Creative Exercises For Graphic Designers – Here are some exercises that can help get your creative juices flowing, whether you’re trying to start a new project or find yourself stuck in a creative rut.
Bree is a passionate designer and problem solver with 10+ years of experience in product design and UKSUI for web and mobile applications.
Creative Exercises For Graphic Designers
Any designer or creative professional will agree that there is no on/off switch for creativity. Inspiration can be a frustrating, elusive beast: absent when you’ve made time for important work, then striking when you’re in the middle of something else entirely.
Creativity Exercises To Train Your Artistic Mind
There are some creativity exercises that can help get your creative juices flowing. Whether you’re trying to start a new project or you’re stuck in a creative block, here are some tricks to get your mind moving.
First proposed in the 1950s by advertising executive and so-called “father of brainstorming” Alex Osborne, the SCAMPER methodology remains a solid choice for creative professionals today. Simply put, the escape method suggests different ways of thinking to solve a problem or examine it in a new light.
Substitution – Consider substituting one solution for another or substituting one part of a product for another. How would this substitution change the product?
Combine – What advantages or challenges would arise if you combined your product with its direct competitor? What would be the result if you put two completely different products together to solve the same problem?
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Adapt – Examine your existing process or solution to try to find out what adjustments can be made for product development.
Change – Is there a way to adapt the approach to the central design problem that would be more efficient or simpler? What modifications would be required to make the existing product serve a completely different user goal?
Eliminate – The best design solutions are often the simplest. Look at your existing product or process and reduce it to the minimum necessary to achieve the customer’s goal. What are you left with and how can you use it as a starting point to explore potentially more optimal solutions?
Conversely – what effect will redesigning the user flow have on the user’s ability to use the product?
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Try running your design solution or process through these seven questions to see what insights might emerge. You may find that by modifying an existing idea, you can unlock hidden inspiration for product evolution. Or, by eliminating some extraneous feature, you can make your design solution more efficient.
Consider a design problem that your existing product solves or a problem that your product needs to solve. If you were granted three wishes that would help solve the problem, what would they be? If you could solve your user needs with magic, how would it work?
Try to do this exercise regardless of feasibility or available technology – start with magic. Then reverse engineer the specific details about that part of the magic address. This kind of fantastic frame can be a real creative boost.
Just imagine how indistinguishable our current technology would be from magic less than a century ago. Imagine a smartphone and how someone might ask: What if I had access to all the libraries in the world and could chat live with any other person from a box that fits in my pocket?
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It’s always a fun exercise to help designers and other stakeholders better understand their product or brand from a very human perspective. It starts with imagining the product or brand as if it were a walking, breathing human being.
Start by writing a series of questions about your product’s personality. How old are they? What kind of apartment or house do they live in? What do they do in their free time? What are their favorite places to meet friends? If you found them at a bar, what drink would they order — house wine, local craft beer or a classic cocktail?
Asking these questions for your team to answer is a great way to gain insight into how others on your team view the product or brand. Discussing everyone’s perspective will help inform key personality traits and strengthen further creative explorations.
This is also a good opportunity to ask your team the most important question: Why? Through this exercise you define your product or brand as a person. This person has these likes and dislikes and habits that help shape others’ perceptions of their personality. Your brand drives luxury cars and likes to drink expensive cocktails in fancy bars.
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It may sound counterintuitive, but imposing constraints around a design exercise or project can often stimulate creative problem-solving more effectively than starting with open-ended freedom. Sometimes there is nothing scarier than a blank page.
UKS designers already understand how decision paralysis affects users. Present too many seemingly equal choices without clear direction and the user’s mind can freeze. There are too many possibilities to weigh at once, and the brain has a hard time looking for differences that might indicate the right choice. The same cognitive fatigue and paralysis can occur when creative work begins.
To encourage creativity, try adding some constraints to your process. For example, a two-hour brainstorming session time frame. Limit yourself to only working with a blade on paper for those two hours – no erasers and no screen. As Thomas Oppong writes in For a More Creative Brain, accept limitations for
Storyboards are a great visual aid for understanding the process step by step. Creating storyboards helps designers establish a deeper sense of empathy and gain insight into the contexts in which their users interact with their product. They also serve as a great communication tool for different team members to discuss the steps in the customer journey.
Design Exercises To Get Your Creative Juices Flowing
Start by outlining a template of panels that show your user going through the process of achieving their goal (try doing this on paper first). For example, if your product is an app that helps users share photos for events, imagine your user as a party attendee. Simply illustrate how the user behaves at the event, how they will take photos with their friends, and then when/how they will want to share them later.
Label each panel with a brief description of what is happening and try to imagine what the user is thinking or feeling at different stages. Storyboards don’t have to be amazing works of comics, as long as the visual narrative comes through. Go through the scenarios and look for opportunities to make a bigger impact.
Routine can be essential for establishing focus in your work (especially for remote work), but the drudgery of predictability can also have the detrimental effect of stifling your creativity. Whether you’re on site or working in a home office, adding variety every now and then is a must.
Depending on your specific situation, this might mean spending a few hours at a local coffee shop instead of your home office, or going on a date with a colleague at a nearby park.
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Most creative professionals – especially digital designers – do a large part of their work on the computer. It can be all too easy to spend countless hours in front of a screen, but a change of scenery and physical movement can do wonders for your brain. Take a break. Sometimes even just going for a walk (preferably outside) can clear the proverbial cobwebs from your creative mind.
Hopefully one or more of these creativity exercises will help spark your design, even though it’s just the beginning. When your thinking is in high gear and you come up with some creative and fresh ideas, it’s time to put them into action.
Once you have a good idea of what you want to do, organize and come up with a plan for how to do it. A handy guide to this next step can be found in the S.M.A.R.T. frames. Creativity is only the first step in turning inspiration into actualization!
Authors are certified experts in their fields and write about topics in which they have demonstrated expertise. All our content is reviewed and validated by experts in the same field. When we talk about drawing for graphic design projects, we often talk about the digital process. We are so used to sitting in front of our computers and hiding pixels in Photoshop and Illustrator, that sometimes we forget to step back, grab a pen or pencil and just draw. Here we offer six simple drawing exercises that revolve around drawing for graphic design. This is taken from Timothy Samara’s book on the subject. Timothy teaches Basics of Graphic Design and his exercises will help you get started and hopefully breathe new life into your business.
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1. Select a simple object to draw. It can be anything you have lying around: a cup of coffee, a pair of scissors or a desk chair should do just fine.
2. Instead of trying to draw the object itself, draw the negative
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