Ideas don’t fall from the sky out of nowhere into the brain of creatives. Instead, creative ideas are always in some form a reinterpretation of existing things being seen or experienced consciously or subconsciously.

‘Punk is not dead’ for example became a very ironic punchline when it comes to fashion trends as it has probably reappeared on runways every other half decade since it was born. But, how can we consciously make use of the ‘inspirational ballgame’ and control when we are at our creative best?

Let me share with you my top 5 insights!

1. Documentation is key

Your personal inspirational triggers should be deliberately utilized. You constantly stumble over them in the daily flood of information and it’s your responsibility to make them available when urgently needed.

I’m an adidas designer working in corporate communication, currently on a rotation program at the adidas Brooklyn Creator Farm in New York where I get the chance to work with a team of creative superpowers from various design fields.

Commuting to work by foot through New York every day means by the time I’ve arrived I have passed at least one freshly painted Mural, an avant-garde fashion Ninja and not too unlikely a guy who takes his iguana for a walk on a leash.

If you’re an illustration person, make a quick drawing in your sketchbook. If you’re more the photography-infused designer like me, make use of your phone, your all-time-available camera. It’s for your personal reference only, so no-one needs to sign a release contract here.

Woman taking a selfie in the mirror at the bar of the adidas Brooklyn Creator Farm in Brooklyn, New York, mirror selfie, bar, creative spaces, creativity, creative work spaces, Brooklyn, New York City, adidas, GamePlan A
A common sight: me and my camera at the Brooklyn Creator Farm in New York.
Guy dressed in bright colorful clothes walking on the sidewalk in Brooklyn, New York, style, fashion, inspiration, self expression, creativity, Brooklyn, New York, GamePlan A
Colorful encounter on my walking commute. Self-expression knows no boundaries in the Big Apple.
Grafitti bulldog with headphones watching pedestrians through glasses on house wall in Brooklyn, New York, grafitti dog, animal street art, creativity, urban, inspiration, street art, Brooklyn, New York, GamePlan A
Wall art and murals make parts of NYC a mind-blowing 24/7 open air gallery on my trip to work.
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2. Save and organize your inspirations

On your iPhone you can mark your best snaps or screenshots with a heart to save them in your favorites or collect them in an album so you find them when needed. You can do these unpopular image-sorting obligations when bridging time and waiting in the supermarket queue for example.

Photos lying on the floor to be sticked to a moodboard, idea generation, inspiration, inspirational photos, creativity, creative space, work space, office space, mood board, Brooklyn Creator Farm, adidas, GamePlan A
Constant documentation of daily observations translates to my daily work: exploring future concepts means condensing hundreds of inspirational photos on a mood board.

And: in case you’re not lucky enough to walk through Brooklyn every morning but sit on the train and swipe your Instagram instead – mark all inspiring posts with the little flag on the right and thereby save them in your ‘collection’. Create sub-albums in your collection to organize your inspiration into topics.

Same goes for findings you stumble over when working at the computer: create folders for your inspirational findings, named by topics, like ‘portraits’ or ‘graphic design’. If you’re an editor, it can also be a folder called ‘quotes’ where you collect screenshots of good copy you find reading your daily dose of blog browsing. Collect everything specific to your needs.

Save these folders in your favorites to make them easily accessible. Honestly, it is a bit of extra work, but cultivate a habit out of it and trust me: after a bit of time this will become your magical inspirational trigger repertoire when you have a creative block hindering you.

TAKE A DEEP DIVE INTO OUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREATIVITY

Creativity requires focus, passion and above all, practice- take it from those who know.

Unleash your inner creator

3. Get to know your inner clock

The early bird catches the worm. But: ever thought of the night owl getting the big steak? For some reason society has decided that working days should start at 9am at the latest and successful managers need to work out before 6am to live up to their top performer standards.

There might be people who luckily tick this box but for me personally mornings have always been a torture rather than a pleasure (although chirping birds are genuinely a nice thing, don’t get me wrong).

After years of feeling guilty being the last one sneaking into the office I finally accepted that I cannot force my biological clock to change. If I want to have an overall happier life I have to simply accept this fact and live according to it. I am better doing sports at night, and also working creatively at night when the world around me seems to be less distracting and I can get into my zone more easily.

Observe yourself and find out at which time of the day you are usually at your creative best. Make your schedule work around it. A good manager will not judge you by being 9-to-5 in the office, rather by delivering good quality work that meets the deadline. Of course, you shouldn’t disrespect meeting hours and be unpunctual, but luckily an employer like adidas allows you to have a flexible schedule and offers the possibility of mobile working and home office.

4. Deadlines might get your creative juices flowing

By viewing your inner clock as your ‘tool’ trust yourself when it comes to being creative under time pressure. Are you most efficient at spluttering ideas and concepts when the deadline is around the corner and there’s not much time left to think (but adrenaline is rushing through your veins)? Or do you panic, unable to get a thought straight with the deadline looming?

Someone drawing a quick sketch of an adidas sneaker, idea generation, design, footwear design, sketching, creative work, creativity, work processes, Brooklyn Creator Farm, adidas, GamePlan A
One of the footwear designers at the Brooklyn Creator Farm drawing a quick, intuitive sneaker sketch on a post-it.

