Creative Exercises

As creatives, it is assumed we have an endless font of creativity, but we all experience times when that well runs a bit dry. To keep the drought at bay it is important to practice creativity, and to challenge yourself to think and look at things differently.

In March, we were lucky to have the incredibly talented “Drawsigner” Von Glitschka come to Raleigh to deliver a lecture and hold a workshop. One of the most important pieces of advice he gave was to draw everyday, even if it is just doodling. Not only will you improve your drawing skills over time, but it will also keep your creative spark alive.

At the workshop, Von started by having us do some creative exercises. He handed out sheets filled with random squiggly lines, and asked us to draw doodles incorporating the squiggly lines into our doodles. I really liked this exercise, as it really challenged me to think creatively. What does that wiggly line look like it could be a part of? How do I make it look like something recognizable? It was a lot of fun and even more fun when he projected the results on the big screen. It was really interesting to see how different the results were, and to see the wealth of creativity in the room. You can try this exercise and more by downloading the sheets on Von’s website.

One exercise I like to do – although I’ll admit, I don’t do it often enough – is to try a new design style. I am a fan of retro-inspired design, and one of my favorite design books is “Retro Graphics: A Visual Sourcebook to 100 Years of Graphic Design” by Jonathan Raimes and Lakshmi Bhaskaran. It gives an overview of the style of design for different eras and lists the design elements commonly used for each style – the typical fonts, colors, etc. So it is a great resource if you want to create something in a specific genre. I used it to create an Art Deco style travel poster. The next assignment for myself will be to try a new illustration style.  There are so many design styles, and it can be too easy to always work within your own design style, so venturing outside your usual style will challenge you.

In a recent AIGA  designcast, Writing for Visual Thinkers, I was reminded of an exercise my high school English teacher used to have us do – Free Writing. Set a timer for a 15 or 30 minutes, or however long you wish to write, then just start writing. Don’t worry about spelling or proper grammar, just write whatever comes to mind, and keep writing until the timer goes off. You never know what ideas you’ll uncover with this type of stream-of-consciousness writing.  A variation is to select a group of random and unrelated words and write a story that incorporates all the words.

The advice I see the most for exercising your creativity is to step away from the computer and create in non-digital ways. Go on a photo scavenger hunt to build your own stock photo library. Take some of those new photos and incorporate them into a collage. Assemble your favorite design inspirations into a creativity collage and hang it in your office to spark your creativity. Set up an easel, and learn to mix colors on a palette rather than on screen. Try out different mediums. Like acrylics? Try watercolors, or try mixing media. Keep a journal or write short stories, poetry, or lyrics.

Now get up, turn of the computer, go forth and CREATE!


Designer: Amy Lyons

By Amy Lyons
Published June 15, 2011