Creativity problem

Hi everyone

I need some advice. I am currently having trouble with creativity.

To give you some background I graduated 7 year ago in computer aided product design. Looking back I think my 2:1 came more from my technical work as opposed to my sketching and concept generation.

I then got a job designing optical cables which provided an avenue into product design of various enclosures for optical fibre routing. one and half years ago I manage to land a job at a design consultancy based on my technical skills as opposed to my design skills. I explained during my interview that I would love to progress into concept generation.

At first i was really happy generating a couple of concepts here and there in between my main duties. But lately I have beginning to believe that I cannot generate concepts and that I don’t have what it takes to be an industrial designer.

I have started to try and practice design sketching with the hope off generating ideas. But when ever I am faced with a blank piece of paper I panic, I won’t be able to think of any forms or good shapes.

I look for books or articles but all I seem to find is how to draw not how people come up with ideas for forms. I find loads of sites referencing inspirations but not how people use them in their product design.

I am approaching 30 and worry that it is too late to learn how to create. I feel like I’m missing something any advice would be very grateful.


You could start by sketching existing products, which gets you past the blank sheet of paper.
This also leads to thinking about the design process that led to the existing product, and quite possibly what you would do to improve on it.
Even if you aren’t inspired, at least you’ve had some sketching practice, right?
Good luck.

The important thing is to think on the page. Don’t try to come up with the idea and then sketch it. Start putting lines down and let them take you some place. It is never done in one sketch, it takes dozens and dozens. I just drew the same headphone 20 times today searching for just the right mix of proportion and detail. It takes time, fail fast, and fail often as they say.

We all have this problem. The only way I can describe it is to power through. It’s a stage in the process of any project. It will come and go as well. Often, I find the first few hours of sketching I seem to create the obvious stuff, the copycats etc. Then, I hit this stage of an hour or two where nothing is coming. Then, something will click again and I can spend days coming up with really interesting stuff.

I read Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine book a couple months ago. I really agree with his description of the process of creativity being a little manic-depressive (albeit on a fully functional level). The phase I’m describing above is similar to a hypomanic state where it feels as though thoughts are racing. On the other hand, at least my experience, I become hyper focused at this stage which is not a symptom of hypomania. The similar to depressive state comes in handy on the back end of actually finishing the project. When making the prototypes, CAD, QC etc., it helps to be critical and focused, which is similar to the depressive state.

It’s important to note that I say these states are similar to psychological disorders. The real disorders interfere with living a healthy life or succeeding in product development. If you are getting things done, you probably aren’t crazy.

Wow, really cool advice on a common problem,here. And I never heard of the comparison to manic depressive disorder, but to me it makes some sense. And sadly I see more creative people with disorder problems than in accounting,whereas I find accounting depressing.


Wow thank you for all your replies. Very good advice i will try kick myself into gear. I’m actually seeing someone about low self esteem/confidence/depression. When ever I try to design I might have one idea but as soon as I cad it up I think it’s sh#t and lose faith in myself.

Simon: Sounds like one of two problems:

  1. Don’t fall in love with your ideas. There are a minimum of 9 excellent solutions for any problem. If you aren’t satisfied with one, use another of the 9. You’ll find one that works eventually
  • or -
  1. Work it out. I have the same problem, but then I go back to basics. I start analyzing the proportion, figuring out the details. Eventually, it falls into place. Though occasionally, I’ve drawn things that just can’t be made or never look good in reality, but hot in a drawing.

Great Post! It is important as designers to remember that it happens to everyone. Design is hard work, it is a real challenge to create something new or to do it in a different way.