Whether you’re fresh out of university or the creative director of a huge studio, some days there will be a sneaky problem that you just can’t solve. Improving your skill in transforming a brief (and a blank piece of paper) into an engaging, beautiful and effective design is a never-ending task – often aided by a little outside inspiration.

We spoke to some of the most successful graphic designers and upcoming talents to mine their collective knowledge for tips, ideas and new approaches that will help you hone your craft and beat creative block.

Start with a blank sheet

Chris Harrison, founder, Harrison & Co

I encourage designers to start with a blank sheet of paper and turn off the Mac when coming up with ideas. Free from the distractions of the Internet, Photoshop or fonts, sketch out your ideas unedited and raw. Artistic ability is irrelevant. If your client is an orchestra, go and listen to them in concert. As Bob Gill says, “Don’t sit at your computer, waiting for lightning to strike” – it won’t. harrisonandco.com

Ask the right questions

Mark Lester, creative director, Mark Studio

Question everything. In some cases it may be necessary to question the brief, and it’s nearly always important to question underlying assumptions and how they may affect what you’re trying to achieve for your client. markstudio.co.uk

Be ambitious

Will Kinchin, middleweight designer, Purpose

Always push to keep the big ideas scribbled on the small bits of paper in the first stage of a project. One day you will get them through and then you, too, might end up having to work out how to get a cannonball lodged in a pub sign. purpose.co.uk

Collaborate from the outset

George Adams, senior designer, NB Studio

Most of the best ideas come from discussing a project around a table with everyone scribbling away. Collating early sketches gives you a good launch pad when starting to visualise the project on screen. nbstudio.co.uk