7 Tips to Increasing Productivity for the Creative Mind

We’ve all had that feeling…some of us call it “hitting a wall,” some call it “creative block,” and others call it being unmotivated. As a creative individual, I get this all too familiar feeling time and time again. Since I’m currently working in-house as a designer, it’s often hard for me to employ tips that I read such as taking an hour break to run errands, or taking a 20 minute nap, or even having a change in scenery. So, naturally, I had to think outside of the box to improve my own experience…

After many trials and errors, I rounded up the top 7 tricks that work for me. Enjoy!


1. Stand up!

Often, when I feel like I’m stuck or frustrated with a design I’m working on or a problem I’m thinking through, I start to zone out. Essentially, I get bored of being “stuck” and not making progress on that task at hand. What I’ve started doing when that happens is to actually get up and physically change my position. That means if I was sitting down, I find a tall table or counter to work at (I seriously need to invest in a standing desk of some sort…). If I was at a desk for awhile, I’ll move to a larger table or surface. If I’ve been in artificial lighting, I’ll try to sit by a window or even go outside. There are times when physically changing my surroundings or the way my body is allows new creative energy to start flowing through. It’s magical!

2. Time Yourself

I’ve only started using this technique recently and I don’t normally use it on a daily basis. There are several ways to do this, but one of the most popular is the Pomodoro Technique. You use a timer and work for 25 minutes and take a short break for 5 minutes. I’ve found that timing myself or putting tasks into a time block of 20-25 minutes has been super useful, especially on the days when I have a whole lot of my to-do list. The best part of this is that it actually forces you to hyper-focus and produce in a short burst of energy. Having to force myself to work for 25 minutes or so, I found that I could also force myself out of a creative block! Give it a try. (Not to mention, it’s very healthy to look away from a computer screen every 20 minutes or so to rest your eyes! Win-win!)


3. Move!

Sometimes all you need to do is take a lap around the office. Get up and start moving! Get the blood flowing. If you’re like me, you have a very hard time sitting still. You’re always standing up, stretching, tapping your feet, or swiveling in your chair. (Sorry to anyone who sits next to me at the office, I just can’t help it!) In order to mitigate the fidgeting, I began taking short walks around the office. Sometimes I’ll even step outside or go say hi to a coworker I haven’t chatted with in awhile.

Walking around helps me clear my mind and refresh my thought process. Stepping away also helps me come back to a problem in a new frame of mind. Fresh perspective can really help to bring about new ideas or epiphanies that weren’t there before.


4. Change Your Medium

I’ve been employing this method for years now. It’s super simple but it’s made a world of a difference for me. Often as designers, we jump into Photoshop, Illustrator, or Sketch and start pushing pixels around. It’s easy to do – the computer is so quick and anything can be undone in a flash. But often being boxed into the screen and tied to pixels can actually hinder your thought process. I’ve found that it forces me to put unnecessarily limitations on my thinking, which then causes me to hit a mental roadblock.

So instead of torturing myself by staring at the blank Sketch Artboard, I’ve started switching mediums completely. That means I either grab my sketchbook and pen and start writing down my thoughts, or I grab a colorful marker and start drawing out my ideas on a whiteboard. Being able to sketch and write quickly (and also dump bad ideas quickly), I’m able to let my mind free up a bit and start thinking outside of the box. It’s super liberating and inevitably leads me to a better idea for whatever I’m working on.

The interesting thing is that this idea of switching mediums works both ways! I’ve also found that when I have been sketching on the whiteboard for way too long and am having a hard time picture a screen or a product, I can jump into Illustrator and mock it up in a flash. During this, I end up figuring out where the kinks of the idea were and am able to fix it in the process.


5. Talk to Someone

Sometimes you really just need to talk to someone. Bouncing ideas off of a coworker, classmate, or peer can work wonders. As creatives, it’s easy to get stuck in our heads too quickly and too easily. There are times you just need to talk it out with someone who understands the subject matter. It’s not even that they will give you the right answer, but sometimes they just know what questions to ask. Sometimes asking them questions can solve the problem as well. Being able to get out of your own head and start generating valuable conversation with someone else can help to bring about new ideas and therefore bring you out of a funk!


6. Go back to research

I know several projects where I feel like I’ve tried everything I know. I feel like I’ve exhausted every trick in the UX book and tried every combination for the design, but no matter what, it looks terrible. Feels hopeless, right? These are moments when I’ve realized that I need more inspiration. I need outside ideas. I need to know how other people solved this. I need to know how similar solutions look. So, I dive back into the research phase of my project. I’ve found that sometimes you just need more data points or examples to steer you in the right direction.


