5 creative boosting tips

Who needs creativity anyway?

Us. We need to be creative, it’s a huge part of being a designer. Unfortunately, there isn’t a switch we can flip and say “ok time to be creative now”. It is something we need to nurture, practice, experience, feel, and all those touchy-feely words.

Without this creativity nurturing we can start to feel stuck, cycle through the same solutions, and worst of all not even realize we are stagnant and feeling uninspired. This can lead to our work suffering. We can’t deliver high-quality solutions or ideas when our creative battery is low.

So how do we do it? There are a ton of different ways to keep us feeling creative but a lot of it is personal. Different people will have different methods and need to explore and see what works for them. We will skip over some of the obvious things like blogs, podcasts, and inspiration examples.

Here are my personal top 5 that can be used as a starting point for you or your team.

1. Hang out with kids

I know this one sounds silly but bear with me. Kids have a unique way of looking at the world. They intuitively think without constraints. They have less fear of being judged so will shout out any idea that comes to mind. They are curious… about everything.

As we age we start thinking within constraints and stick to what we “know”. We get confident that we know the best solution and don’t need to explore other possibilities. When we do think of something a bit “out there” we hesitate to share it for fear of looking weird or dumb.

Kids help us break through these blocks and open our minds back up. Stephen Gates has a great quote on this “Everyone is creative, they just forgot”. Most of us have young family members so next time you are at a gathering take a seat at the kids’ table instead of with the adults. A lot of times we’d rather be there anyway!

2. Play games with your team

Games are huge for helping us look at things differently, learn from others, and relax. These can be design-related games like this great list or any game. At an agency where I worked years ago we would play games every lunch break. Designers, engineering, product owners, and even company owners from time to time would play.

This mental break mid-day has real benefits. It takes you out of consciously working on problems and allows your subconscious to take over for a bit. It is similar to taking any type of mental break while problem-solving. Chris Do has a great framework for activating your subconscious design brain that you can see here.

3. A recurring skill-boosting meeting

My current team does a “Design Jam” each quarter. It is essentially a meeting where we work on a task within a tight timeframe.

The key to making these fun and improving creativity is the topic. Make it something that isn’t a part of your teams day to day work. Do you spend most of your time designing data-heavy systems? Design clothing or a VR app instead. Work on marketing websites only? Explore mobile design and test a new tool like Play.

Working on something different pushes us, stretches our brain, sharpens our design skills, gives us experience, and it is fun.

Some examples we’ve done in the past are:

Wearable tech idea for our clients. We thought through and mocked up an idea to incorporate a wearable within our client’s suite of services.

Non-profit help. We all picked a non-profit we were passionate about and did chose to do a heuristic evaluation, rebrand, home page re-design, or something else. The key here was to finish with something tangible we could donate to this organization and record a quick loom video talking through it with them.

This quarter we’ve decided to go with pure fun and illustrate a bunch of new Slack emojis for teams.

Here is an article with more details about Design Jams.

4. Do something new

This is one is simple. Do something else. Break your normal patterns and try something, go somewhere, or experience something new to you.

We pull inspiration from everything around us whether we realize it or not. Creating these new experiences adds to our mental library that we rely on for inspiration. It helps us explore new ideas, possibilities, and can break us out of creative slumps.

It can be anything. Watch a youtube video explaining the double-slit experiment in quantum mechanics. Learn about an ancient civilization or a new language. Go on a hike somewhere you’ve never been.

The key is breaking your routine and building experiencing new things. This is also just a great way to make time feel like it is going by more slowly.

5. Nature

That’s it. Get outside and surround yourself with nature. Relax and take it all in. Our natural world is one of the most beautiful and inspirational resources we have. Humans have been taking design and art inspiration from nature for as long as we’ve existed.

Reconnecting to nature and enjoying the fresh air can have a huge impact on not just your creativity but everything else in your life. At the very least you might meet a cool squirrel.

That’s it

These are just 5 that are currently working for me . What are your go-to creativity boosting activities?




Product Designer–14 West | Owner/Designer–Nature Deserves Better | Co-Founder–JAMSQUAD Cycling

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Jay Neighbours

Jay Neighbours

Product Designer–14 West | Owner/Designer–Nature Deserves Better | Co-Founder–JAMSQUAD Cycling

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