Every graphic designer has experienced those days where you just don’t feel creative. The days where you find yourself staring out the window thinking “I just want to go lay down in a big field of grass and stare at the sky.” Well, too bad, you can’t.

There is work to do and you need to pay the bills. So how do you get back on track and start pumping out custom amazing designs? This guide gives you several fun creative thinking exercises that should help you get out of your next slump!

1. Stimulate your mind with preexisting content

flickr screen capture of bicycles

You slept in, your eyes aren’t quite open all the way, you feel empty inside, and coming up with ideas from scratch is too much pressure to put on yourself. No problem, the internet is here to save you.

Next time you are down and out start scrolling through copyright-restriction-free images on Flickr or other public domain databases. Let the inspiration come to you. Listen to your brain cells and what makes them happy. Dismiss the idea that you are working, and just sink into a stress free rabbit hole of imagery.

2. Use preexisting content to generate new original content


The example above used Photoshop’s Filter > Pixelate > Crystalize feature. That was easy, and created something really cool looking. It looks like it could be a background texture for a brand identity, or even a base for a poster. Now the gears are turning! Maybe I’ll start overlaying some simple typography set in white, or even lay further textures over the top! But wait, this tutorial is only about getting to the water, not drinking it.

3. Start going through all available digital effects and filters

bicycle sketch process

If Photoshop’s crystalize feature doesn’t get you buzzing, just start going through the filters. This goes for Illustrator too. This is a fun exercise that will generate a lot of visual ideas without requiring much elbow grease from you at all!

The example above uses Photoshop’s Filter>Artistic>Cutout. How intriguing these new shapes are! Perhaps a starting point for a bicycle symbol or logo.

4. Forget generating content, think deconstructing content

slice text

Manual Creative

Often times in an uninspired mindset, it is easier to think about removing things than to add them. Another fun creative exercise is to start with simple words and to start chopping bits out. It requires very little brain effort and can generate some amazing results.

angular text

The example above was created in Illustrator, simple overlaying white invisible rectangles over the top of the word “angular.” How else can you take a deconstructive stance towards design? Perhaps with patterns, photographs, or color schemes?

5. Enter contests, enter contests and enter more contests

Enter 99designs contests

6. Read The Creative Edge

creative edge screencapture


Don’t put all the pressure on yourself next time you are in at a creative low. Trust that there are resources out there to help and that you will eventually work your way towards a flourishing creative flow!

What are your favorite creative thinking exercises? Post below!