Every artist gets some sort of 'writer's block' at some stage in their career. How do graphic design creatives get past this? Knowing the answer to this question is something that comes with time and experience, but there are a few tricks that can help you on your way.
When working on a new brief, don't try to set the graphic design industry alight with an entirely new style or design. It's impractical, unlikely to succeed, and even more unlikely to SELL. This is what graphic designs have to do - SELL. As much as many graphic design teachers and gurus might rail against 'selling out' in today's graphic design industry, we can't afford to treat every piece of design as a unique work of 'art'. We produce graphic designs for clients who buy them because the designs will help to SELL their product or service. It's that simple.
So when you start a new design, before you do anything else try to put yourself in the shoes of the potential customer. What are they going to be buying? Why will they buy it? Most important, what would persuade you (if you were a potential customer) to buy the product or service you'll be producing a design for?
If you can come up with an idea which would convince YOU to buy, then you're on the right track. And this applies to any kind of graphic design job there is - whether it's an advert, a website or a business card. the primary purpose of all of these things is to get a potential customer to PICK UP THE PHONE. That's it - if you can achieve this, you should be proud that you've done your job well.
Don't include something on a design that doesn't have a reason for being there - window dressing hides or confuses the message. Resist the urge to fill space for the sake of it. The message is everything, so don't keep the reader guessing - you'll lose them before they can be bothered to work out what you're trying to sell. And selling is a concept you can't afford to forget. Graphic designs sell to clients because they are visual 'salesmen'. A business doesn't commission a piece of art from a graphic design firm - it buys a sales tool. As long as you remember this at every stage of the design process, you'll be fine. Be simultaneously clear about what you're trying to say as well as visually appealing.
Have you ever heard the expression "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"? If you run into trouble while working on a design, take a deep breath and look at how graphic designers from the past have dealt with the same situation. This doesn't mean that you should copy someone else's work - you just need to generate some new ideas of your own which can be sparked by leafing through other creative work.
If you're working on an advert for a magazine, leaf through a few publications targeted at the same industry as the one you're designing for. You'll find design inspiration and ideas pretty quickly. It's also useful to see what others are doing to target the same market as you.
No graphic design studio is without a small library of design books, art books, graphic design industry magazines and other sources of inspiration. How do graphic design publications help? Magazines and books about graphic design tend to fill their pages with up-to-date design ideas as well as favourites from the past, all of which can fuel your design inspiration.
In my studio I also tend to keep items of marketing material that appeal to me in some way; either because I like the finish of the stock they've been produced on, or because they contain an innovative or visually appealing piece of work. All these can be drawn on as sources of graphic design inspiration.
You must have your own favourite period of art and design history - whether it's Art Deco or Pop Art; the Renaissance or Impressionism; advertising of the early 20th Century or Star Wars merchandise. Use what appeals to you in your design. Remember, you have to enjoy the creative process in order to produce good work, so try to design something using your own preferred influences. This should help to kick start your own design process, and will help to define your own unique style.
So you now have an idea of the style that you'll use, as well as the message you want to get across. How do graphic design creatives start the actual process of designing? I always begin by sketching ideas out on scrap paper. Don't stop until you've explored a number of ideas so you can narrow them down to one or two good ones. If I'm creating some sort of page layout design, I'll sketch a number of page outline thumbnails, look at the material that I have to fill them, and doodle little layouts over and over again. It never takes too long before some solid design ideas start to show themselves.
Once I'm happy I move to the Mac. I never skip this stage and start a new design on the computer - it takes much longer and if you set off down the wrong route it will take quite some time before you realise it - and that's wasted time and money. You don't have to be a great artist to sketch ideas by hand - and you'll improve with practice. In many ways this is the most enjoyable part of the creative process - starting wth a blank sheet. Enjoyable and a little terrifying!