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Overcoming Creative Blocks While Designing


Even the most creative consulting engineer or architect will occasionally have days where the ideas are not flowing. From the most experienced architect, to graduates fresh out of architectural school, creative block is a problem that plagues us all. Unfortunately, this usually happens right before an important deadline is near. We’ve put together our best list of creative block “busters” that actually work, letting you get back to your craft.

Take it outside

One of the best things that you can do for yourself creatively is to change the scenery around you. Sitting inside a studio staring at a blank piece of paper in miserable frustration is not going to lead to a breakthrough. On the other hand, the fresh air hitting your blood stream and the feel-good endorphins from getting a little exercise will do wonders to melt away stress and bring in the good ideas.

Get some rest

Most engineers and architects run on caffeine, and are perpetually tired and overworked. This is normal, but allowing yourself to get a full night of sleep for once will let your subconscious mind tackle the problems that your conscious mind just couldn’t solve.

Take a shower

A number of famous musicians, artists, and designers have had great breakthroughs while in the shower. This is because you’re in an almost meditative state of relaxation, calmly going through a familiar routine and freeing up brainpower for unconscious creative problem solving. Additionally, the process of getting clean can read to the mind like wiping a slate clean and making room for new inspiration and designs.

Read inspiring books

When your own ideas just aren’t doing it, it’s time to look to other sources of inspiration to get the juices flowing. We have compiled a list of books every architect should read, which is a great place to start to get new perspectives and ideas on frustrating or mundane design issues.

Create a deadline

Psychologically speaking, if someone has only an hour to complete an urgent task, then they will be sure to put aside all stalling or unnecessary steps and get it done on time. On the other hand, if something can wait for two weeks, then it’s likely not getting done until the deadline hits. Creating a deadline for yourself (and sticking to it) will give you a sense of urgency that can bring up new ideas a calm/bored mind otherwise wouldn’t have imagined. We recommend giving a friend $10.00, which he will then donate to the charity of his choice if you don’t meet the deadline. Having someone hold you accountable forces you to be creative.

List every terrible idea

What’s worse than terrible ideas? No ideas! It’s time to let go of the concept that everything you put onto paper has to be 100% perfect on the first try. Get a stream of consciousness started by listing every ridiculous, impossible, stupid, and impractical idea as it occurs to you. Eventually you will stumble upon a golden idea you didn’t know you were capable of.

Explain it to a rubber duck

This is more common in programming, but can apply to anyone with a problem they’re stuck on. Get out a rubber duck (or tablet, or model, anything small really) and begin explaining the problem you’re trying to solve. Having to explain the problem you’re having out loud in detail forces you to really break it down into its pieces, and can help you figure out exactly what you’ve been stuck on. We recommend using a rubber duck because it will be unharmed if you wind up throwing it across the room in frustration.

The creatives at our Las Vegas engineering firm know that even the toughest creative blocks can be broken down using the above techniques. Don’t ever let a creative block control your life. Instead, treat it like the interesting challenge it is and you’ll come out ahead.