Getting creative juices flowing is always a challenge, and getting a whole group of people in a creative team motivated is an even bigger challenge. Your first hurtle is the personality quirks of your creative team members. Let’s face it designers (and anyone in the creative field for that matter) are a different breed and require a bit more hand holding than regular staff. The following tips will not only inspire your team but also build good karma in your team.

1. Make a coffee run800px-A_small_cup_of_coffee-380x280

Most creatives run on caffeine, and what is better than a extra-extra-grande-mocha? (hint: a free extra-extra-grande-mocha!) There are numerous scientific studies that show caffeine stimulates mental activity. Giving your team a jolt of coffee is always a good way to jump start the creative process. The bonus with buying everyone coffee is you are building good will with your project, and good will can go along way.

2. Music stimulates

If your creatives are having trouble moving the creative pixels around the screen then encourage them to listen to music. 99.9% of creatives already do this, but put a twist on it. Have everyone on your team drop their favourite high energy MP3’s into a shared folder on the server, then ask everyone to listen to the mix for the afternoon (just don’t let the IT staff know as MP3 sharing is illegal you know!). This will also help build creative energy and team building as well.

3. Go on a field Trip

Take your team to a local museum or art gallery to get out of the space and see different art forms. Ask your team to bring camera’s to take pictures of things along the way that they think are creative or different. When you get back from the trip dump these pictures to a shared network folder for everyone to explore.

4. Explore other media in a random way

You have heard this one before, if you want to get inspired watch movies, read creative design magazines etc. but I discovered a even better twist to this idea. I had the misfortune to start watching the movie “Land of the Lost” with Will Farrell (the movies plot is a predictable as an episode of the A-Team) I was so bored of watching the movie I decided to skip ahead in the movie randomly. The movie as a whole is rubbish but there are moments of brilliance when it comes to cinematography in the movie. This surreal scene reminds me of the work of Salvador Dali, and it was purely by random chance flipping ahead that I found this scene. The moral of the story here is to get your creative to go out and randomly sample media. Skip ahead randomly in movies and pause on a frame. Or find a magazine and flip through randomly to a page. It’s amazing the gems the universe will through you for creative inspiration.

5. Mistakes create innovation

Some of the best design I have created comes from turning off a layer by accident in PhotoShop. Accidents are the mother of innovation in the design world. Encourage your team not worry about accidents. In fact at the start of the design progress it may be a good idea to start design collages or something more fluid to help them create something unique. Working within wireframes is good but it can often stifle creativity. Have them start by colouring outside the lines first. Then when you have a direction bring that creative into the fold of your frame work. I often start design a website or an interactive much larger than it should be. This lets me make bold design decisions and I don’t worry about screen resolution or browsers until later in the design process. Think concept board on steroids!

6. R&D (ripp off and duplicate!)

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels you imagination.” – Jim Jarmsuch

I had the unfortunate experience to sit in a meeting with a very prominent creative director who told me: “Create something unique that hasn’t been done before.” I almost fell out of my chair after hearing this, because as far as I am concerned this is impossible. As creative beings we build our creative energy from others around us. We draw on many sources and experiences and so it is impossible to create something truly original. This being said there is nothing wrong with taking popular design and taking it to the next level. Or taking two design concepts and doing a “mashup” of them. The internet has made it more acceptable to R&D your design, all I say is when you steal do it with honour. Take the design to the next level!

7. Let your end user inspire you!

User centred design is nothing new, but I have a twist. Have your team go out and actually meet your end user group. Now this is more challenging if your user group is very wide, but if you can focus it down to a small group it makes this exercise better. For instance if you are designing a site for women ages 45-55 try to create a coffee or pub night where your team can meet and chat with this group about their media habits. The conversations that come up may very well inspire their design. Another bonus idea around this idea is to post a picture of someone who represents your end user on everyone’s work area. When your team is designing have them view the person, and try to imagine what design they would like.

8. Have a stream of consciousness creative session

Setup a quiet conference room and lock the door. For this exercise it’s important to reduce interruptions, confiscate all cell phones, and electronic “gear”.  Now using a white board have people shout out words and feelings associated with the project. Anything goes, keep going for at least 15 minutes then take a break. You will be surprised at the various different topics that come out. Take a 2 minute break, next have everyone refine their “shouts” have them describe how they see the design. Have them give out as many descriptive words and phrases as possible. This exercise will help get people thinking about the project, and at the least wake folks up!

9. Play group PhotoShop tennis

Have all your creatives start on PhotoShop comps, and randomly assign everyone a number. Have them design for 2 hours then place their numbered PSD’s on the network server have people draw straws for the next number assigned to them. It is now their turn for the next 2 hours to work with this new PSD file. Now shorten the time intervals to switching to a new PSD every hour. At the end of the exercise post all the files as JPEG’s and have a wrap up meeting to discuss and critique the designs.

10. Old School Art Critique

It amazes me how little group interaction creative departments do these days when it comes to design. No designer is an island, and it’s important to have at least one meeting a week with your design team where creatives can present designs and get group feedback on direction. You will be amazed at how these sessions can push designers to be better, and it also builds a team. Be careful to guide the conversation with constructive feedback and have clear “to-dos” for each designer at the end of the meeting.


Using creative and different techniques with your staff will help build a better work environment. Keeping things fresh and interesting helps build staff moral and will ensure that when crunch time comes your creative staff feel appreciated. The best way to motivate your team is to make them feel valued. And value comes from putting in the time to grow their creative energy!