Overcoming creative block

I do not know what to write. I am sitting here staring at the screen, running sentences in my head, and turning my music on and off. Earlier I went foraging for food (in hopes of sparking some magical words), but ended up getting distracted by Arrested Development for 20 minutes. This happens just about every time I sit down to do anything. I’ll probably go play the guitar between this paragraph and the next.

Of course this is a familiar situation. Often referred to as “writer’s block”, the concept of an inspiration rut is unfortunately very familiar to every creative in any field. Sometimes ideas just don’t show up to work. Given this, we all develop strategies to combat such a scenario. Not all are foolproof, but it’s safe to say that most creative people have some battle plan for dealing with the dreaded “blank page”.

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How to drastically improve your designs

Design is everywhere. We see it in on billboards as we drive down the street. When we go to a restaurant and look at the menus, we see it. When we sit down on our couch and watch television, it’s visible on the commercials, advertisements, and even the movies and TV shows.

It is all around us and it stimulates and motivates much of our decisions subconsciously every day. The encyclopedia refers to graphic design as,

“the process of communicating visually using text and images to present information. Graphic design practice embraces a range of cognitive skills, aesthetics and crafts, including typography, visual arts and page layout. Like other forms of design, graphic design often refers to both the process (designing) by which the communication is created and the products (designs) which are generated.”

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The benefits and drawbacks of an over active creative mind

You’re a creative person. We all are. That’s one of the reasons we are designers. But, how many of us have heard from someone that we have an over active mind and we come up with too many ideas? An over active mind can be both positive and negative. In today’s article we’ll explore both sides.

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CREATIVE CLICHÉ CORNER #2 – the hackneyed handshake!

The ubiquitous handshake stock shot has been a reliable backstop for the uninspired designer for decades. I’m even wondering whether I should have given it top billing above our old favourite, Creative Cliché #1, the light bulb..?

A business handshake


Emblazoned on business books, corporate websites, financial brochures, and almost anything else generically business-ish, earnest, firm, scrupulously clean hands projecting from suited cuffs are seen to: meet, greet and network; congratulate; seal deals; demonstrate agreement; and celebrate trust, balance and equality. Handshake images seem to be everywhere and, you’re probably thinking, they’re all pretty similar shots. But, beware, designer! If you absolutely must utilise the handshake cliché, please do make sure it’s the right kind of handshake for the job! – there are good ones and also bad ones. For regular design projects, you’ll probably be wanting a good one so, for fun, let’s look at the bad ones first:

(For this post, I’ve collated ideas from US, UK and North European writings. Many different traditions exist in other cultures.)

A full-on, very hard squeeze that says ‘I’m better and stronger than you’; a blatant show of strength. According to my research though, it seems that this heavy pressure can occasionally be a mistake, as in… big people don’t always know how strong they are. Something to bear in mind. THE VICE is sometimes accompanied by the ‘palm-down’ strategy, another show of domination.

THE DECOMPOSING CORPSE (my pet name for what’s usually termed THE DEAD FISH handshake)
The opposite of THE VICE, something akin to a floppy, raw chicken breast fillet being slipped into your hand. Thankfully, most of the time, it’s removed before you have to wonder what to do with it – you certainly couldn’t shake something this limp! THE DECOMPOSING CORPSE isn’t, as you might imagine, a manifestation of a weak personality; far from it, it’s conclusive proof of arrogance. Make no mistake, this person doesn’t like you but hey, don’t take it personally… she doesn’t like anyone else either, apart from herself of course!

Similar to THE CORPSE but much faster. This person doesn’t have time to waste on bonding with you. He’s in a hurry and he thinks his time is far more important than yours.

Seems friendly but, underneath, it’s all a about power! This shaker performs a textbook handshake, and then some! Whilst he has hold of your right hand, his left hand is patronising you: patting your shaking hand; touching your arm or shoulder solicitously; or treating you with excessive friendliness and care, as if you need ‘parental’ reassurance from the ‘grown-up’. Unless the two of you really are good friends, his actions might make you feel inferior, dominated, even childlike. And that’s what he wants. He might follow up by placing his hand on your back and ‘helping’ you through a doorway.

A cupped hand is offered but it refuses to touch your palm – it would be just too intimate for this shrinking violet. Here lurks the weak character, afraid of human contact, fearing that full-on flesh-to-flesh contact might reveal too much about this person.

A bit like a high-five but at handshake level. You’ll observe this shake only in the under-25s apparently. Only engage in it if you’re good friends.

So, what’s the right way to shake hands? Here’s the recommended-for-job-interviews method:

Approach with a vertical palm, neither threatening (palm facing down, dominating) nor submissive (palm up). Eye contact is important, but don’t be threatening or confrontational. Smile. Go in matching thumb-webs and hold. No need to shake, but ok if you want to; three times is enough – don’t hang on too long. Don’t dominate. If the other party does try to dominate you, disengage, smile again and move on.

As a postscript, I’ll admit to having used a handshake image on a book cover once. I like to think it was acceptable because it wasn’t the usual boring stock shot representing agreement but something a little more stylish, – it was almost a bad handshake, representing assertiveness. I forgive myself because I still rather like it and also because, when a chap turns round in her lifetime really quite a lot of print, it might be ok to use each cliché just once..? For the record, here’s the book cover…

Assertiveness at Work book cover

The handshake was a rights-managed shot from Getty Images

How to create ‘Creativity’

‘Creative’ is the most popular adjective in the design world. Everybody wants to be a creative individual, find a creative solution, or discover a creative book. There are many synonyms for the word ‘creative’: ingenious, clever, prolific, innovative, gifted, inspired, inventive, original, stimulating. But what does this word really mean? And how can we activate our own creativity?

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How to create creativity

Your creative drive

As graphic designers we are asked day in and day out to be creative, be original, and be knowledgeable. Our ideas can go anywhere from impressing a few fellow classmates to greatly increasing the revenue of a local/national establishment. Yet, how do we develop into a successful designer in the first place? Additionally, how do we stay on top of our game and continue to be inventive and reputable?

“The foundation of a successful designer is measured by his/her creative drive.”

It is that drive that provides us with the inspiration and motivation to work towards something influential. However, discovering what drives us is likely as unique as our own design preference. Luckily, we live in a time today where designs from around the world are available within a few clicks of your mouse. So how can we increase and build our creative drive?

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Three deadly sins of print design

We’ve all had the painful experience of being handed a brochure that was “designed” with WordArt (or the slightly less painful Pages). The “designer” (we’ll call him Larry) beams, happy to see that his arched, distorted, glowing type is burning holes in your hands. You wouldn’t make those mistakes, would you? Of course not! You are an experienced designer, right?

Right. That’s what Larry says.

Some of the best designers have been tripped up by simple mistakes when designing for print. Obviously, we aren’t just talking about WordArt. We’re talking about a design that looks great on the screen, but it sits next to Larry’s best when you try to transfer it to paper. These are some common mistakes that many designers unknowingly make when coming to the print world.

1. Designing in RGB

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