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Design Struggles

Design Struggles

I’m working on a new, top secret project (about someone who doesn’t know it’s happening) and I’m really struggling with the design. The piece is about something and someone I care a lot about and I know what I want to communicate, but the design is falling flat. I have now tried several techniques and my sketchpad is full of rejected designs. I’m just not finding the right way to express myself in this piece.
What do you do when something you’re working on isn’t going the way you’d like?

This Post Has 19 Comments
  1. Walk away–literally. Go for a walk. Or do something to get your mind off of the project. Treat yourself to something, and don’t feel guilty about it. As a last resort, I clean house. That’s really getting desperate.

    1. Love it! Shabbat is a great tool since it forced me to both walk away and clean the house. The inspiration hasn’t struck yet, but I have a little time to play in the morning before the holidays start.

  2. Try turing the piece upside down – that might point out design flaws that you don’t see because you are too close to it.
    It would be like the double the that is hard to see when you are editing.
    Take a photo both orientations.
    Look at them and then go for a walk have a piece of chocolate and a glass of juice. then go back and SEE.
    Best Wishes

  3. write about it. what you’re struggling to communicate, how you want it to look. think emotion, color, line, volume, hot, cool. make marks, not sketches but just marks that express your feelings and desires about this project. then put it all away and read it tomorrow.

  4. Fold it up and stick it in a drawer. Now go work on something else. Then, in a few weeks you will wake up in the middle of the night and the problem will solve itself! Works every time. The thing you will have to learn to trust is that while you don’t THINK you’re working on it, your subconscious is on it big time. It simply cant be forced. As you mature with your art, you will know immediately what isn’t working and move your attentions automatically until the idea is fully cooked. Don’t worry, just use the time to finish up those pesky things we all have waiting! Good luck.

    1. Sandy,
      Very true. I do often come up with solutions at odd times. I never trust that it will happen though and keep trying to force it instead … which almost never works. You would think I’d learn from that. 🙂

  5. Walking away for a short period of time is a great way of taking time to think through what’s going on with the design.
    Sometimes that’s not possible due to time constraints. When this happens I go work on something small but intense such as a Zentangle or something similar where there is a focused time limit, it’s creative, it has nothing to do with the project I’m working on and it gives me just enough pause.
    Because this project seems intensely personal I would also give consideration to hand writing a brief note to the person as an exercise of thinking about who that person is to me. It’s not a note to be sent to the person, just the thought process.


    1. Teri,
      Yes, there are time constraints, but the timing is also good for a forced “time out” with the Jewish holidays. I’ll try to do some writing and thinking tomorrow before Rosh Hashanah begins and then hopefully something will come!

  6. I was going to say ‘take a walk’ but Deb already suggested that. Sleep on it is another favorite of mine. And then Lisa used to aways suggest thinking of your favorite colors as part of coming up with an idea. Also, how about writing down five things you admire/associate with the person; five qualities; five descriptive terms for the subject. Just look for some relationships.

    1. Judy,
      I love the idea of writing down the qualities/descriptive terms. It’s funny that you say this because I actually collected 2 pages worth of descriptive words from family and friends. I had intended to include the words in the piece itself, but never stepped back to think about using them as a starting place for the design!

  7. Hi Heather,

    My suggestion is to just jump in and trust. If you are starting with a sketch, take a deep breath, smile internally and put it out there that you are open and ready for ideas. Don’t expect quick results, but just have a deep knowing that it will be revealed to you.

    Sometimes when we care about someone or something so much, and we think we know what’s best, or what we want to convey, we might get blocked up by putting too much pressure on ourselves. There might be something else that wants to come through, but when we hold on too tight to our agenda, we will block that flow.

    It’s not about techniques, it’s about clearing your mind so you may receive new ideas, and them you’ll be on your way.

    Have fun! -sheila

    1. Sheila,
      You’re right, there’s a lot of pressure with this piece. Tonight and tomorrow morning will be an opportunity to step back and see what comes!

  8. Yes- I stop and do something else entirely. Sometimes it takes a few days. One of my touchstones is nature- being outside somewhere for a walk, canoe ride or the like- takes my mind off the ‘problem’. The next thing you know, the muse whispers ( or shouts) in my ear and I get an idea!

    1. Thanks, Wen. Taking some time away from the piece and doing something else is a good idea. I was hoping to have a solid start on the piece before the Jewish holidays, but it seems that’s not meant to be. Today (which was Shabbat) and tomorrow night through Tuesday night will give me plenty of time away from the studio. Hopefully, something will come to my as I’m sitting in synagogue!

  9. Sleep on it until after Rosh Hashanah. Do not force anything and let the ideas percolate. Maybe inspiration will hit during services or the walk to or from them L’Shanah Tovah

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