Business of Marketing

I Have No Idea What I'm Doing

July 17, 2013
Digital Surgeons

A Look at Design Paralysis

It happens to every designer, regardless of the project or level of experience. Sooner or later it will hit you: that feeling of “Oh SHIT! I have no idea what I’m doing.”

I want to talk about why this happens and some ways I’ve found to avoid this situation or at the very least make it easier to move past.

If you’re working for any company as a designer you should always be briefed before the start of a project. You should fully understand the objectives and deliverables of the project. I could go into a whole other article about the projects that are briefed by a Creative Service Request or a panicked two paragraph email with the urgent flag on it. I’m not talking about those situations though, I’m talking about when a designer has been fully and properly briefed. You SHOULD know what you’re doing.

But then…

You open Photoshop and you’re just completely blank. You can’t think of anything. Everything you thought might work just looks like crap, and all you’ve done in the past 2 hours of client time is design a mediocre navigation bar and masthead that you know will never see the light of day or more importantly: the blood shot, caffeine deprived eyes of a developer. You are officially stuck.

This Could Happen for a Number of Reasons

You have little interest in the subject of the project.

I’m not into politics…at all. I get out and vote but that’s about the extent of my interest. A government website will not come to me naturally; I will feel completely lost with no idea where to start.

You’ve worked on the same type of projects for too long.

I’ve designed a lot of websites and experiences around video games. I personally love video games, but for about a year they were the only type of projects I was tasked with. It was frustrating in a way that creating a unique experience became very hard. If you do the same thing for long enough eventually everything looks the same and you have to start over quite bit.

You’re burnt out.

Rise and Grind. Day-in and day-out. I love my job, and what I do, but sometimes my brain is fried. It could be from juggling multiple projects with no down time in-between or even just having a lot of things going on outside of work. Sooner or later everyone hits the wall.

So how do you get past this? Here are some tips that tend to help me the most when I not sure what to do anymore.

Getting Past Creative Burn Out

1. Take a Break.

I know. You have deadlines, you can’t take a break. Well you’re not helping yourself by trying to force something creative out knowing it’s not your best. In fact, you’re really just hurting yourself because you’re eating up hours in the clients scope with work that isn’t up to your standards.

Go outside, go workout, really just get away from the computer screen even if its just for a couple of hours. Sometimes everything just clicks when you take yourself out of your work environment.

2. Design what you want.

We all have to work on things we’re not necessarily into and it can be tough to say the least. When I’m tasked on something that just doesn’t click with me for whatever reason, I find that working on my own personal projects in my free time really helps me get my creativity groove back. In turn, that “groove” carries over whatever project I was struggling with before. Often it leads to a solution that is an evolution of the original concept that still meets the goals of the task/project. This generally leads to happy clients, which makes me happy in-turn.

3. Set your own limitations.

If you find yourself designing a lot of things that look the same, set up your own limitations. Give yourself specific rules to follow, just make sure they don’t prohibit you from hitting the necessary client goals. Nothing is more frustrating than having something you’ve just designed look like something you’ve already done. By setting certain rules to follow you force yourself to think outside the box. By forcing yourself to solve problems in new ways, magic often happens.

No one is a superhero. You can’t consistently crank out awesome work with minimal effort. Once in awhile you will get stuck and have no idea what you’re doing. It’s important to step away, and really try to understand why you’re not sure what to do. Figure it out, get over it, and get back to making awesome work.

Thanks for reading.
Digital Surgeons
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