8 Outdoor Habits to Nourish Graphic Design Inspiration
If you’ve done your share of graphic design projects, you probably know what it feels like to hit a creative wall. It can be challenging for professionals in any creative field to stay inspired, but it can be even harder for graphic designers who work on a computer all day.
But what can you do when your work requires you to spend upwards of 40 hours per week parked in front of a monitor? The best way to prevent burnout and keep your creativity flowing is to force yourself away from the computer and get outdoors, according to Kristin Neperud Merz, graphic designer for Unscribbled.
“There is no greater designer than Mother Nature,” Neperud Merz says. “Watch how the water ripples, see how the rocks support one another, how the lizard scurries away—there is beautiful design everywhere you look.”
We connected with seasoned designers who have done just that. Now they’re sharing their advice for finding inspiration in nature to offer you some rejuvenation. Hang onto these graphic design inspiration habits from these pros who make a point to cultivate creativity away from the computer screen.
8 ways to gain graphic design inspiration outdoors
1. Stay off of your computer on days off
“The best thing to gain from being outside is, generally, you aren’t in front of your computer,” Neperud Merz says.
She emphasizes that ideally, you should stay off the computer all weekend. “It sounds radical in our tech crazy world, but when I do this, I am happy to get back to my computer on Monday. When I don’t do this, burnout starts to creep in.”
Try your hardest not to check work-related emails or cram in extra work on your days off. Drawing that boundary will recharge your creative energy and make your life as a designer more sustainable. In a truly urgent situation, clients can call you.
2. Go on a retreat
“We are products of our environment in one way or another,” says Jennah Lear, designer and owner of Blue Loui Studio. If your primary environment consists of a windowless office, it’s no wonder your inspiration is running low.
“I make it a point to leave the city and retreat to nature at least twice a year with no phone, no Wi-Fi,” Lear explains. If taking a retreat feels impossible, think about it as an investment in your work.
3. Take a walk
This long-standing tradition for clearing your head is perfect for graphic designers. Sam Williamson, graphic designer at Scotland Shop, says regular walks can provide a surprising spark.
“Taking a walk with my dogs is easily the best way for me to find inspiration in nature,” Williamson shares. “I love the beach, and I’ll always head there for lunch. The beach is an incredibly colorful environment, and I love taking a look at the sea and studying the blues and greens.”
4. Study the architecture
If you live and work in a bustling city, getting to a forest or a beach might require more of a commute than you can manage in the average workweek. The good news is you can gain just as much inspiration from an urban environment.
Scott Richards, CEO of Faceless Technologies, encourages designers in his firm to take at least 30 minutes outside the office each day.
“We encourage walks around the neighborhood to pay attention to all forms of inspiration,” he explains. “We ask our designers to look at architecture and sculpture and understand where their eyes went and why.”
Richards adds that this gives perspective to what other designers are doing, which is a way to keep up with the evolving trends in graphic design.
A lack of inspiration often has its roots in feeling overwhelmed. But stress and creativity don’t mix well. Regularly getting outside to practice meditation can be a simple way to keep stress from interfering with your creativity.
Lear explains that she works intentional calming into her daily morning routine to prepare for the tasks of the day. “Consciously create space for inspiration to flow,” she advises. Sitting still outdoors can be a surefire way to recharge while gaining ideas.
“I just sit down and absorb everything around me,” says Williamson. “I’ll usually sit on the rocks at the beach and throw sticks into the sea for my dogs until an idea pops into my head.”
6. Look for patterns and textures
“Patterns that occur in nature are an endless source of inspiration to me,” says Rob Whitehouse, Graphic Designer of Cool of the Wild. He adds that nature provides plenty of design inspiration through phenomena like the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio.
Whitehouse adds that looking at a flat screen only exercises a limited portion of your senses. “Getting outside opens up 3D visuals, sound, smell and, most importantly for me, the feel of things and objects,” he explains. “Textures in design are often overlooked, but adding something subtle can be just what a design needs to come alive.”
7. Leave your phone behind
“Go out into nature, but take your camera, not your cell phone,” Neperud Merz suggests. “Just be in the moment.” If you think you might want to photograph something, your camera is less likely to distract you.
Neperud Merz emphasizes the importance of leaving social media behind. “When you stop the chatter in your brain and the pressure to present a persona to the world, you will actually be able to see the world,” he says. “You could sit in one spot and see endless inspiring juxtapositions, light interactions and color combinations.”
8. Invest in long-term inspiration
Lear defines short-term inspiration as a need-based search for images to finish a project. But appreciating the world around you and allowing yourself time to absorb it is a bigger investment.
“The lines of the passing architecture, the stimulation of your surroundings and the smell of environment – this is long-term inspiration,” she explains. “Your senses will pull on these experiences for future creations.”
Lear believes travel and change of scenery are pivotal to the creation process for designers. Whether you drive an hour away or fly to the other side of the world, filling your vision with new places and all their sensory detail sets you up for long-term inspiration.
Take advantage of the great outdoors
You never know when your creative energy might feel sapped. Keep these outdoor graphic design inspiration habits in mind when you feel you’ve hit the wall.
As you can see, experienced designers have some smart tips to offer anyone who’s new to this creative field. Glean more of their insight by checking out our article, "Pros Provide a Behind-the-Scenes Peek at Their Graphic Design Process."