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It has been years since I started my career as a graphic designer, and I can still remember the passion and enthusiasm to get my first design task. Many designers get the same feeling when they finish their studies or design school and start their career. As time passes, you experience the ups and downs of your career; you sometimes meet annoying clients, have to work under stress and might encounter problems that could even spoil your great ideas. On the other hand, technology trends focus on using templates, ready CMSs and flexible designs that can make the designer’s job less creative than before, or at least this is what many designers think and complain about.

Actually, I do not like to call it a loss of creativity because you do not actually lose your talent, you just feel like so, or you may find that your artwork should reflect your talent more, which is due to a number of factors we will discover in this article. Such factors can affect your work and the creative results in your design badly. Furthermore, it can affect a designer’s trust and confidence in his or her creativity because these factors distract them from thinking of new ideas.

In this article we will try to shed light on this problem, why it happens and how you can avoid it through your design career. While we will try to explore some tips and ideas related to this subject, it is more like a discussion article that can be fueled with your comments and ideas about this topic. So you are welcome to share your thoughts and comments with us.

Why creativity may fade away?

In order to diagnose the problem and find a solution for it, we need to understand the different factors that affect your creative work and may prevent you from thinking different so you can transform those ideas into real designs and projects.

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As we have mentioned earlier, there are some factors that can affect your creative workflow and have an impact on your ideas. Part of this issue is actually not a real problem; it can be part of the project flow or process and affect your creative experience in the long run. However, it is good to analyze each of the factors and learn how to avoid their undesired impact on your creative flow. Below are some of these factors:

Annoying clients

During your work as a graphic designer, you will meet various types of clients and agents that you may or may not like to work with. This is the nature of the business out there.

Unlike free art that is not restricted to any requirements, your aim as a designer is to apply artwork, creative ideas and visual elements to achieve the project’s needs. These can vary from one project type to another, such as web design, UI design, advertising campaigns, etc.

During this process the client has an effective role in shaping your work and some clients can really help you fuel your creativity and create great results, but unfortunately, many clients do not understand much about the creative process. Some of them aggressively interfere with your idea flow and spoil it with their comments and repeated feedback that may eventually distort the final results of the artwork.

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There is another type of client who does not actually know what he or she really needs, or does not have all the material and concepts to help you start building your ideas based on them. Certainly, this factor can affect your workflow and sometimes turn the project into hell. However, an accurate and well-defined project process can fix this problem as we will see later in this article.

Styling instead of designing

There is an essential difference between designing and styling. While the designer initiates the idea and visualizes it from scratch to build a unique design or visual experience, the styling process changes limited parts of an existing design, such as changing the color scheme, type styles and replacing images, etc.

With the recent technology trends, many designers have to work with ready-made structures, such as the CMS (Content Management Systems) solutions that allow building websites, such as Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, etc. While practicing your ideas is one of the essential factors to help you improve your skills, working on many styling projects that do not give you the chance to create ideas from scratch can also affect the process of improving your creative skills.

Routine tasks

Working on the same tasks again and again can help you become an expert in that specific type of task, but on the other hand, it limits your experience to specific design projects and tasks. While it is good to be specialized, especially in a large team-based company, it is good to keep yourself updated about different design tasks as it can help you to think of better solutions and ideas for your projects. It is proven that multiple expertise designers can find more opportunities than designers who narrow down their knowledge to specific project styles.

Uncomfortable environment

A friendly environment is one of the major factors that can help designers to think and develop ideas. Furthermore, it can help them find more ideas and brainstorm with others to get better results. An unfriendly team can isolate you and your ideas, which subsequently affects the results of your work.

Thinking inside the box

Some clients will limit your ideas to specific styles and ask you to repeat the same task again and again. If this is one of the client’s requirements, it will keep your ideas inside the box and you will not be able to think of new approaches and concepts. Although, it is not a client issue and it may be part of the project requirements, it can still affect the designer’s creative process and limit it to specific styles or ideas.

Project cost and time-frame

Any project has three main factors to consider; time, cost and quality. The total project gets affected by each of these factors and they are affecting each other at the same time. For example, reducing the project cost can subsequently reduce the quality of the project output if the time factor is the same and does not change. The project time and cost can also affect the creative process required to accomplish the project. For example, low-cost projects force you to squeeze the design process, so a good idea is to replace the in-depth analysis of the client requirements with a fast overview of it.

