28. December 2015 · Comments Off on 7 Tips for Conquering a Creative Block · Categories: creativity · Tags: , , ,

1. Choose a Tool That Inspires You

You know that feeling of staring at a blank Microsoft Word document, just watching the cursor slowly blink? If that image fills you with dread, it’s time to find a new tool. The right set of working tools can make the creative process that much easier—when you really like your toolkit, you look forward to creating even more.

Some suggestions to test: For digital work, Ulysses is a simple writing tool that allows you to set small, incremental goals (based on things like word count and time spent in-app) to get you going. FiftyThree’s Paper app is also an excellent tool for sketching and illustrating. The analog counterpart to these is a lovely Moleskine notebook and pens that make your work feel lavish and fun.

2. Start Early

Little-known fact: You have more willpower early in the day (before decision fatigue has a chance to set in). That means it’s easier to focus on the important things before life’s distractions take over.

3. Pick a Goal or Focus for the Session

Pick a single, achievable outcome to focus on. This could be an intro paragraph or a whole chapter; a rough sketch or a detailed illustration; a single screen design or an entire user flow.

You should be going for depth, not breadth, here, and should be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Focus your idea, and follow-through will become more manageable. If inspiration doesn’t hit one day, pull from your spark file and pick a gem from the past to work from.

You can also try focusing your session with a time constraint. Commit to just five minutes of creative time, no matter what. Within five minutes’ time, you’ll find you either want to keep going or scrap your work. Either outcome is productive. It is much easier to edit and improve an existing piece of work than to start over from square one. Five minutes up, and you’ve already done the hard part.

4. Do Things Backward to Get the Juices Flowing

This tip comes from a creative writing class I took in college: Write the first five things that come to your mind every morning—with your non-dominant hand. You’ll be surprised at the range of thoughts, images, and ideas that come out of this exercise. You may or may not turn those images into something more substantial; the more important part is to warm up those creative muscles and get something down on paper.

You can get a similar effect by switching up your medium. If you’re a writer, try a sketching session. Designer? Try writing instead. See what comes out of it. No judgement, just exploration.

5. Observe and Record to Get Something—Anything—on the Page

Watch a conversation unfold in real-time and take note. Observe the world around you and record what you’re seeing and experiencing. Or, copy something that already exists to get started—write someone else’s words or wireframe the work of a designer you admire, and then edit and tweak until you’re warmed up for your own piece.

Sometimes just the act of writing or sketching itself can help warm you up, even if it’s not your own work. (Hunter Thompson famously typed out The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms as a way to learn about different writing styles.)

6. Leave a Sentence Unfinished

This tip is less to help you get over your creative block today, and more to help you avoid it tomorrow: When you wrap up for the day, leave your work in a good place, but slightly unfinished before shutting down. That way, you’ll have a place to pick up tomorrow—without once more facing the anxiety of a blank page.

Ernest Hemingway would regularly stop writing mid-sentence, and leave just enough to pick right up the next day. If it worked for him, why not you?

7. If All Else Fails, Do Nothing

Here’s a pro tip from the great writer Raymond Chandler on his writing ritual:

The important thing is that there should be a space of time, say four hours a day at least, when a professional writer doesn’t do anything else but write. He doesn’t have to write, and if he doesn’t feel like it, he shouldn’t try. He can look out of the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor. But he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines, or write checks. Write or nothing.

If you’re completely stuck on your creative project, don’t work on it, but take Chandler’s advice and don’t allow yourself to do anything else, either. Don’t ruin the time spent not creating by making it about consuming.

21. December 2015 · Comments Off on 4 Expert Tricks for Maximizing Your Creativity · Categories: creativity


If you’re envious of friends who can paint or turn flower arranging into a profound art, and are convinced you weren’t born with any creative abilities, Bain has news for you. “Everyone is born with innate creative abilities,” he tells us. The problem is, people around us as kids or young adults sometimes squash our creative spirits. “Re-awakening our imaginations is a rebellious act,” Bain says. “Fortunately it’s in our power.” It’s never too late to rediscover the creative side of yourself.

