A Busy Designer is Never Stuck
In my recent times I have found that I have become an extremely productive and prolific designer. Not only with my daily design work but, in my other personal day to day activities as well. In fact the busier I am at any one time, the better I am at getting things done or design problems solved. The main reason is that I find that every time my mind jumps from one problem to another and back again, I am able to deal with that problem but from a different perspective.
Also there is another strange phenomenon that I have noticed and that is designers are only really creative or productive on average about 10-20 minutes in every hour. Pushing creativity any more past 20 minutes will result often in the production of the same design work but in different variations, or creating just plain junk. As such you can safely do other things after 20 minutes time period without too much loss in productivity.
This phenomenon started to make a lot more sense to me when I moved into program management. As such I had to do things like being a client champion, design/designer management, emails and proposals etc. However I was still as or if not more productive as the other designers working in my team. This was still having my own fair share of design concepts to develop. Furthermore having the “advantage” for such “mental switching” actually reduced the frequency of my mind getting stuck or creativity running dry. Therefore non-design activity as well as doing other things often in itself is a trigger for inspiration.
With design, there is no such thing as a right or wrong time to do it. As designers we need to realise this from the start and accept the fact that our minds will always be working. In fact I liken design problems to be similar to the little programs running in your Microsoft Windows background. Furthermore if you keep it running in the background, your mind is subconsciously searching for the answers which often comes while you are engaging in other activities. The worst thing a designer could do is to switch off after work.
So if you are stuck, it is likely you are not mentally stimulated enough. Of cause I’m not asking you to volunteer for project management, though it would do your design career good, but what I’m implying is you need to keep that mental activity going. Build a model, go for lunch, help a fellow designer in his concept development, kick a football around or even go home. Because at the end of the day, keeping your mind busy with any activity (not necessary work) will never lead to an idle mind or a stuck one.