Overcoming Creative Block for Infographic Designers

Being an infographic designer is an extremely rewarding profession – not only can it earn you a solid living, but it’s constantly interesting and engaging and allows for a considerable amount of creative freedom.

However, creating infographics on a regular basis can lead to what’s known as ‘creative block’, something that’s often a problem for graphic designers, web designers, writers, musicians and anyone working in a creative industry. Creative block is the lack of ideas for a particular project and the inability to produce something that you feel is unique or of a high standard, no matter how much effort you put in. As an infographic designer myself (as well as a writer and musician), I’m very familiar with this problem and know how frustrating and often worrying it can be (particularly if you’re working to a deadline).

Over the years however I’ve developed a range of techniques for overcoming creative blocks, allowing me to avoid long spells of getting nothing done. In this post I’ll share with you my most commonly used approaches to beating creative block – although this article is aimed mainly at infographic designers, the following techniques will work for anyone working in a creative field.

1. Read an infographic book or design magazine

This is a technique I regularly advocate to our creative team at Designbysoap; so much so that we now have a library of design magazines, infographic books and smart thinking literature (check out our office infographic for a closer look at the Designbysoap workspace).

Of course I’m not advocating you rip off someone else’s design (as with point 2 below), but by spending some time reading design literature and looking at infographics in print format, you might get an idea for a colour scheme you like, an illustration style, font choice or overall design concept that will kick start the rest of your creative process. For anyone who doesn’t know where to start with infographic-specific literature, I highly recommend grabbing copies of Information is Beautiful and The Visual Miscellaneum and having them on your desk for when  you’re out of ideas.

2. Check out infographic blogs

This is actually something I recommend you do on a daily basis, rather than just when you’re suffering creative block, but it’s certainly a helpful approach when you’re void of inspiration.

The point of doing this is similar to point 1 – you will find plenty of designs that will give you individual ideas for the infographic you’re struggling with, whether it’s an idea for a layout, colour scheme or visualisation method.

There are scores of excellent infographic design blogs for you to check out, but here’s a handful of my personal favourites to get you started:

Good.Is Infographics
Cool Infographics
Information is Beautiful
Visual Loop
Daily Infographic

3. Get a pencil and paper

Sketching is a phenomenal technique for getting inspired and something I can’t overstate the value of when it comes to overcoming creative block. By using a pencil and paper you’re not limited by the design program you’re using, and you don’t have to invest huge amounts of time producing ideas that you eventually decide aren’t suitable.

I often use this approach to infographic design even when I’m not necessarily stuck for creative inspiration, as it’s a great tool for organising your thoughts and confirming a basic layout and concept. Have a look at my most recent Client Retrospective post for an example of how we use this approach at Designbysoap.

4. Take a break

Creative block can quickly become extremely frustrating – almost to the point of leaving you considering following an idea you know isn’t suitable for what you’re trying to produce. When you find yourself getting frustrated or agitated by the lack of inspiration, you should take a break away from your PC, as continuing will likely be nothing more than a waste of time and energy.

It’s been proven that using will power and decision making are finite resources – the more you do them, the more you suffer from ‘decision fatigue’ and the less likely you are to make good choices. Luckily however, all it takes to recharge this ability is a break and an increase in your blood sugar level, so if you find yourself struggling, grab a chocolate bar and go for a walk, or if you have the time, a short nap. This way you’ll recharge your batteries and find the process of making design decisions far easier when you return to your desk.

5. Research

It’s possible that one of the reasons you’re suffering from creative block is because you don’t know enough about the project you’re working on – something that’s actually quite common for infographic designers, as they’re often working on data from industries they know absolutely nothing about.

If this is the case, then continued research could help you dramatically in figuring out where to go with the project and how to approach the visualisation of the data at hand – consider analysing in greater depth your target audience, the industry as a whole, the big players in that industry and the goal of the infographic you’re producing. If you need to call your client and chat to them about the project for half an hour – trust me, they would much rather you picked up the phone and gained a greater understanding of what you’re producing than simply giving it a shot without fully knowing who you’re aiming the piece at and why.

6. Create a moodboard

Creating a moodboard, or a ‘reference guide’ as we call it in the office, is a good technique for organising the inspiration you’ve found by reading, researching and searching online.

Grab images of infographics you like, fonts references, colour schemes, images and anything else you think will be useful and put them all together in a Photoshop document. This way you’ve got a single document full of references and inspiration that you can use to help you overcome your creative block and produce something truly great for your client.

7. Play computer games, or watch a film

This is one of my favourite techniques, as not only does it work, but it’s the most fun way to help you with overcoming creative block. Modern games and films (particularly the former in my experience) are filled with creative approaches to storytelling, stylish graphics, great music and engaging content.

Not only can these mediums provide you with genuine inspiration, but it doubles up as taking a break from the creative process and a way to bypass the aforementioned decision fatigue that can make producing quality content particularly tough.


So that’s it for our list of techniques for overcoming creative block – if you have any other techniques you’d like to share with our readers, let us know in the comments below!

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