How to stimulate and boost your creativity as a designer

Anyone who works with creativity knows that the process has its highs and lows.

Sometimes, we may feel less creative or stuck in a loop, and it can be challenging to break the cycle and boost our creativity.

This article lists some examples of things designers (or anyone in the creative field, really!) can do when struggling with creativity, based on science and our design team experience.

7 simple things you can do to boost your creativity

1. Take breaks

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, right?

It’s extremely important to take breaks during our work hours to be creative. Try to relax and let your mind wander. You might be surprised by the new ideas you discover!

Dust off that old Rubix cube or a Lego set and start playing with it whenever you feel stuck. Moving your mind away from your work for a few minutes allows new ideas to bloom. Or, if you’re working from home, why not try taking a shower? Our design team brainstormed ways to boost creativity, and it turns out that taking a shower is a very popular technique.

Remember, creativity thrives when you give it space. If you're always buried in the daily grind, you might be accidentally squashing your creativity.

If you return and still feel blocked, stop that task and, if possible, start working on a different one. This isn't procrastination, it's just you being efficient with your time! It's important to note that your most productive time of the day may not necessarily be your most creative time. Productivity and creativity don't always align perfectly.

2. Feed your brain

When we are trying to create something new, one of the best things we can do is look for ideas, as varied as possible, to inspire us. Keeping up with what’s new in the industry is super important, and as designers, we're often refining and innovating rather than inventing something entirely new, so it's beneficial to see how others are doing it!

Here are some tools our design team recommends:

  1. Explore Mobbin or Dribbble to find visual references for your designs. You can also learn a lot by replicating designs from established apps or websites.
  2. Try out some browser extensions like Designer Daily Report or Panda to help look at fresh designs every day.
  3. Read design newsletters like Built for Mars or UX Collective.
  4. Listen to inspiring podcasts like 99% Invisible, or Radiolab.
  5. Follow Design accounts on TikTok, Twitter/X and Instagram. We often find ourselves caught up in that endless scroll, so why not fill that time with content that truly sparks our interest?
  6. Watch YouTube videos and tutorials. You always learn something new.
  7. If you work in a company with other designers, go check their work, and if necessary, ask them about it.

When I was a child, my father always told me, "Knowledge does not take up space." And this is it: the more information we absorb, the better. It only has positive effects.

3. Sleep

While this one may seem obvious, it’s always good to remember that a good night's sleep is crucial for fostering creativity.

You know, it's funny how we can sometimes get so wrapped up in a problem that it starts to seem way more complicated than it actually is.

But then, like magic, after a good night's sleep, everything seems a lot simpler. And that's when those oh-so-effective solutions usually start popping up!

4. Change things a bit

While routine has its benefits, particularly for those who value stability, it can sometimes suppress creativity.

As quoted by the research psychologist Robert Epstein in Entrepreneur magazine, "You want your physical and social surroundings to change. If it's the same old stuff on the walls and your desk — and the same people you're talking to — that's not necessarily good for creativity."

Even minor changes can stimulate your brain to think differently. So, say you're working from home. Why not give your room a mini makeover? Or even just switch up something on your desk, like swapping out your lamp or changing the wall poster. A little change can go a long way!

If you're finding it a bit hard to switch things up at home, head over to a cozy coffee shop or a sunny terrace! We're from Portugal, you know, so a bit of sunshine is non-negotiable for us.

And if you're commuting to an office, try a different route. When you're on the bus, instead of scrolling endlessly on your phone, take a look outside the window. Check out the scenery, the people, the buildings. You never know what might spark a lightbulb moment!

Anything that breaks the usual pattern will make your brain go, "Huh, something different today!"

5. Learn things outside of your professional area

Several studies suggest that delving into new and unknown topics can spark new ideas and boost creativity. Hobbies are perfect examples of this. They provide moments for us to step away from work, break our thought patterns, and engage our brains with different activities.

While sports can be fun and beneficial, I'm actually leaning more towards diving into something out of the box, like a cooking class, or a ceramics workshop. These activities stimulate creativity, but they are totally unrelated to our daily job.

For me, it’s all about plants and interior design. I love seeing how plants can totally transform a space if we choose the perfect mix of plants, pots, and vases to complement different design elements and furniture pieces.

6. Think dumb

This tip is especially important during those exciting moments of brainstorming and visual exploration. The main goal is to test all ideas, even those that may seem "dumb" or unlikely to work. For that, we need to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

Always explore all ideas, as sometimes the most unusual ones can spark new ideas that turn out to be perfect for what you're seeking. As Thomas Edison once said: “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

7.  Collaboration

Joining forces with another creator can be an awesome way to get your creative juices flowing again.

It’s important to cultivate a knowledge-sharing culture with colleagues or friends, as feedback is an essential tool in the design process. Sometimes, just talking through your problems out loud can make them seem much simpler, and all of a sudden, you start thinking of ways to solve them.

Have you ever heard of Rubber duck debugging? In software engineering, rubber duck debugging is a method of solving code problems by speaking or writing them out in plain, everyday language.

The cute name comes from a story in the book 'The Pragmatic Programmer', where a programmer walks around with a rubber duck and goes through their code line by line, explaining it to their little yellow friend, until he finds out what the “bug” is. Fortunately, this works with a real person, too, so try that with a fellow designer and see if you can unblock possible solutions!

And don’t ever forget: there’s no problem in sharing unfinished work with colleagues. The most exploratory work can often elicit the most productive feedback!

Last thoughts

To close this article, it’s important to remember every individual is unique, and while many of the tips I shared here are generally applicable, it's crucial to tune in to your own needs. This could mean cuddling your pet for emotional support, listening to your favorite album, booking a trip, or lighting candles to let the flicker of the flame stimulate your mind — all real examples from our design team.

You’re the person who knows yourself the best. So remember what drives your passion. Recall what made you fall in love with what you do. Continually seeking joy and fulfillment in your work is the best way to nurture your creativity and productivity.

André Mota
Product Designer