There’s not a tailored approach for everyone, it’s all about knowing your own patterns and behaviors and consciously utilizing them.

In our team at the Brooklyn Creator Farm a great game we play in our creative sessions is the ‘10 seconds sketch’ to consciously trigger creative output for new sneaker silhouettes under time pressure. 10 seconds to sketch a shoe? At first it seems impossible. But it makes you go with your very first emotional impulse (which is often the best!) and don’t overthink the challenge. The outcomes are so much more unexpected and playful, especially when you call out a theme for each sketch (‘astronaut sneaker’, ‘Stone Age sneaker’ etc.).

5. When in doubt, go for a run

This is not breaking news: sport and exercise help your mind to focus. But running is definitely one of my all-time classic amplifiers when it comes to creativity. It will bring your ideation process into new swing. It’s almost magical, but once I start moving – be it on the treadmill after work or conquering the real ground with a night run in the city – not only my mood rises but also new ideas start igniting in my brain, even unintentionally.

Woman stretching her muscles after a run at night on Brooklyn Bridge in New York, city run, sport, workout, after work exercise, inspiration, Brooklyn Bridge, New York, adidas, GamePlan A
The fresh breeze at the end of a hot summer day and the nightly view on Manhattan’s skyline are giving my brain a creative boost during my regular runs over Williamsburg Bridge.

Running brings me into my zone, I take the time to listen to my favorite playlist and unplug from the never silent WhatsApp group chats stressors (I put my phone on flight mode). Especially in a city like New York running can be an inspirational experience on its own, taking into account the different neighborhoods you can pass within only a few kilometers and street art you can see everywhere here in Brooklyn.

What is your hot tip to get into the creative zone? Share in the comments below!

13 COMMENTS

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by Nina Weihrauch (Editor) 14.09.2018
Hi Hannah,

love your article, thanks for sharing. I'll definitely start to collect inspirations in a better way to have them in one place to go back to whenever needed.

To your question...I need a free mind and time to get into my creative zone. I need to unplug completely and just dive into the task/ idea. I also need to scribble/ take notes on paper rather than on screen when brainstorming.

All the best,

Nina
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by Hannah Hlavacek Nina Weihrauch (Editor) 19.09.2018
Hi Nina,
thanks for sharing your personal creativity tip! I agree taking longhand notes versus typing onto laptops sparks more of my creative nerves, too. Research actually also shows that it also increases conceptual understanding and retention. And bullet journaling is the new thing (-: Therefore: YES to the good old pen and paper! (-:
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by Tim 18.09.2018
Hi there Hannah, brilliant article. Love the imagery as well. I think it's really true about exercise and how focusing on something intensely physical somehow enables the creative subconscious to germinate and crystallize an idea. More exercise = more energy both mentally and physically
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by Hannah Hlavacek Tim 19.09.2018
Hi Tim,

glad you enjoyed the read. And you're right: Emotion comes from motion (a popular American mental coach once said ;P)

Stay tuned!
- Hannah
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by Kwesi 19.09.2018
Hello there,
This is a great piece! And a great read!
For me random moments usually trigger my creativity. Documentation and moments to a deadline usually really help.
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by Hannah Hlavacek Kwesi 19.09.2018
Hi Kwesi,
glad you liked the piece. What are the random moments that usually trigger your creativity? And is there also conscious triggers that you can use to get into your creative zone?

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by Kwesi Hannah Hlavacek 19.09.2018
Hello Hannah,
Random moments that trigger my creativity are usually those moments that reach my emotion.
A conscious trigger would be revisiting a movie or a record.
The solitude of walking a park after midnight would be a good example of both.
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by Maxwell Griffin 20.09.2018
Hi Hannah,

Such a great read and very inspirational! I enjoyed following your journey while you were in Brooklyn and it definitely motivated me even more to find ways to challenge myself creatively. I agree that no matter your location, you can find inspiration everywhere and that can translate to both your personal life and work environment.

Thanks for sharing!
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by Hannah Hlavacek Maxwell Griffin 21.09.2018
Hi Max,

thank you for your comment! Glad to hear my journey in Brooklyn motivated you. I agree that even as designer you can get trapped into your comfort zone easily. Let's keep the game up and running, also by challenging ourselves as creative colleagues once in a while! :)

Best from Herzo
Hannah
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by Cong Le Tran 23.09.2018
Many thanks for sharing your process and therefore a piece of yourself! Much respected and appreciated 🙏🏼
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by Hannah Hlavacek Cong Le Tran 24.09.2018
Hi Cong,
of course - sharing my very personal point of view meant a lot to me in this story - and I am glad that it resonates with many people in the creative audience!
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by Blair Barneycastle 25.09.2018
Hi Hannah - Thank you for sharing and for giving me major inspo this morning! I find that I am in my most creative zone in morning, with a fresh cup of coffee, clear headspace, and a killer Spotify playlist blaring. Thank you for sharing suggestions on bookmarking your inspirations, making it a point to start doing this!

Thanks for the great read!
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by Hannah Hlavacek Blair Barneycastle 25.09.2018
Hi Blair, great to hear the article resonated with you! A "clear head" is actually a good buzzword... How many times have I been trying to squeeze ideas out of my brain when the creative juices were just not flowing because I was tired/exhausted or similar. Making use of the time when your creative energy is high means everything! (-:
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