Do you know what one of the best strategies is for designers who feel like they need some inspiration to get around the feeling of being stuck? That would be a creativity challenge, of course. These enjoyable and stimulating challenges do exactly what they sound like: They get you in the habit of becoming more creative by getting you to practice your creative muscle.
As an awesome bonus, these challenges also help you to find yourself as a designer. It’s not uncommon for designers to have that eureka moment and discover their personal design style at the end of the challenge (or even during it). Some design styles you could fall into include:
- Art Nouveau – Characterized by ornate by flowing curves and linear designs
- Art Deco – Known for zigzags, aerodynamic shapes, and a more airbrushed and grainier look
- Hero Realism – Propaganda-based, known for realistic imagery usually featuring just one person (read: subject) and pushing an ideal
- Flat – Current and characterized by minimalism, negative or white space, straight lines, and neutral tones
- Late Modern – Recent art produced after World War II and featuring distorted geometric shapes, minimalism, and an informal structure or layout
- Grunge – Characterized by dirtier textures and backgrounds, handwritten elements, and more irregular frames and lines
For the next 30 days, do one of these challenges per day to boost your creativity and become a master at reaching breakthroughs—whether that’s on your latest design project or just in terms of everyday problem solving.
Let’s count down the challenges…
Day 1: Draw a Mindmap
All you need for day 1 is some time alone, a piece of paper, and a pencil. Sounds accessible enough, right? Begin by drawing or writing your biggest problem or challenge in the center of the page. From there, brainstorm new concepts or ideas that relate to the main one. Keep going until you branch out with related ideas until the page is full, or you’re totally out of ideas.
Reflect by analyzing which ideas you want to move ahead with.
Day 2: Take a Music Lesson
Studies show that music increases your pleasure (which makes you more relaxed and therefore more able to think clearly and creatively), memory and learning capacity. According to a study from the University of Helsinki, there was a bigger improvement of brain function and an increase in memory and learning in the study participants who listened to classical music (specifically Mozart).
So take some music lessons (any instrument), and start feeling more creative.
Day 3: Come up With Your Own Color Scheme
Studies show that colors can affect your mood. According to Very Well, colors can be used therapeutically to alter how you feel, with red being used to stimulate both the mind and body and orange increasing your energy levels.
To get yourself some more exposure to colors—and hopefully also stimulate your creativity with more energy and mental prowess—design your own color scheme. This creative challenge is super-easy, as there are many color-scheme creators on the web:
Day 4: Create a Logo for an Everyday Item
You use the same tools each day as a designer, whether it’s your Mac, tablet, stylus or even just plain, old pencil. To show it appreciation, come up with a logo for it. Nothing fires up the old, creative juice quite like having to brainstorm a suitable icon or mark for your favorite, everyday item.
Need some inspiration? Just check out our CM logo category for stellar designs.
Day 5: Self-Portraiture
How’s this for a devil-may-care challenge? Get yourself a piece of paper and a pencil. Then, shut your eyes tight, and begin to draw a self-portrait. No matter what happens, you’ll get a good laugh if it’s terrible or be really impressed with yourself if it’s even remotely close.
Challenges like this can be hard to commit to because they take you out of your comfort zone very aggressively, but doing something radically different can help shake things up for sure.
Day 6: The Ideation Challenge
Get a blank piece of paper, and draw 30 circles of equal size on it. Get a pen, and challenge yourself to transform these independent circles into recognizable items—no matter how you do it (combining, filling in lines, coloring, etc.). Only give yourself 5 minutes for this challenge, to really put yourself under time pressure!
This creativity challenge tests the fluency and flexibility of the ideas you’re able to come up with for the circles.
Day 7: Draw a Calendar Page for Your Month of Birth
Here’s a straightforward design and illustration challenge: What would the calendar page of your month of birth look like if you could design it?
Would it have ornate typography or a high-quality, striking hero image on top?
Here’s your chance to be extremely creative and let loose by injecting your personality on your mockup calendar page.
Day 8: Draw Your Favorite Recipe
This one touches on your inner chef. Quick! Grab your favorite recipe and reimagine it as the finished dish that you’ll enjoy wolfing down.
Now draw this recipe, whether that’s on a regular sheet of paper or on an actual canvas with watercolors. Make it as vivid and colorful or as minimalistic as you want.
