Beating Designers Block

2 Cara Wagner

As a designer for Gravytrain there are many days in which I find myself staring blankly at my computer screen wondering if my design will ever work! No amount of sugar or coffee or even breaks away from the screen can help. It is a terrible feeling and is enough to wind anyone up. Often as a designer you also have a rapidly approaching deadline, just to make matters worse. Here are a few reasons why designers block happens and how to overcome it:

Why does ‘designers block’ happen?

The prefrontal cortex and cerebral cortex are two parts of the brain the designers are constantly using. The functions of the prefrontal cortex include: coordinating and adjusting complex behaviour, your personality, focus and attention, elaborate planning and more. This part of your brain, in a nutshell, helps you to make smart decisions.

The cerebral cortex encompasses around two-thirds of the brain mass and goes over and around the majority of the structures within the brain. The cerebral cortex includes: decision-making, problem solving, planning, memory, emotion and lots more. This will be where your creativity and creative thinking come from.

If you imagine these sections of your brain are muscle, you can imagine that the more and more you go to the gym, doing the same exercises, the stiffer and more tired you would get. This would therefore slow down the use of that body part and eventually your body wouldn’t be able to handle anymore. This is similar to your brain; it has been over worked on the same project. This is not exactly how the brain works but it is an easier way to think about it.

If your creativity is suffering, then something will most probably be causing you stress due to the cerebral cortex having less creative energy. If you are making bad decisions or struggling to make the right one, for example colour or font, then decision fatigue may be setting in. This happens when you have constantly been making decisions for a long time which uses your prefrontal cortex. This is another cause of designer block.

Getting over designer’s block

Firstly, find out where the issue lies. Is it decisions or creativity?

If the problem is your decision-making there are quick fixes that can be put into place to solve this however the creativity issue can be slightly more difficult.

Top Tips:

  • Take regular breaks to rest your brain
  • Think about what your struggling with, then tackle it
  • Don’t work on an empty stomach
  • Read the brief thoroughly and ask questions if you are confused
  • Start with the most difficult or important tasks
  • Visualize the idea in detail before you begin

Solving the problem of decision fatigue

The best thing to do is refuel and this is done by eating! Eat a snack that you enjoy because it will feed your brain and give it the boost it will need to carry on going. If food doesn’t work then try writing a checklist of decisions that need to be made and prioritize that time, giving the brain a break from the decisions that aren’t as important.

If neither of these options work, then have a rest. Take 10-15 minutes away from your computer doing something completely different to get your mind away from it.

Solving the lack of creativity problem

 Similar to above, one option is to take a break of 10-15 minutes. This will refresh your mind and hopefully you are able to start again with a fresh mind. You could also try carrying out a visualisation exercise which will help re-engage the cerebral cortex in a positive way with no added stress.

If neither of those work, then you could have another read through of the brief and clarify the instructions given. You may spot something you hadn’t seen before or if you haven’t hit the block yet, once you do, you can work through it in a process-driven way.

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