October 04, 2021

How To Never Run Out Of Ideas As A Designer

Reading Time: 5 mins

As a designer, your value comes from the things you create. Your “job currency” is creativity.

With that said it’s hard to constantly generate ideas. There is always pressure to create a unique design that looks stunning.

Over time, this create-on-demand dynamic can cause tension. You might save your creative energy for only one or two projects, or not put your 100% into a project in the first place in case your ideas are rejected.

Both of these outcomes, I’m sure you’ll agree aren’t beneficial for you in the long run.

In this article, I’d like to share with you my idea generation process and how I never run out of ideas as a designer.

Creativity Comes In Ebbs And Flows

The first thing to mention here is that creativity comes in waves.

It’s not a constant force or presence, at least not in my experience.

Some days you can be very creative, come up with lots of great ideas, and implement your best ones.

On other days, you won’t be able to think of anything creative or worthwhile.

It’s important to realize this so you don’t put pressure on yourself to come up with ideas at the drop of a hat.

Creativity Is A Muscle

OK, so we’ve established creativity isn’t constant. You won’t have brilliant ideas every day.

So what can you do to overcome this?

I love the idea that creativity is like a muscle.

When you run or lift weights, your muscles break down then build back up to become stronger.

The same can be said of creativity.

By establishing a regular creative practice and a time for idea generation into your week, you’ll learn to work your creativity muscle so you can generate creative insights more effectively.

Nothing Is Original

Before we look at putting a framework in place to build our creativity muscle, I want to briefly talk about the pressure of creating original ideas.

Feeling the pressure of creating a unique design every time you start a new project negatively impacts your creativity.

You’re likely to reserve your best ideas for only a few projects.

I touched on this in the introduction of this article because I believe it’s a big problem people face in the world of design.

Here’s the key to unlock this problem:

There are no new ideas.

Everything has been done before.

Seriously, read that again: there are no new ideas.

Understand this and you’ll be able to concentrate on building great designs. You’ll be free from the burden of producing something new every time.

Don’t believe me? Well, the heading for this section came from a book I read called Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon.

If you’ve read some of my articles before you’ll see this book referenced all over the place. It truly changed the way I think about my creativity.

Create An Inspiration Repository

While there are no new ideas, it is possible to create unique combinations of ideas.

This is where you as a designer come in.

It’s your job to take inspiration from everything around you and combine it with your own style to create something unique.

Combine this inspiration repository with regular practice and you’ll be an unstoppable designer.

I wholeheartedly believe this is the secret sauce of creativity.

Let’s focus on creating an inspiration repository first.

This will be your vault of great designs and ideas you can draw upon when needed.

There are a lot of tools you can use here so try them out and see what works for you:

Your inspiration repository should include things like:

Any time you come across a design that you like, take a screenshot and save it into your inspiration repository.

Write a few notes detailing what you like and don’t like about the design.

Then repeat.

Be sure to review your inspiration repository often. Add things and remove things as your tastes develop.

Once you have developed your repository, you won’t be stuck for inspiration the next time you’re working on a design.

The nitty-gritty details of the inspiration repository are up to you to develop over time. Find a system that suits your style of work and go from there.

Regular Practice

Now that you have a stacked inspiration repository, the next step is to practice your design skills regularly.

Remember, if you don’t work your creativity muscles , they will shrink!

Here are some practices I recommend to keep your skills fresh:


Here are the key takeaways from this article, the TL;DR:

Finally, if you enjoyed this article here’s the original Twitter thread I wrote: Original Twitter Thread