the coffee table, or by your nightstand. Grab the those ideas, layouts, or thoughts while they are fresh. Some ideas might actually be useful

8. Don’t Criticize Yourself

Sometimes your mind can feel threatened or frustrated and end up shutting down and withdrawing. Let ideas flow out, don´t try to censor yourself or worry about how silly the ideas may be while you are in design mode. It is important to keep your mind open when trying to generate ideas. It doesn’t matter if you work alone or in a group at work/school, you can sort the ideas later to determine which ones may be the best to use.