The only thing worse than not being able to create anything is only being able to create the same thing. Getting into a creative rut where your work never seems to improve or deteriorate can be frustrating. You feel like you’re creating the same old thing every time you turn on your computer.

But how do we emerge from this creative rut without compromising our trademark vision and style?

Concept is King

Switching up the concepts for your projects is a sure fire way to add a degree of uniqueness and new life to your designs. But what do we mean by concept?

Think of your concept like the personality of the design. What are you saying, and how are you saying it? The concept has nothing to do with the visual appearance of your design, but rather the behind the scenes workings of it.

Consider these three social media posts from Spotify. Stylistically speaking, they all are similar – same fonts, same application of color, same branding etc. However the concept for each has been switched up and kept interesting.

Here, the objective of Spotify is to promote the brand, create a fun, youthful tone of voice and promote the audience engagement with the music in their library. They manage to do this by switching up the concept of each design by delivering their message via different means.

Jokey venn diagrams, shareable quotes, engaging fill-in-the-blanks sentences are just a few samples of the range of content Spotify creates, but it manages to do it while maintaining that one visual style.

So, just as Spotify has done, the challenge that you should give yourself is to come up with a new, clever, and engaging concept rather than a brand new visual design approach.

Unfortunately, as with most things, there is no recipe to creating a clever concept. There are, however, different methods and approaches to it. So, let’s run over some ways that you can best unlock a clever concept.

Clever copywriting

Finding a different way to present your message can catch eyes and be incredibly memorable. Ask yourself if there’s a more unique, in-tone way to say “Sale on now!” next time you’re designing.

Comedy and parody

Referencing current events and using humor (where fitting and tasteful) can give your design a boost in engagement and memorability.

Show don’t tell

This is a crucial piece of advice to any beginning designer. When piecing together your concept and design, make sure that your design is showing people the elements of your concept, not telling them about it.

For example, check out this poster for Chipotle’s Cultivate event. The event boasts that it is about food, ideas and music, and it promotes a culture of sustainably grown produce. All of these ideas and notions are exemplified in the poster design through color, composition, the choice of illustrations, etc.

Find a way to show these qualities to your consumers, through images, bright colors, fun illustrations, etc. instead of explicitly telling your audience about them through copy.

Channel Unique Emotions

One reason that your designs may feel lacklustre or uninspired is that they don’t appeal to emotional triggers.

Channeling unique emotions is a tried and tested technique. Find an emotion that coincides with your vision and your communication and play it up a bit. Whether it’s love and romance, power and luxury, or excitement and energy, find a way to really emphasise it in your design.

For more tips on getting emotional with your audience and reaping the benefits, be sure to check out these tips.

Say it in a new way

Chances are, the message you are trying to send has already been sent before, multiple times in fact. Whether it’s promoting a sale or a brand, there are countless other designers who have created designs to project a similar message to you. So, the key from standing out from this crowd? Say it in a new way.

For example, let’s consider Jazz concert posters. A majority of jazz posters show a saxophone or other instrument as a way of conveying the genre and feel of the event. So, when we sift through jazz posters, we see saxophone after saxophone.

But, this poster for The Saalfelden Jazz Festival has taken different approach by removing the saxophone completely and presenting the sultry, cool, moody look and feel of the event and genre through other graphic avenues.

The Saalfelden Jazz Festival

Try to think of a unique way to present your message that doesn’t use the obvious symbols, colors, and/or images.

Get Creative With Execution

If you still find yourself in a creative rut even after jazzing up your concepts, consider taking a look at your method of execution. Switching up your medium, your technique, your display or the way you go about creating your end product can give your designs a refreshing new life.

This design by Gordon Young and Why Not Associates uses a highly unique canvas to draw attention to the design. While having a zany or outlandish canvas may not always be an option for you and your design, do consider it whenever it is.

Gordon Young

Break the boundaries, even a little. Create a GIF instead of a static image, handwrite your type instead of using a font, use a landscape poster instead of a portrait. Any change, seemingly big or small can make the difference in your design.

Other tips

If all else fails, there’s a number of things you can do to switch up your designs and create fresh content. Here are a few ideas:

Use unexpected color schemes

Creating a Valentine’s Day social media graphic? Consider stepping away from the signature red and pink palette. Color can easily become a security blanket that we hide behind, so by removing the reds and pinks (for example) you are challenged to create a design that encapsulates the holiday in another, unique way.

Layer your elements

In much of western design we often tend to keep things perpendicular and parallel. An ever growing trend is for clean lines and tessellating shapes. Consider breaking this mold and layering your elements to create depth and interest.

Use a new grid system

I’m sure I don’t need to preach the value of the grid to you, so I won’t. But by switching your typical grid system up, you can create some interesting designs. For example, consider splitting your graphic up horizontally instead of vertically for an intriguing and fresh take on an old graphic.

Break the grid all together

Rules were meant to be broken, and so was the grid. Have a go at using an angular or diagonal grid system in place of the usual perpendicular one and see what results it can yield for you.

Create something unique today

Design is all about communication, and modern communication is constantly changing and developing, so it makes sense that your designs should change and grow too. This is why getting into a design rut can be so detrimental.

If you find yourself constantly recreating the same design, consider switching up your conceptual approach to your design.

Can you switch up the copywriting to make it a little funnier, more sophisticated, or more colloquial. Could you channel a specific emotion into your design to better personally appeal to your audience? The possibilities are endless.

Not all design upheavals require a visual facelift, sometimes the problem lies more behind the scenes. Refresh your visuals if you feel that’s necessary, but pay attention to how your design is working too and polish that up if need be.

Today's Task

Now comes time to put these tips and tricks to use. Below you’ll find a link to a Canva social media graphic template for a fictional event. You’ll notice that the current design is very simple and plain, it’s your challenge to make it unique.

You can change the copy, typefaces, add in elements, take elements away, create something completely wacky or crisp and sleek. Just try to take the content and transform it from something run of the mill to something ordinary. Use the tips we’ve talked about and develop your own unique solutions.

Elegant Minimalist Save the Date Invitation

Click to start designing

Feel free to share your thoughts on creating unique designs below. What makes for a truly unique design in your eyes? What do you do when you want to really shake things up?