writersblock1.jpgA few tips to help you when you are struggling for ideas. Based on a designer’s experience.

1. Be prepared for some procrastination

When I’m thinking about a new design for an interface I invariably find my mind wandering to other thoughts – it may be another project or it may be how to re-organise the spare room at home. These ideas arrive as my mind struggles to find the answers that aren’t quite there yet. These aren’t meaningless thoughts; they are things that I’d actually like to do, just not now. Rather than trying to ignore these thoughts which only seems to make them more pressing, try writing them down so you can come back to them later.

2. Take your time

Plan out what you are going to do. Planning can seem like a waste of time. Sometimes it’s tempting to skip over this stage because your developing / writing / designing something for the 18th time that year and you can ‘do it standing on your head’. Well you’re right, you can do it without planning, but then the client will get something that looks like it was created by someone dropped on their head. We’re not talking Gant charts and critical path analysis here, just what you are going to do and when.

Planning is the most important step for each project – the clients paid for it just like the previous 17 did and they’ll spot the difference!

3. Start in the Middle

When designing an interface it’s very easy to start visualising the top of the page and then working your way down. 9 times out of 10 this will make your life harder and you’ll spend much of your time re-working stuff. How many times have you written content, starting with the title only to finish it and realise the title doesn’t actually describe it very well. Start at the important bit! If you’re building a website that showcases video or photographs, get an image onscreen that represents this content. By doing this you can start working around it from the beginning. In the end, you’ll find you have something that is much more usable and well thought out.

4. Start low-tech

A bit of an obvious one, but I find stepping back from the computer and sitting down with a piece of paper to get rough ideas down very useful. It’s quicker to get the ideas down and easier to change them.

5. Put your hand up

Ask for help when you need it. Nobody can be good at everything so we all need help now and then. Try to ask people who will provide constructive criticism rather that people that hate or love everything. A fresh pair of eyes from someone who doesn’t even do the same job as you can result in some great ideas.

6. If your absolutely stuck, go and do something else

If you’re absolutely stuck on something, get up and do something completely different. Have an early lunch and read a newspaper or do a bit of shopping. The problem will still be there but it won’t be as urgent. Your mind works best when it’s relaxed and you may find the answer as you ficus on something else.