But how exactly do you discover your creative side? Luckily, Bain says it helps to get in touch with your emotional side. “Emotions are to the creative person what chisels are to sculptors,” he explains. “Learning to deeply feel emotions creates unfamiliar neural maps that open us to new experience.” Okay, so you carved out time in your schedule to get all emotional and inspired. Now what? “First, relax,” Bain says. “Turn your attention away from everything you’ve been thinking about and doing up to this point. Choose something completely arbitrary, plucking something from your immediate surroundings. This is a fun way to get get your juices flowing. Go to the eighth word on a random page of a magazine. What do you see? Dumpster? Filibuster? Drainpipe?” Focusing on something seemingly mundane just might make you think of it in an entirely new way.

Or, you can reach for Bain’s book. He has loads of creative exercises, which represent an outpouring of everything he’s learned about creativity through his 30 years of studying it. “I can’t claim every one of these tools as my own. I’ve learned from many fabulous teachers along the way, and have adapted and discovered a few tricks of my own,” he tells us. “Funny thing about the creative process: It’s a relationship. You begin by giving it everything, and before you know it, it is giving back to you too.”

A tip for you Type-A personalities out there: There is no perfection in creativity. Bain says you have to let that go, and until you do, it can be a major roadblock. He knows this firsthand, because he’s dealt with it himself. “It’s something I picked up in childhood, when I longed for outside validation and approval, and learned to compare myself with others,” he says. Another roadblock he’s faced first-hand: procrastination. “I’m an artist of checking email, Facebook, the fridge. The voice of roadblocks can sound like this: I don’t have what it takes to get this done. Or Who am I to do this? Or I don’t have the right connections. Sound familiar? Don’t let thoughts like that get in your way.

The Book of Doing and Being not only shows how maximizing your creativity can transform your work, but also your relationships. Bain says the reason for this is because when you exercise being creative, you are actually rewiring your brain’s neural maps. “Creativity feeds new energy. We respond to everything with new and greater capacity,” he says. “That’s good news for life, love, and work.”

12. December 2015 · Comments Off on Inspiring Creativity in Your Employees · Categories: creativity · Tags: , ,

How do you inspire creativity in your team when they are on tight deadlines?

Caleb Kozlowski

We narrow the path of exploration. If time is tight, a creative brief that’s too open can leave designers lost at sea. When under a time crunch, we try to give designers clear paths to head down.

How do you go about inspiring creativity in your team when clients are pushing for a solution that the designer thinks is second best?

This happens all the time. Most of the time this is because the designer is hanging onto something: an idea, a typeface, a design style. Whatever it is, I always try to re-center the work. If we (for better or worse) are heading down a path, we need to think creatively how to make that path stronger conceptually and aesthetically based on the client’s desired solution. The designer needs to let go of what they loved and find something new to love.

How do you continue inspiring creativity in your team when in the midst of a long and draining project?

Sometimes the time for creativity is past, and you just need to get the work done. In fact, I think the expectation that we need to be creative 100 percent of the time can be counterproductive. There is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty wrapped up in creativity. So much is possible. If you keep your mind in that state for the duration of a project, you’ll be a wreck. Yet as designers we expect ourselves to be full-throttle, maximum creative all the time. It’s not sustainable and often not appropriate. There are times when we need to switch over to the practical, methodical, production part of our brains and just knock it out.

Does your staff do any team-building activities or retreats to recharge their creative batteries?

We do. In fact we have just revived an old tradition: The Studio Tokyo Trip. This fall we are taking the whole studio to Tokyo for a week. While this is obviously a cool perk, it does a lot of good for everyone. Quite simply, Tokyo is an amazing, inspiring place. Around every corner and down every set of stairs there is something to discover. So we break our crew out of the day-to-day, plop them down into a maze of inspiration, and see what happens.

Is your workspace designed in a particular way for inspiring creativity?

I would describe our workspace as aesthetically dense. The walls are covered with mid-century posters, books, owner Brian Flynn’s skateboard and toy collections, not to mention a 10-foot sculpture in our entryway and the numerous Super7 projects that cycle in and out daily. The other day the studio was gathered around a 5-by-5-foot neon Skeletor sign. It’s a totally unique environment.

In what ways do you encourage and enable your team to find inspiration outside of the workplace?

We believe strongly that independent projects outside of the studio make the work in the studio better. But, somewhat paradoxically, we need to be hands-off on those projects. They need to live 100 percent with the designer to really work.

The environment we work in has an evolutionary effect on what we create. Our methods and finished work adapt to the pressures and forces that surround it. Different pressures will produce different work.

