5 free apps that can boost your creativity

Get your brain moving in the right direction with these creativity-inducing apps.

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In itself, no app make you creative. But sometimes it can help to give you that nudge you need to release your inner creativity. 

We’ve all suffered from an impasse that’s prevented us from engaging our grey matter in the way we need to solve a design problem. All these apps promise to help. 

Of course, everyone’s brain is different and they might not work on you. But they’re all free to download, and quick and easy to set up, so there’s no harm in giving them a go.

01. Brainsparker

Use this brainstorming app to spark creative inspiration

Platform: Android, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch

When you’re trying to come up with a new creative solution, a popular brainstorming exercise is to write words on slips of paper, pull them out of a hat at random, relate them to the problem at hand, and see what they spark in your brain.

In other words, sometimes you need a bit of randomness to generate the right creative ideas. It might sound stupid but if you keep an open mind, it can really can work. 

Brainsparker is a free app that provides a similar exercise to stretch your creative muscles. The app contains 200 cards containing thought-provoking words and phrases; you simply shake your device to shuffle the pack and produce a new card. The rest, of course, is up to you.

02. SimpleMind

This mindmapping app will help you connect up your ideas into a coherent whole

Platform: Android, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows.

Sometimes the problem you have is not generating ideas, it’s organising them into something that’s actually going to work. So if you have dozen of chaotic, free-floating ideas that don’t seem to connect up with each other, mind-mapping is a technique that can help.

At its most basic, a mind map is a diagram linking up different ideas, represented by words and/or images, in a way that helps you makes sense of them. There’s often often a central idea in the middle, and other, related ideas branching out from those, although there are no strict rules: it’s whatever works for you. 

SimpleMind is a great app for mindmapping on your computer, tablet or phone, and it’s easy to swap your maps from device to device. Cool features include the ability to create an invisible note (so you can add large texts without cluttering your mind map); to add voice memos on iPhone, iPad and Android; and to add video on iPhone and iPad.

Check out this post for more mind-mapping tools for designers.

03. TED Talks

Get ideas and inspiration from the world’s leading creative minds

Platform: Android, iPad, iPhone

TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences under the slogan ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’. Attracting some of the most innovative and provocative thought-leaders on the planet, the best TED talks can provide a shot in the arm of refreshed creative inspiration. 

The free TED app includes hundreds of videos to download to your device, and even has an ‘Inspire Me’ function, which makes it easy to select exactly what kind of inspiration you’re looking for.

04. Coffitivity

Stimulate your senses by piping in the coffeeshop atmosphere

Platform: Android, iPad, iPhone

Coffitivity does one thing and does it well: it recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe. This is based on research showing that such background sounds really does make your brain more creative. 

We’re not sure of the science here, but we do know many designers who say they do some of their best work in coffee shops. If that’s you, then brewing your own caffeine drinks at home and using this free app for ambience is certainly going to be cheaper than a day spent in Starbucks.

05. Unstuck

Beat prevarication and creative block with this "in-the-moment digital coach"

Platform: Android, iPhone, iPad, web

The biggest enemy of creativity is creative block. But that feeling of being stuck and not knowing how to proceed isn’t just limited to design challenges: it’s something everyone experiences in different ways. 

Describing itself as "an in-the-moment digital coach", Unstuck is a self-paced course that teaches you to overcome 'stuckness' through provocative questions, targeted tips, and action-oriented tools. So if you feel you’re lacking creativity not just momentarily, but constantly, this might be worth spending some time on.