7. Remember the Why

Last, but not least is the “why.” Too often we forget the main reason we are doing something. We lose sight of the big picture. Why? Because we are human! Day to day tasks, priorities or problems can start to get hairy and complicated. And sometimes when this happens, we get caught up in the complications and let it bog us down. This is when stepping back and having a refresher is useful! Knowing why you’re doing something helps put things in perspective and declutters your mind to think more effectively.


By no means is this an exhaustive list on getting past your mental block, but hopefully you can try out some of these little tricks to find your groove again. Often, it’s a combination of a few of the above tactics that are just the right blend for a day full of bold, beautiful ideas. For me, the way I stay creative is always changing; what worked for me yesterday doesn’t always work for me today (annoying, I know!). But I’ve always found one thing comforting: we all encounter mental blocks! So, good news, you’re not alone!

Do you have any tricks you use to get back in the groove when you hit a wall? Or have you tried any of the ones mentioned above? Comment below and let us know how they worked!

Stay fabulous, y’all!


First published on avanimiryala.com

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5 Instagram Accounts to Follow for Design Inspiration in March 2018

Instagram is currently the fastest growing social network platform going from 600 million to 800 million active users in the past 12 months. This image-based platform let’s you capture your life, upload your work, and follow some of the most creative minds on the planet. Each month we will give you some of our favorites to follow. Here is a list of 5 accounts to follow for design inspiration.

1.) Steve Harrington (@s_harrington)

Growing up with the same name as the football-headed cartoon, I was always asked if I saw the show “Hey Arnold”. I’m sure Steve Harrington is getting the same treatment ever since Stranger Things was released. This Los Angeles-based artist/designer is best known for his psychedelic-pop style. His work ranges from drawings on the surface of Air Force Ones sneakers to installation exhibits downtown Los Angeles and makes for a fun account to follow.


2.) Type (@type__type)

This is one of those annoying instagram accounts with two underscores in their usernames but that’s beside the point. They post some super cool collections. For each typeface you can swipe right to see different uses of each font. It’s a brilliant use for the multiple photos in one post feature. It’s currently one of my go-to accounts to get the juices flowing, so I definitely recommended checking them out if you’re looking layout inspiration or new fonts.


3.) Lauren Hom (@homsweethom)

Lauren Hom ia a designer and letterer who runs the studio Hom Sweet Hom in Detroit. Lauren has created work for clients like Starbucks, Google, AT&T, YouTube and TIME Magazine. Her instagram is full of bright and playful letterforms but if you’re interested in more of her work check out here book for sale here.


4.) Anna Dorfman (@doorsixteen)

When I think about cool designers, I think about Dorfman. She is a book cover designer and blogger who snap photos of her work, Brooklyn life, and her adorable dog Fritz! Check out her blog at http://www.doorsixteen.com.


5.) Kelli Anderson (@kellianderson)

With work ranging from interactive paper to layered websites, Kelli’s instagram of tinkering experiments will inspire you to turn grab an X-ACTO knife and turn your parking ticket into a masterpiece. Also, her pop-up pinhole camera can be found on sale now at MoMA.


Those are your 5 account to follow this month. For design quotes and more follow http://instagram.com/designrmagazine

10 Steps to Creating a Design Portfolio that Dazzles Your Future Employer

Every very good designer knows that they have one thing that will showcase their unique skillset and set them apart from the masses: their design portfolio. Whether you’re starting out with your design career or have been in the trenches for decades, you’ve created some version of your portfolio to share with interviewers at potential jobs or future clients. And every good designer also knows that this “portfolio” thing is not an easy feat.

Friends, let me be straight with you… I have good news and bad news. The bad news: updating your portfolio never really gets easier. (Sorry to pop your bubble.) The good news: you can get better at updating your portfolio, which might make the experience and the outcome a bit more enjoyable.

I remember late nights in design school struggling to get my design thesis done, studying for my final exams and putting together a mind-blowing portfolio. I also remember procrastinating so much on designing my portfolio because I just did not know where to begin! After going through a couple rounds of this having updated my portfolio for various jobs and other projects, I’ve compiled the best tricks and techniques for a portfolio that will ‘wow’ you.