The important thing is to train yourself to visualize the written word.
Day 9: Make an Empathy Map
An empathy map is a technique/tool used by companies to gain a more insightful understanding of their target demographic, but you can use this exercise as a way to gain deeper insight into human behavior, too. When you do, you become a better designer since you’re designing for human beings in the first place.
Spend an afternoon people watching. Then, simply draw a map with four, equal sections on a whiteboard or a flip chart. Each section should be uniquely labeled “feel,” “think,” “say” and “do.” Based on your observations of random strangers, start to fill out each section with descriptors.
When you’re done, analyze if you can find any common bonds, patterns or trends in your observations.
Day 10: Learn Calligraphy
In all fairness, you won’t learn calligraphy in just one day, but you should at least study it. Calligraphy goes one level beyond mere handwriting by introducing visual art into your writing, so it becomes decorative and ornate.
Here are some calligraphy primers:
- Learning Calligraphy
- A Beginner’s Guide to Modern Calligraphy
- How to Learn Calligraphy in 5 Easy Steps
Get some inspiration from our CM calligraphy category.
Day 11: Practice Faux Calligraphy
Faux calligraphy is aptly named because it’s an easier and faster way to start doing “calligraphy.” Here, you won’t have to use the nib pen for real calligraphy; any old ballpoint pen or marker is acceptable.
Here are some faux calligraphy tutorials:
Day 12: Conceive Your Own Character
Here’s the chance for you to come up with your own creative, trademarked work: Invent your own character. Give him a name, background story, logo, design and a whole universe in which to exist.
No boundaries with this one: Make him a hero, villain or an anti-hero who kind of straddles both good and evil.
Day 13: Create Your Own Typography for Your Favorite Motivational Quote
We all get inspiration from timeless quotes spoken by successful and notorious people all throughout history. What better way to exercise your creative muscle than by honoring your favorite quote by immortalizing it in new typography that you’ve invented?
Check out our CM font category for all sorts of inspiration on what works when it comes to fonts galore.
Day 14: Brainstorm 10 Potential Titles for Your Memoir
Absolutely fun and outside-the-box, this challenge prompts you to imagine yourself, years down the road, as a famous entrepreneur in a position to write a tell-all memoir.
Prepare yourself for this possibility by coming up with 10 different chapter titles. Then, take it up another level by designing sample covers for said memoir.
Day 15: Get in Touch With Your Stream of Consciousness
Get a piece of paper, get a pen, and start jotting down whatever enters your mind. This can be words, drawings or just a recording of your thoughts.
Here’s what you need to do to succeed at this challenge: Don’t try to be in control of your thoughts. Instead, give yourself up to the free flow of your consciousness and the thoughts coming and going from your mind.
Day 16: Learn a New Word (and Then Apply It)
Every time you’re curious about a word, you can just search for it on Google by entering the word and “definition” as your keywords. Do this with one word you’ve heard of, but don’t quite know the meaning of completely.
When you understand it, apply your knowledge by using the new word in a short poem, a journal entry, or in your conversations for this day.
Day 17: The Time Exercise
At some point during the day, glance at the clock. Done? Excellent. Remember the exact time.
Let’s say you looked at the clock at 1:34 pm.
These individual digits will inspire your exercise.
For example, you could:
- Write down one sentence that features three commas and four pronouns.
- Write one short story that has three plot twists and four different endings.
Day 18: Watch at a Documentary
Get outside your comfort zone in a hurry by watching a documentary you’d ordinarily not watch. Doing so will expand your mind, juggle your preconceived notions, and stimulate your brain.
There are many resources for documentaries from which to choose:
Day 19: Make Mindful Movement
This challenge only requires your body and an open space.
Stand tall in mountain pose, and inhale as you raise up your arms to join them at the palms. Fold forward as far as you can to bring your palms as close to the floor as possible. Step back into downward dog to inhale and exhale for four breaths. Raise yourself and step up, back into mountain pose. Repeat as many times as is comfortable.
Day 20: Reverse Day
This is perhaps the easiest of all creative challenges, as it only requires your commitment, but it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea: Do the opposite of everything for the entire day.
Start when you wake up by waking earlier or later. Switch up what you have for breakfast. Change your work setting for the day; if you usually work indoors, work outside in the park for the whole day.
Try to even react to situations differently than normal!