How to keep your creativity up and running?

While the above factors can affect your design career badly, there are some factors that cannot be controlled, such as the client requirements. There are some tips that can help you improve your creative skills during your design career. These tips can be applied on both a personal and professional level to maintain a progressive improvement of your creative career life. Let us review some of these tips below:

Build a strong portfolio

When you become a graphic designer, you are actually selling your services to clients and your main selling point is your website or portfolio. It is the only visual method along with your resume that allows clients and companies to review your work and creative skills. Clients seeking real creative projects usually overview the candidates’ portfolios thoroughly to be able to select the most talented designers to do the job. Thus, your portfolio is your first gate that introduces you to the clients based on your work samples.

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Make sure that your portfolio includes your strongest artwork samples. Some new designers find it hard to fill their portfolios with samples, as they are still new to the industry. You can easily get through this problem by creating your own projects and practice samples and add these samples as part of you portfolio. This will help you to attract clients with your active portfolio. The portfolio should be user friendly and easy to navigate so that clients can easily find links and information. Also, you should include information about your skills, resume and clear links to work samples in your web portfolio.

Create personal designs

Many designers do not design or create artwork unless there is a client that is paying for this work. But in many cases, designers get ideas that are not related to a specific project or may be based on personal experience. These ideas are a great way to experience your creativity without a limitation from clients. Find yourself a suitable time and start building and visualizing your ideas, as it will help your creativity more than keeping it locked up in your mind.

Become social and get criticism

Human beings are social creatures and so are graphic designers. Communicating with others and building friendships will help you to learn about new ideas and concepts even if they are not related to the design industry.

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In many cases, thinking of different topics and interests can help you to refresh your ideas and return to your project with a fresh mind and maybe new ideas. Sharing ideas with others, whether they are in the same team with you or your friends, can give you a better chance to get criticism and improve your artwork ideas through the feedback of others.

Preview showcases and others’ designs

Graphic design is a visual art that relies on your eye and visual experience. However, one of the most important tips to fuel your experiences is viewing others’ works and ideas. Normally, your eyes record the ideas and styles you see and you can use them to generate your own artwork. Showcases and case studies are great resources to learn from the practical experience of other designers, how they solve project problems and how their project flows from the initial stage to the final project delivery.There are many online public portfolios, such as DeviantArt, OneEyeLand, Flickr and Behance that can keep you updated with new work ideas.

Reading books and articles

While following the newest design ideas and artworks is important for the designer’s visual experience, reading design-related books and articles is also very important for the designer’s technical experience, because they learn more about the process of creating artwork, learning tools and other technical issues.

Reading books and articles can save you the try-and-error time. So, instead of losing time in tries, you can learn directly from books and spend the project time on building and developing creative ideas. Tutorial books, articles and videos are also very important because they let you learn about the new features and effects of the software that you can use to create artworks. Subsequently, you can use these new features and tools to help you create new ideas and effects in your artworks.

Building better project workflow

A professional workflow allows you to set time for each small task in the project, including the idea developing which is the basis of creating a creative output. Generally, the design project starts with getting feedback from the clients with all the details required to understand what they need and how they need it. Then, it moves to the drafting and basic idea developing stage that you share with the client to get basic feedback and comments.

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After getting feedback from the client, the real design process starts to create the design. At the end of the design process the client may give some minor feedback before the final delivery. This process prevents the client from interfering with the work and giving modifications during the developing process of the design, which gives you time for more creative work and less time and effort to waste on modifications.

Time management

Organizing your time is the best method to find free time for idea developing and creativity. Building the time-frame of your projects and life can help you spare some time for either idea developing for existing projects or for your own personal creative ideas. Understanding the time-frame of each design task gives you the ability to estimate how much time they need to be accomplished. So you can add some extra time to this time-frame for brainstorming and idea developing, which can effectively help you to build better ideas and develop creative projects.

In this article we discovered the different factors that affect your creative workflow and the tips that you may find helpful to improve your creative thinking and idea developing. These factors are actually more personal issues and may differ between one designer to another. Some designers think that there are other factors that may affect their creative life, such as location, hardware equipments and even family. Share your ideas with us and tell us about the factors that affect your creative process in a bad way, and how you overcome them in order to complete your projects.