Categories: DesignHow-To

7 Design Challenges to Get You Out of Creative Block

Oh, there’s a bunch of articles on creative blocks and how to fix them out there. Why would you need one more? Go sit, go meditate, do less, do more, do something, do nothing… Time heals, after all, what else. Right, relax. What most of them are missing is a bit of a challenge, a practice.

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

– Apparently not Einstein

Below are some challenges designed to help you overcome creative block. They won’t take you much time. Probably 5-10 minutes each.

There’s no brilliant theory behind those challenges, as you’re about to see. From my own vast experience of having a creative block, I just know that you need to do something. I normally use the most simple tool possible, so for the sake of this article, we’ll use Icons8 Photo Creator. You won’t have to download photo editors, use tablets or anything else. Just open the project and let’s begin.

If it helped and gave you some new ideas for your projects – please, let me know, I’ll be very happy to hear those were useful. If they weren’t helpful, well, I’ll probably read that too.

Shall we?

Composition Challenge

Open the dashboard and pick any picture you like. The more complicated it is, the better.

I picked this one:

Alternatively, you can create your own composition. Original project via Icons8 Photo Creator

Now, in the upper menu, switch the format to an Instagram story and try moving any object in the scene:

The frame changed to a vertical format and the composition changed drastically. Your goal now is to restore the meaning of the original picture by fitting all the objects within this new format.

At first, I just tried to bring all the aliens and the guy in together to fit in the new frame, and all I got was some weird extra-terrestrial orgy:

Turns out, the key object was the drink, so I moved the guy with the glass to the front:

That helped, but not much. Now it seemed like the guy was drinking something illegal because nothing else explains why there are aliens not paying any attention to him, doing some weird things behind his back. So I had to not only show the drink but also restore all the interaction between the aliens and our bearded hero. To do that, I replaced some alien models with similar ones from the photo library and moved everyone around a bit.

I borrowed this challenge from a drawing exercise in an art book about composition. It was something like: “draw a scene with 10 animals on the A4 list. Now fold the list in half and draw the scene again with all the same objects.“ In my experience, the exercise not only forces you to work with the frame, but also pushes you to be creative in analyzing what’s important to the scene and what’s not.

Bonus: this challenge teaches you to adapt your images for multiple social media formats without losing the original meaning, so now we have a picture for our blog and a story for our Instagram.

Replica Challenge

If you’re into art, you’ll love this one. And if you’re not, you’ll probably love it anyway.

Pick any art piece you like or find amusing, like The Creation of Adam:

Or The Last Supper:

And replicate it using Icons8 Photo Creator:

Original project via Icons8 Photo Creator

It doesn’t have to be a classical piece, though. You can recreate iconic scenes from your favorite movies, family portraits, anything… Just start doing it and you’ll be surprised how fun and challenging this can be.

I know that many beginner artists (and even experienced ones) copy the work of masters to understand the thinking process behind the masterpieces. This is considered a very effective way to learn something outside of your box of thinking. You will actually be surprised how a similar process may happen even when you’re simply trying to replicate the picture using photo collage elements.

Story Challenge

Do you remember this guy?

Maybe you didn’t know, but there’s a whole story that follows this popular meme that includes more than 30 images.

And boy, does it get dark:

I’m not kidding. This is act III of this photo stock drama.

Anyway, I’m not asking you to create a story spanning over 30 images (can’t stop you if you want to, either). Just a few should be enough:

Start with any shot and let the rest come to you naturally

Disclaimer:
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

You can copy and paste this on your work.

Telling stories with static pictures and photos is an art in itself. It helps you see things in continuation, form new links between several pictures, and, guess what… Stories make us feel, and often emotions are what we lack during our creative stagnation.

One Element Challenge

Take any photo from our template library (or one of your previously made) and add ONE element to it so that it completely changes the whole meaning of the picture. Bear in mind, you can only add something, you can’t change anything else. Let’s make it even more challenging: no aliens!

Original project via Icons8 Photo Creator

You can use any element or models from our library:

Or you can upload your own element if you like:

Let’s try again. Now you see me?

 

No, she does not.

 

This whole challenge forces us to look for new perspectives of old things. Which is exactly what we need in order to break the cycle of repetitive work. Sometimes you’re just one element away from seeing things in a new light.

Crowd Challenge

This is a weird one, I agree. But some of you will find it irresistible. The goal is to create a meaningful scene with as many actors as possible:

Original project via Icons8 Photo Creator

Make sure you use the entire range of emotions the actors provide to glue the picture together:

Bonus: pictures with so many people usually generate a lot of attention, because standard stock photos usually feature just a few actors. However, the hard part is actually making the picture make sense so it doesn’t just resemble a Game of Thrones last season table reading: that is, a bunch of actors looking for a purpose.

Try the challenge and tell me whether it was hard to make tens of models feel like a single working unit.

Fruit Challenge

Yes, it gets weirder. But for the purpose of breaking your creative block, the weirder it is, the better. Take a fruit, any fruit, or a vegetable:

And make it an integral part of a composition. Weird is good, Frankly speaking, it’s the best.

Again, feel free to upload your own eatables. And have some fun! I tried it with apples – it was not a success. Maybe you’ll have more ideas than me.

Don’t Be Alone!

Show us what you’ve done: tag us on twitter and we will be happy to share your work with all our followers. If you come up with any challenges of your own, make sure to write them in the comments – links to your work are allowed.

Remember – the thing about creative blocks is that they, well, block you from doing anything. I’m sure that if you spend even five minutes doing any of these challenges you’ll get your creative juices flowing. Best of luck to you!

About the author: Andrew started at Icons8 as a usability specialist, conducting interviews and usability surveys. He desperately wanted to share his findings with our professional community and started writing insightful and funny (sometimes both) stories for our blog.

Don’t miss free tools by the Icons8 team:
Icons8, a library of about 90K icons
Moose, a big collection of stylish stock photos by pro photographers
Photo Creator, free collage maker to make custom photos for your story
Ouch!, a collection of free vector illustrations
Fugue, royalty free music for videos of any kind
Lunacy Editor (Sketch for Windows), free software to view, create and edit Sketch files for Windows users.

Also, get the lists of free vector software and free photo editing software

Title image created with Icons8 Photo Creator

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