Staying Creative and Collaborative in an Increasingly Isolated World
Learn the guiding principles and some tips to nurture your creativity while embracing a remote-first work culture.
As the pandemic swept the world, working from home has become the norm across many industries. What was quickly recognized, specifically across agency culture, was the benefit of organic, in-person collaboration. It should come as no surprise then, that an indefinite remote work environment left many creatives feeling isolated and uninspired. Without the stimulation of colleagues in a collaborative space, it can be challenging to generate innovative ideas and find that creative spark.
Despite this, the demand for producing high-quality creative work remained crucial for success. Therefore, a challenge was presented to stay connected, motivated, and creatively energized in a constantly isolated environment. For me, trying to design a logo or digital ad layout from scratch when uninspired feels a bit like trying to meal prep on an empty stomach – you unintentionally begin cycling through dozens of humdrum solutions, rather than utilizing design thinking to narrow focus on creative and thoughtful output. Just because remote work limits natural artistic stimulation, there are still several ways to stay creative while navigating working from home.
Set Up Your Desk For Success
Create a designated workspace that’s optimized for your specific creative needs, such as a well-lit area with plenty of desk space and comfortable seating. My desk must-haves include, a compact sun lamp, a small book of logos for inspo, an electric mug-warmer to keep coffee warm, and a little Wonder Woman figurine from my husband to remind me that I can conquer whatever challenges the day throws my way. These small but mighty details are crucial to ensuring you can operate creatively in a structured space.
PRO TIP: I’d encourage keeping your workspace separated from your living space if your home allows it. A designated workspace allows you to be focused and sharp to produce strategic, creative solutions.
Team Work Makes the Dream Work.
Don’t forget to collaborate with your team and clients, using virtual tools to communicate and share feedback. I recommend keeping something such as Google Chat, or Slack, open on a second monitor! Drop in a gif every once in a while to bring levity and build rapport! At WeCreate, in addition to communication on our main channels, we also utilize a digital whiteboard platform – Miro – where we can organically and seamlessly brainstorm ideas together.
Engage With Inspiration
Now, if you’re anything like me, you can find sudden inspiration in unlikely places.
Like the one time I was walking my dog and conceptualized an entire campaign playing out from start to finish.
Our team was working on naming conventions for a hotel and coffee shop, intending for both entities to play off one another. While our first idea was certainly good, I just carried around a gut feeling for a few hours that I had something great I wasn’t quite bringing to the surface yet. Finally, nearing the end of our walk, a new name for the coffee shop came to mind like a two-stage fire alarm system, and immediately I started seeing the creative messaging coming together in my mind for these projects.
But it can often be the case when it’s time to get back to your desk, your billion-dollar idea has long since evaporated. Finding inspiration and creativity is sometimes a puzzle.
A consistent way to spark inspiration is to utilize social media platforms. Pinterest or Instagram, are great avenues to discover new ideas and follow trendsetters in design. Who are your design ‘heroes’? Who are they following on Instagram? I love keeping tabs on the team over at @Hoodzpah and @andyjpizza.
Creatives must remain vigilant in gathering inspiration and staying informed on what other creatives are making! Watch a video, listen to a podcast, read a story, and subscribe to platforms like AIGA’s Eye on Design to remain engaged in the creative community at large – take notice (and note) of what other creators have made! Then, share your findings with a coworker. On our last creative team off-site day, we all got a chance to talk about where each member had found creative inspiration or something new they had been learning. It was a fantastic window into everyone’s interests and even sparked new explorations for myself! Staying informed and aware allows you to think about what you want to hold onto from what you discovered. This will keep those little sparks fresh in your mind that you might be able to set ablaze later on.
Take a Breather
Incorporate breaks and self-care. It’s amazing how much stretching or taking a walk outside can help alleviate stress and prevent burnout. By giving your mind and body a chance to disconnect from screens and technology, you can allow yourself to become more present and receptive to inspiration. Research shows that even a brief walk can boost creativity and problem-solving abilities.
Value downtime – it’s a well-documented fact that most people get their best ideas when their brain is relaxed.
Research originating from Washington University psychologist R. Keith Sawyer, in their book ‘Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation’, shows we’re more likely to have a creative epiphany when we’re doing something monotonous, using ‘mental building blocks’ we use every day. When we take time off solving a problem, we activate a different region of our brain – flipping into autopilot. This frees up our unconscious to work on something else.
So make sure to take breaks, go for a walk, or engage in a different activity to recharge your creative batteries, jumpstart your imagination, and tap into your creative potential! In addition to a morning walk, I also try to stand up from my desk at midday, take a longggg deep breath in and stretch as I exhale to re-energize and loosen up before trying to continue working on an over-stimulated brain.
Working Together (Apart) Doesn’t Have To Inhibit Creativity
Remember that creativity can spark in unexpected places and it’s essential to stay open and receptive to new ideas. Incorporating even a couple of these strategies into your daily routine can unlock your creative potential and foster inspiration amongst even the most mundane tasks. So keep engaging, searching, experimenting, resting, and creating. I, for one, can’t wait to see what you come up with!
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