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.

Turn restrictions into an asset

Ross Fordham, senior designer, The Partners

Sometimes what seems like a problem can actually inform the solution. Our job as creative thinkers is to transform the lacklustre into something brimming with imagination and flair. Last year we were designing a brand environment for Deloitte at the World Economic Forum in Davos (above). The space was dull and functional: two security corridors that weren’t much more than a thoroughfare. By investigating the limitations of the space we found the solution, a 440-square-metre anamorphic installation that made a virtue and an immersive experience out of the fact that people had to pass through it.

Keeping fussing over colour

Rebecca Johnson, designer, Studio Output

If you don’t have to stick to brand colours, then think about where the piece will be seen and what colours would work to make it really eye-catching. If it’s a printed piece, find out how it will be printed, whether you can you use special inks and how it needs to be set up. Always remove any swatches which are not used and ensure the artwork is set up with the colours as specced.

Do it yourself

Michael Smith, director, Cog Design

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. When budgets or time frames are tight, get stuck in and have a go yourself.

John Burton of Cog Design takes his director’s advice to get your hands dirty to heart in designing a Museum of London exhibition poster

A dash of humour works wonders

Jamie Ellul, director, Magpie Studio

Wit grabs people and can make a communication memorable – smiles don’t go out of fashion. Creating a twist or something the audience needs to ‘get’ will give them a moment of realisation that they won’t forget in a hurry.

You can’t check work too often

Michael C Place, creative director, Build

Always check your copy. Get others around you to read it and ask clients to check and approve it even if they’ve sent it to you. It’s really easy to skim over copy you’ve been working with for a while, and that can result in a costly mistake.

Two Gavin Martin job bag designs by Magpie Studio