We’ve all been there: the deadline is terrifyingly close, but every concept you come up with seems to lead to a creative dead end. You scrap idea after idea, and find yourself in a designer’s version of Groundhog Day, where you’re seemingly doomed to return to the Arctic wasteland of a blank screen, again and again. Welcome to the nightmare that is a serious creative block.


Tom Hughes says that when you’re stuck for inspiration, it’s crucial to step away from the screen and into the real world.

“All my best ideas seem to be drawn from experiences outside my normal working life. So stop thinking so hard and go out and absorb whatever you can.”

There are many different forms of creative block, ranging from an inability to knuckle down to a particular task, or repeatedly starting on ideas that you then delete in frustration before starting again, to a total mental paralysis – or even panic – when faced with a creative task. At its worst, creative block can severely damage confidence and even hold back careers. This is extremely rare, though: in most cases, creative block is a frustrating inconvenience rather than something more serious.

What’s more, it’s something that almost every artist, illustrator or designer goes through at some point: those who can dash off fresh, successful ideas uninterruptedly – and who never find themselves constantly coming back to the same, apparently unsolvable, problem – are a lucky few.

The vast majority of people find that productive, creative periods are balanced by frustrating hours holed up in their studio working on projects where things just don’t quite gel, or repeatedly hitting a blank in response to a particular brief.

The important thing is to learn a few tactics so that when you find yourself staring down a creative dead end, you can find a way out and keep the ideas flowing. Here are 11 simple ways to beat the block.

Get some ideas down fast
• Even if they’re not the masterpieces you were hoping for, bare-bone sketches can sometimes lead to new new directions and ideas. Don’t expect to get it right first time — all creatives have to hone their work in some way, and you can’t refine a blank screen, so get sketching.