Get Fresh Ideas When You Unplug

Get Fresh Ideas When You Unplug


While I absolutely love designing online spaces, it is incredibly healthy, refreshing and educational to go offline and completely unplug for a while. Every time I do it I return to my work thoroughly refreshed with new ideas for copy, wireframes and other web design deliverables. Here’s how my last unplugged adventure specifically helped me with a wireframe deck and how a similar approach might help you, too.

Get A Hobby

Two years ago I took up watercolor sketching and painting. I needed a quiet, creative outlet that had nothing to do with computers and the Internet. Practicing and learning about art encourages me to completely relax and engage a different part of my brain. There’s also a wealth of art history, Rennaissance masters and contemporary painters to explore. Even better, it’s an activity I really enjoy sharing with my daughter.

Learn From Other Disciplines

Last weekend I read a wonderful book called The Art of Designing Watercolors by Robert Lovett. This fabulous volume explores watercolor painting through  7 tools (the “How”) and 8 principles (the “Why”) of design. Robert Lovett is well-known Australian watercolor painter with over 60 years of experience as a professional artist.

I’ve studied the elements and principles of design before, but it was fascinating to see them through the eyes of a master watercolorist. Going forward, Lovett challenges his readers to view everything they see in this context. When it came time to get back to work, I wondered if I could apply this idea to wireframes.

Synthesize Outside Material

Armed with my newfound knowledge, I was ready to attack my latest client assignment, a deck of about 50 wireframes. While I had plenty of reference material from the client, the best reference material available to me was the 7 tools and 8 principles of design I discovered thanks to my watercolor hobby.

For example, Lovett’s reminders to use balance and repetition were especially helpful in identifying and establishing familiar user patterns. When you’re building a large wireframe deck, it’s often easy to get stuck in a production rut and sometimes lose sight of the big picture. Revisiting these concepts from a fresh perspective kept me on track and helped me design a better user experience.

A Fresh Approach Brings New Ideas

Sometimes the best way to improve your skills is to try new things you thought were unrelated. What have you done offline that has helped your online career? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


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