How to Get Creatively Unstuck
Updated: Mar 15
One fun fact is that my partner is an architect. A second fun fact is that when we met almost 7 years ago, neither of us was in a traditional creative industry. Yet here we are today!
Last night as we were getting ready for bed, he shared that he just kept struggling with a specific project he was working on. It had been stumping him for several weeks and thus wearing on him. While I can tell you what architectural elements I like, this particular design problem I could not help him with. But I could give him our process for getting unstuck when it comes to design and spoiler: he got unstuck.
Our 3-Step Guide:
1. Sleep is usually the answer.
This is always my first recommendation. If a problem or challenge seems impossible, especially when you’re looking for a creative solution, it’s probably a sign that you need to take a step back. I am constantly amazed at how 8 hours of rest can completely reshape the challenge that once seemed insurmountable.
2. Start fresh with new inspiration
If after a night of sleep, you’re still feeling stuck, give yourself a clean page to work with and start pulling new inspiration. Don’t necessarily get rid of the previous work. We aren’t starting over, we’re starting fresh. Give yourself the space to play with a new direction without feeling like you have to incorporate the previous work. Once you’ve pulled your new inspiration, look back at what you had before and see if anything still draws your attention. Maybe you pivot your direction completely but maybe the new elements bring to life the original idea in a whole new way.
HOT TIP: We love using Miro, a tool designed for remote visual collaboration, for this stage. We are able to pull in ideas from Pinterest, websites, magazines, social media, etc, and create mood boards filled with a diverse range of inspiration. Then we start combining them in different ways to start identifying components that we particularly are drawn to. Pinterest boards are great for saving ideas but it can be easy to just copy specific images rather than analyze what specifically you’re liking in the mood board.
3. Get another set of eyes on the problem.
If after sleep and seeking new, fresh inspiration you’re still feeling stuck, ask a friend, colleague, or partner, for their thoughts. In an ideal world, this person would be someone who has at least some understanding of whatever you’re working on. In my partner’s case, I recommended he talk to one of his studio mates. At UnderBelly, this always means taking it to another member of the team. Ultimately, having another set of eyes allows you to catch something that you may have missed or overlooked. It can also unlock the insight you didn’t realize you needed.
While we use this process regularly at UnderBelly when it comes to branding and design, it works for solving most challenges: Get rest. Shift your assumptions. Ask for advice.
Then lather, rinse, repeat. You’ve got this.
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About The Author
Olivia Wisden is the Founder + CEO of UnderBelly Creative. She has worked with dozens of brands over the years ranging from city initiatives to product launches and beyond. When she’s not fan-girling over the design team’s illustrations she can probably be found reading a novel or attending a boxing class.