Looking after your in-house design team

5 years ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

How to keep them inspired and in the zone

“Creative block does not just afflict composers, writers, painters and poets… innovative scientists experience drought as well”

Prof Robert Winston, Weston Professor of Science and Society at Imperial College London

Having a design team that’s inspired is one of the best feelings in the world. Heads bursting with ideas, good design flying out of the door – life is good within the team.

But then, all of a sudden, that lovely atmosphere suddenly disappears! Where it goes is a mystery, but the buzz has clearly gone, energy is down and people are struggling. And it’s up to you (as head of the design team) to get them back in the zone.

Your team isn’t alone; some of the greats have struggled with creativity – Beethoven, J K Rowling and Eminem to name a few!

But how do you prevent your team from entering into the creative wilderness in the first place? Here are some helpful suggestions.


It’s amazing where a scribble can take you. Just let your imagination wander and your hand start drawing, writing, sketching, creatively drift around the page to create something visual. It doesn’t have to make sense and it doesn’t have to look like anything in particular, it’s just meant to be a ‘brain dump’ to visualise your thoughts. Within that graphic mess might be the shape you were looking for or the beginnings of an idea you can build on.


If you haven’t already done so, join Twitter and get following anyone and everyone that is creative. It’s the most immediate place to discover what is happening in the creative world and what makes individuals and organisations tick. It’s a true eye-opener!

Subscribe to a design magazine too if you can, and read it! Desktop and Wallpaper are a must but there are loads of lesser know journals out there to dip into for ideas (like Peppermint and Landscape Architecture that aren’t necessarily ‘graphic design’ based).


Discover how other designers approach a design problem. There is no set way to reach the solution – everyone seems to tackle it differently. Start sussing these people out and find out if one of their methods suits you. Just listening to a fellow designer talk about creative block can sometimes be enough! Watching one webcast per week to indulge the mind will quickly expand your knowledgebase.


Design is everywhere so get into the habit of collecting it. On an iPad (or equivalent), in a scrap book or displayed on a ‘cool wall’ – stockpile examples of creativeness to generate inspiration (not as an opportunity to copy someone else’s idea). Maybe categorise them too (brochures, direct mail, charts and graphs) so when you need to find something in a hurry, you can spend more time looking at it, rather than for it.

Build up a list of internet bookmarks of work that inspires you (Behance Network and AusInfront are good places to start). Routinely dip into your collection as there will always be something you hadn’t noticed before.


Keep a note book and pen by your bed – some of the best ideas can pop into your head just before you fall asleep, or quite literally wake you up in the middle of the night. Frustratingly they always seem to disappear at breakfast time or just before you reach the office. Note them down before they escape!


Widen your horizons by experiencing other creative forms – literature, architecture, art, interior design – it all counts. Just visiting an art gallery, photographic exhibition or just wander round a modern furniture shop will put ideas into your head.


Creative conferences never fail in lifting a flagging creative. They provide a real boost to what the imagination can achieve, how innovation does work, how small budgets do allow creativity and how persistence can open many doors.

Semi-Permanent is an example of just such a conference that attracts a wealth of talent (national and international, unknown or well-known) talking about everything from print, film, illustration, photography, multimedia (the list goes on).


If none of the above helps, simply do something different – go to the gym, mow the lawn, do the weeks’ food shopping – it can be something new or mundane but as long as it’s completely unrelated to give your mind a time to process the problem. You will then return to it with a clear head and a different viewpoint.

The pressure to be constantly creative is relentless and many individuals hit a barren patch more often than they’d like to admit. But giving your team the opportunity to avoid such a stressful experience isn’t rocket science.

A design team that is inspired can only be a good thing for them and for you.