As an analogy, think of the evolution of life around the world. Different environments create vastly different creatures. And some of the strangest ones live on islands isolated from the greater continents. They have evolved under completely unique circumstances, often devoid of predators. If that same landmass were nestled up against tiger territory, instead of lost in the ocean, those weird wonderful creatures wouldn’t make it.

Now think of the studio environment. It’s fast and competitive, and work lives or dies in a crit or client presentation based on its strength. Client work applies a lot of pressures, from deadlines, to feedback, to competition with other designers. Not to mention creative direction. The studio is full of tigers.

If we truly want designers to bring something to the table, they need a safe place for their ideas, techniques and styles to develop: creative islands. Because often times it’s not that the idea wasn’t good, it just didn’t have enough time to evolve into something other people could see was good. So it dies on the wall. As designers, we generally pride ourselves on reinvention, but the truth is with studio work we don’t always have the time to go from 0 to 60 in a new area of exploration. So we rely on tools that have matured enough to be effective. When we have creative islands, we are constantly building our toolset outside of these pressures. We then have more ways of thinking in our arsenal when the clock is ticking.

Hybrid’s creative team is divided into “logical and experimental” camps. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

This approach came largely from the personalities of our founders: Brian has a tendency towards design that is full and bold and expressive, focused on his cultural perspective rather than design convention. While Dora Drimalas leans more methodical, enjoying tackling large systems and favoring a clean, orderly aesthetic. We always joked that when they could agree, it had to be the right solution. In practice, the logical and experimental camps refer more to a thought process than to a division of labor.

There aren’t experimental and logical sides to the office. Instead, we try to recognize these qualities in each of our designers and draw them out. Some designer’s strengths will be weighted one way or another, but no one is siloed into one kind of work. It’s a reminder that we need to be able to think in both ways to do the work that we do.

01. December 2015 · Comments Off on 5 WAYS TO TRICK YOUR WAY TO CREATIVITY · Categories: creativity · Tags:

Trick #1 – On one hand

I’m sure you’re more than familiar with the verbal construct whereby you compare things by using one hand vs the other hand. This technique is great because it allows us to mentally visualize a challenge from various perspectives.

Which is great. The researchers found however that if you physically raise one hand, and then raise your other hand, you will come up with much better ideas than if you’d simply held up one hand on its own. The authors suggest that this simple behavior sends a signal to our brain that it should look at the problem from various angles.

Trick #2 – Getting outside of the box

I’m sure that everyone has heard of the saying “thinking outside of the box”. It’s become one of those over-used cliches to describe any kind of creative thinking. It seems our brain may actually get something out of it though.

The researchers asked people to complete a creativity test, with half of the group physically sat inside a box, and the other half sat outside of a box. It sounds hard to believe, but yes, the group sat outside the box actually did better on the test than their peers who were sat inside the box.

Trick #3 – Going for a walk

I’m sure the idea of sitting outside a box has messed with your mind a bit, so the next trick is slightly less unusual. It’s fairly well known that walking, and indeed other forms of exercise, are good for your mind.

The study found however that you can boost your creativity by walking in a particular way. The researchers got people to complete a creativity task after walking in a square shape versus walking in random patterns. Amazingly, the random ramblers came out on top.

Trick #4 – Convergent thinking

Convergent thinking is often seen as the antithesis of creativity because it relies upon the creation of a single correct answer to your problem. Sometimes it can help however, and this was proved by the 4th experiment in the study.

This time, participants were asked to perform the simple task of sorting a pile of playing cards from two piles into one. This simple task was enough to trigger convergent thoughts in the brain, which in turn helped them to perform strongly on a creativity task afterwards.

Trick #5 – Using your imagination

If you don’t have a pack of playing cards, or indeed a box to sit outside of, the final trick brings you some salvation. It revealed that you can receive the same creative spikes as in the previous four experiments, just by imagining yourself engaging in the aforementioned activities.

The researchers found that when participants meandered aimlessly ala in trick #3, but with an avatar in Second Life rather than in real life, the creativity spike was still observed.

Of course, these tricks of the mind are not the only ones that researchers have proven to enhance our performance. For instance, one study found that we tend to do better at anagrams when we’re lying down.

Another found that we seem to be able to pay better attention to a task when we don a nice, white lab coat. The people wearing the lab coats tended to make half as many errors as their non-lab coat wearing peers.

These experiments underline how our performance can often be underlined by very subtle changes in our mindset that can be evoked by seemingly unimportant things.