Dry Idea? never say never

Hi i’m graphic designer. out from my curiosity, do you guys always have problem with getting no idea for a whole day? and how did you guys manage it.

I usually go do something else for a while.



I don’t think there are any ways to make yourself come up with an idea directly, but the ability to put your head into a space where ideas happen is something each person develops for themselves over the years.

As StudioMonkey say, going away and doing something else is a tried and tested method.

I just pick up a bass and play different scales for half an hour. It acts like a head restart for me.

My other technique s to think about the problem, in a woolly, non-specific way for a while, then go and take a nap. Chances are in the moment of waking up, my head is in the right place and I often have loads of avenues to go and explore.

A particular knotty problem requires a bath, or even a bath/sleep combo.

This won’t work for everyone. As I say, every designer will have their own way, but a walk out amongst trees and big views (if you can), is a very good start. If you have a dog to take for a walk, all the better.

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Anything at all. Go for a walk. Sit in a park.
Read a book. Play a game.

I often find my best ideas happen with lack of sleep, somewhere usually around 1 or 2 am. Of course that is also the time when nightmares become real, so imbibe wisely.

For me creative drought usually means a shortage of stimuli. I don’t live in a city, but I often wish I did, because a crowded city street is exactly the kind of stimuli I need in those cases. To be clear, it’s not “inspiration;” it’s stimulation. I don’t go looking for ideas. In fact, it works best when I put the creative challenge out of my mind and just surrender to the engagement of senses. Sights, sounds, and smells wash through, cleansing the stale taste of creative block from my palate. Some days I can pull off the whole exercise just in my imagination.

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This. I seem to come alive at times during the wee hours. (as far as the creative juices flow) :wink:

Let’s look at it from this angle:

In the profession of graphic design, one looks for solutions to problems or challenges. When the solutions do not come, chances are the problems or challenges are not clear.

Identify them first. After all, graphic designers are problem solvers.


I agree with others about doing something else. If ideas aren’t flowing, you’re probably not going to have success trying to force them. Go for a walk, exercise, nap, shower, wait a day, go to a book store, go to a museum, work on other creative endeavors … experiment and find what works best for you.

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The best motivator is that “Rent Due” bill…or a looming deadline. “Drop dead due date” has a literal meaning in the graphics world.

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I would try and do anything that would not require me to be creative–mindless tasks really. I’d go out and run some errands, put on a chick flick on the telly… and I’ll try again before going to bed (sometimes the best ideas strike me when I’m just about to fall asleep). It’s different for everyone, but this is how I do it.

Also, drinks lots of water. Being hydrated never results in anything bad, I think. Hahaha.

Unless yer on the highway with no rest stops or exits for 40 miles… :grimacing:

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Taking a drive has always been one of my go-to methods and has given me great results (just be sure to pull off to the side of the road to write the ideas down.) I also have had great success with “The Dictionary Method” and the “Thumbing through magazines” method. Pick up a dictionary, close your eyes and put your finger on a few random words, then try to connect these words to your project. The same with flipping through magazines. Flood your mind with all kinds of unrelated words and images and let your subconscious make connections.

I remember coming up with a killer idea for a complete ad campaign that acquired my agency a $100,000 a year client in St.Louis that I kept for over seven years, simply by driving around the city, keeping my conscious mind occupied negotiating traffic, stoplights, etc. Cancelling out the conscious (obvious driven) thoughts, which openned up my subconscious where great creativity often originates.

The dictionary word and magazine flipping methods force the conscious mind to shut down while the creative part of my brain works on the problem of connections.For example, a restaurant client gave me a project for an ad campaign to reach out of state persons coming to various national conferences in our city. I flipped to a magazine ad about Saab Aircraft Engines (a French company) and I thought—Hmmm, a French speaking person would think Kentucky folks talk funny because of the accent difference—Food has an “accent”—therefore a headline came to my mind immediately— (Client Name) Steakhouse! Great food with a Kentucky accent!" … BINGO!

There will be times of course, when you just can’t come up with the “perfect” idea. Don’t worry. We have all faced that at one time or another. Designers are often Perfectionists. Sometimes, you just have to go with an acceptable idea, even if it is not perfect.


My typical method of coming up with ideas is always the same. I let projects kick around in my head for a day or two without making any deliberate attempts to think about them. Somehow in this process, the problems become clearer and better defined.

When it comes time to work, I’ll do whatever deliberate preliminary research is needed, then thumb through some books, magazines, and similar projects I’ve worked on. — usually in Don Draper fashion while lying down and appearing to be doing nothing. I rarely sketch anything out like I used to do.

Once something gels in my head, I’ll proceed to develop it on my computer. Less-than-good ideas give way to better ones, which get refined in a series of iterative steps. Then it’s mostly a matter of plowing through it until it’s finished.

I don’t typically run into creative blocks for some reason. Usually, it’s a matter of going through the steps.


For me personally, the key is taking some time away, doing something/anything that lets my brain drop the problem for a little bit. Most design/art blocks I’ve found come from being fixated on a particular approach while knowing that approach isn’t what you want - kind of like those brain-teaser/tactile puzzle box things. You might spend hours fixated on getting the ring off the hook, twisting and turning and trying to find the trick - set it down, walk away, come back, and realize you can twist the hook and the ring pops off.

The long and short of it is that taking a break can help shift your mind from focusing on what isn’t working, so you can see new options that can work.

I’ve worked in several in-house corporate situations. One thing they’ve all had is common is the abundance of non-designers sharing (and sometimes imposing) what they think are great ideas. Sometimes, they are great ideas, but they’re rarely practical.

I spent lots of time saying,

That’s a great idea but there’s no budget for it.
That’s a great idea but it would take three weeks and we only have one.
That’s a great idea but no one on staff has those skills.
That’s a great idea, but we can’t run a piece of tree bark through a printing press.
That’s a great idea, but we don’t want to offend our target audience.
That’s a great idea. We tried it three years ago. It didn’t work.
That’s a great idea if only it were legal.

Great ideas are a dime a dozen. I think with experience, good designers learn to identify and not waste time on superficially good ideas that don’t have a clear path to successful completion. They also develop and ability to see workable possibilities in seemingly less-than-great ideas that turn the not-so-good into something exceptional.

Hey, I’ve done that! (in a manner of speaking depending on your definition of “printing press.”) Flatbed press, 2.5" gate, bark flattened and glued to a board. Text wasn’t legible in the test print but the imagery was cool. Green man art. Way back when I had a crazy printer that would put anything through their press as long as it was flat and fit under the gate, LOL

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The next time it comes up, I’ll know who to call. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Not tree bark, but I did once print gold foil block lettering on a piece of wood laminate as a business card for a cabinet maker.

Yeah, that crazy printer? He retired. And so goes the rest of the industry. :slight_smile:

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