1. Focus

Decide what kind of designer you want to be. You can’t be a Product / UI / UX / Interaction / Motion Designer. It just can’t happen. Sending mixed signals is frustrating and often confusing for a potential employer. If they can’t figure out what you do and what you’re good at in 2 minutes of glancing at your portfolio, they’re going to toss you into the “No” pile. (I know this because I’ve done it before…) Not only is it good to focus the messaging of the portfolio for clarity, but it will also give you a focused vision when deciding which projects to include in your portfolio.

2. Make a List

Start by listing off all the potential projects you want to include in your design portfolio. Throw it all out their to begin the brainstorm; you can always pare it down later. Having more to chose from is always a plus. Remember, projects can also be from non-design classes you’ve taken or brainstorming exercises you’ve led. Think outside of the box – your future employer is probably going to ask you to do so anyway! Once you have a sizable list, you can start throwing projects out by determining whether or not they fit the main focus of your portfolio (See Step 1).

3. Choose Your Medium

For this one, I have a strong preference for personal website portfolio. PDF portfolios are great (and sometimes necessary for confidential projects), however having an online presence and persona as a designer is crucial in today’s day and age. This allows people to find you or stumble upon your work even if you haven’t applied to their website. Some people rely on their Behance, Tumblr, or Dribbble accounts as their portfolios, but I still strongly recommend having a personal website alongside those other options. With the limitations that these other platforms come with, it becomes increasingly hard to tell the story of your work. You don’t want to be limited in that way.

4. Find Your Platform

There are several great options out there for this one and I’ve only tried a handful. Popular portfolio platforms include: Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress, and Cargo Collective to name a few. I’ve used each one of these at some point for my portfolio and I’ve found that Squarespace has been the most effective for me. I pay $8/month for my Squarespace website that I’ve connected to a domain that I own. (I also strongly recommend buying your own domain with your name; it will make you seem more polished and professional.) The great thing about Squarespace is that you can use their tools to customize layout, colors, fonts and drop in your content. The best part about it is that you don’t have to mess with code at all, unlike WordPress. (This

5. Choose a Simple Website Design

My best advice is to choose a website design that is simple and clean. This way, your work can be the star of the show and really shine. You don’t want the layout of your website to have loud colors or harsh lines that take away from the quality of the work in your portfolio.

6. Limit Yourself

I’ve seen people overload their portfolios with dozens of projects and unless your specific area of design calls for it, less is more. Select between 3 and 10 projects to show off; find a number that feels appropriate and that tells the story of you, the designer. Currently, my portfolio only has five major projects, but I’ve gone in depth on each of them in order to tell my story. Too many projects signals to future employers that you don’t know how to curate properly and that perhaps you’re all over the place. It is always good to drop old projects that seem outdated or low-quality. You want to show off your best! (A little disclaimer here, there are a handful of successful designers that display tons of work (like the famous Allan Peters), but they are few and far in between.)

7. Show Your Process

This is probably one of the most powerful things you can do in your portfolio. Showing your design process is like giving the viewer a little tour of your magnificent brain. By doing so, you are showing them how you arrived at various decisions, where you had epiphanies and how it all came together. This allows your future employer to begin to visualize you thinking through the problems that their organization may have (SUPER powerful!).

8. Link Your Socials

Leverage the power of social media! Designers and recruiters alike are always snooping around the various social media platforms, so it is always good to have somewhat of a presences and link them to your website. Great social media platforms that I’ve linked include Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Dribbble. These can show off what you read, what your next project is or even how you get inspiration. You never know which amazing company will stumble upon your little GIF on Dribbble and end up hiring you for a lead designer role!

9. Show Off Something Unique

This step isn’t always easy and might take some time. Finding something (even something tiny) that says you’re different or unique will really help in adding a bit of sparkle to your portfolio. This shows that you are a multi-faceted person, and can do more than just strictly designing in your realm. For example, some friends of mine have included little comic books in their portfolios, while others have added in their Kickstarter projects. I included 3D work in my portfolio because I have an interest in jewelry making and love working with my hands!

10. Link to Something Live

If possible, point your viewers to something that you’ve made that is in the wild. It could be a video, a website, or even a small feature. Being able to play around with and experience someone else’s design work is powerful and if it’s done well, it can seal the deal for your future employer!

And there you have it! 10 simple steps to get going on your best portfolio yet. There are several other tips and tricks out there, but the best way to know what works for you is to just start trying them! I also recommend doing some research and pulling a few portfolios that you admire. Getting inspiration from others will really help these concepts click in your mind.

Lastly, know that you aren’t alone. All of us fellow designers struggle with our portfolios constantly. Creating and then updating your portfolio is scary! Take comfort in knowing that we all feel the same way!


First published on avanimiryala.com

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