Day 21: Alternative Uses
For this exercise, pick any ordinary item (your tablet, smartphone, coffee mug, etc.). Then, take a few minutes to think of and list as many alternative uses of the item as possible. This exercise measures your divergent-thinking skills.
For tablet, how about:
- Paper weight
- Food tray
- Magazine or book
Day 22: Finish an Incomplete Shape
Print out a list of incomplete shapes, such as this one. The challenge here is super-creative: Go wild with your attempt to finish the figure into whatever you want. The more humorous, unexpected, or imaginative, the better.
A challenge like this will measure your ability to go off on tangents and turn something ordinary into the extraordinary.
Day 23: Remote Word Association
Think of this as a game. It’s actually pretty fun—you’ve probably played something close to this when you were younger and in school.
Begin by writing down three words that don’t have any association with each other. They can be any words at all. The tricky part is that you have to come up with a fourth word that connects to all three words.
This challenge prompts you to work on your lightning-quick moment-to-moment insight.
Day 24: Draw a Fond Memory
Go back in time to revisit a happy time in your life. When you have this memory in your head, recreate it through design.
Let’s say the memory you chose was from your last vacation. Try to create a color palette that fits your vacation’s vibe and then paint your vacation with that color palette as the theme.
Day 25: Refer to Your Books
Go to your bookshelf, and pick out any book at random. Open it to any page; it doesn’t matter which one.
Close your eyes, and let your finger drop on any point on the page. Now use the passage or section that your finger landed on to inspire you for the rest of the day. It can be the character, a specific word, or even the emotion you get from reading that section.
Day 26: Restrict Yourself
As a designer, you go about your day while using a lot of different tools, whether they’re design, productivity, business, or lifestyle tools. While this can help get things done, it’ll also stifle your creativity because you don’t have to be as resourceful on your own.
To remedy that, for one day, try to get by with only one tool at a time. For example, use only one social-media platform, one pencil, one camera, one app, and one electronic device.
You’ll be surprised how much more creative you’ll have to be with less to help you.
Day 27: Try Your Hand at Riddles
Riddles are stellar not only because they stimulate your brain, but also because you have to analyze the problem with outside-the-box thinking to have a chance at solving it. Scientists actually use riddles to measure people’s convergent-thinking skills (read: how creatively they can solve problems).
Here’s a list of resources featuring many riddles for you to attempt to solve:
- Riddles - Good Riddles and Answers
- Riddles & Answers | Reader’s Digest
- Riddles Collection – Riddles.com
Day 28: Illustrate a New Interface for an Office Object
Your office contains many items like your desk, task chair, printer, computer, etc. For a mind-bending challenge, spend the day brainstorming a new interface for your office object of choice.
Take a picture of your object, print it out, and then lay a piece of glassine paper over said picture. Now, you can draw to your heart’s content the new interface of your object and how much differently it’ll work, as a result.
Day 29: Make Your Own Flipbook
Make your own flipbook easily and cheaply by utilizing some Post-it pad. Create your own “movie” by illustrating each page, so that you’re able to tell a story when you rapidly flip through each of the pages on your pad.
It won’t take you that much time, and it’ll cost you a lot less than hiring an entire film crew for the afternoon to film a real movie.
Day 30: Create an Emoji Song
Everyone’s already obsessed with emojis on digital devices of all kinds, so there’s no better time than the present to come up with your own emoji song.
This is basically when you select your favorite song, take its original lyrics, and then write out its lyrics on a piece of paper by only using emojis (bonus points go to you if you make up your own emojis for this challenge).
Add more fun and interactivity to the mix by then having another person try to correctly guess your lyrics, line by line.
Destroy Your Comfort Zone
The theme with all of these creativity challenges is for you to bust loose from your mundane and everyday comfort zone. It’s only when you jar your usual way of thinking and processing information in this way that you can truly expand your creativity and reach a higher level of outside-the-box thinking.
So start your awesome 30-day creativity challenge right now! Your design career will thank you for it, and you’ll increase your design acumen to heights and in ways you never before thought possible.
Afterthought: If you’ve gone through all 30 days, there’s a really strong chance by now that you’ve also discovered in greater detail what kind of designer you are. Are you a designer who identifies with art deco, grunge or flat? Only you can tell for sure.
Products Seen In This Post: