05. Design badly on purpose
This may seem like one of the more “alternative” strategies, but it's also one a lot of respectable designers use successfully. Often designer's block is less about not having any ideas, and more about not having any good ideas. This puts a lot of pressure on you to stop thinking up bad ideas, and designing badly on purpose alleviates that pressure.
As graphic designer Alexander Charchar suggests, try creating or recreating your mockup with a few ugly design elements. Use that creative but illegible font. Clash the colors of the icon against the background. Make the logo tiny. Indulge in any fun or goofy instincts, then still try to structure the overall layout so the design makes sense. What happens is you're still thinking critically about the design, but with a new calmness in the absence of pressure.
At the very least, you'll get those bad ideas out of your system, and have a bit of fun before a more serious fresh start.
06. Start in the middle
The top of an interface can feel like the hardest part (since you might be perfecting the information architecture and navigation), and yet that's where designers are naturally compelled to start. Perhaps the solution to your designer's block lies in creating another area first and then coming back to the top.
Designing a more visually tangible section like the middle of a landing page has a lot of benefits: it gets some easy questions answered so you can better concentrate on the harder ones, it's a better use of your time than stressing while doing nothing, and – most important – it gets you working. Diving into a project is often the best way to get your creative juices flowing.
Plus, sometimes it's the apprehension over starting a project that's paralyzing you; just starting working on it and you'll see it's not as scary as you though.
07. Stream of consciousness designing
This old trick for writer's block can help just as well in design. Because it's a mental problem, sometimes it requires a mental solution.
Stream of consciousness designing is simply designing without thinking. Open up a blank document, and do the first thing that comes into your head. Don't think about it, don't analyze the validity of the decision and whether or not it will “work,” just do it and move on to the next one. The only wrong choice is hesitation.
This is a great way of unlocking the ideas in your subconscious that are being blocked by pressure, fears, or the “proper” way of doing things. It feels good to start working on anything, and sometimes that's enough to spark a design solution.
08. Seek outside inspiration
Inspiration isn't always a Eureka! moment – it can be consciously discovered, as long as you know where to look. Poke around the sites we listed below, and you may just find inspiration in the likeliest places:
- Dribbble – A designer collective for sharing work and ideas with the community.
- ZURB PatternTap – Similar to Dribbble, this allows designers to share their samples of patterns.
- UI Patterns – As the name suggests, this site is a meticulously categorized pattern library.
- Capptivate – A pattern library for iOS animations.
- Use Your Interface – An infinitely scrolling library featuring GIFs of mobile animations.
Even the best of us are susceptible to designer's block from time to time, so it's helpful to know which ways work best for unblocking yourself.
In addition to these mockup strategies, there's the tried-and-true methods: get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat healthy, and try to distract yourself a little bit. And remember to relax – battling designer's block is a battle against yourself, and the best ideas sometimes surface in passing.
For more practical advice on different types of mockups, download the free The Guide to Mockups. The 72-page book includes advice from UI experts along with best practices for Photoshop & Sketch.
Words: Jerry Cao
Jerry Cao is a content strategist at UXPin — the wireframing and prototyping app. To learn more about how to create visually digestible interfaces, download the free e-book Web UI Design for the Human Eye: Colors, Space, Contrast.
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