Reading Time: 4 minutes
Some people have seen UX Design as a block for creativity. A lot of constraints, rules, guides, and not much space for breaking the rules. This can be a pain in the ass, especially for those who came from Graphic Design, where (almost) everything is allowed. So the frequent question I see around the community is: how to remain creative as a UX Designer?
The first thing to consider is that creativity is not only the outcome. To be creative, you have to follow a particular process. Like in the brain, creativity works like a network putting a lot of pieces together in a certain order to create something new. So, I think the most important thing is:
You need to have a repertoire, other people, and put yourself in new contexts.
Observe things outside the UX specter
In 2016, I did a course about Media Buying. The teacher told us to don’t socialize only with people who do the same as you do, but to look for professionals out of your work area that will get out of the bubble and see things from a different perspective. The same things happen to UX Designers: we like building communities, but it may create a significant bias blinding our eyes to creativity. Therefore, I am always looking to meet people from different fields and try to schedule a talk with them.
One of these talks was about how to draw a game interface. I saw this guy’s post on Linkedin about a new experience to improve his creativity: build a new Bomberman game. It was fascinating to me, and I did ask him to show me what he was doing. It turns out it was really, really hard to do (haha), a lot of work to make that amount of sprites. But I learned how important it is to componentize everything to get more productive, whether working with Illustrator, After effects, or Figma.
Later Figma launched the tool Variants, and in a Friends of Figma Portugal event, we brought the same kind of exercise to test the new feature: a funny game where you can change all the aspects of a character using variants. Amazing! That talk put me on the front line!
Another example: recently, I saw this post about an app for when you die… and a lot of insights came from there, especially to look where nobody is exploring.
Deciding what you need to be creative about
Discovery depends on new research. We need to constantly look for other themes to understand. So, wonder! Do suppositions! Mix things up! I good way to train your capacity to combine things is this game.
Clearly define your intention
Another day, I wondered if it is possible to use filters in the browser like in Instagram to try it on a project. That’s how I found out about Adobe Aero and AR (Augmented reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) experiments. This opened a big window on my mind for new possibilities. I am kind of addicted to the “Ah-ha!” moment when you say to yourself, “Oh, I know, I could try…”
The “How may we” framework can help here.
Think about crazy solutions
In some cases, the crazy-impossible ideas can be reframed brilliantly and innovatively, so don’t constrain your mind and try to get closer to people who induce you to get that.
Talking to people is even better than reading to achieve creativity
I always try to have small talks with people I see doing great things. If somehow you called my attention, I want to get to know you. I am not saying that you should not read, but if you can talk to experts in the field you are studying and have questions about it is away better. Taking these questions to them will give you much more practical knowledge through their experience.
After listening to a podcast about Design Ops, I became curious about the concept. My first action was to look for the woman who was talking and then look for Design Ops on people’s Linkedin’s section and then send them a message to invite them to a small talk. Some of them took time to explain it to me, answer all my questions, give bits of advice, and suggest tools.
Main channels I use to find great specialist people:
- Personal websites
Write to think
In discussions, or in your mind, do not allow yourself to just keep talking without gathering anything visible. We need to drop lines down, take notes, write in posts at a shared board, and draw. But somehow, the ideas need to get out of the talking field and go somewhere we all can see it. From there, we can start evaluating.
Make questions different than usual
People get used to boring questions, so most of them expect the same ordinary questions. The best way to practice creativity is to try to do different inquiries than usual. The famous “think differently,” which is a difficult exercise because we like safety. Safe is comfortable, but the best things are not safe.
Take a break from creativity
We all know how relieving a break from “creative pressure” can be. Take some time off from any intense mental activity and clear your mind with new scenarios. Go for a walk.
At the end of the day, you will realize how your mind works and what works better to turn the light around there. Take some notes about it and create your own creative process.
I hope some of these ideas have sparked some creativity for you.