Last week, I was tasked with a project that forced me to step away from the computer. I had to hand stencil one hundred cards for an art show. In school, every professor tells you to work through your ideas with paper and pencil, and leave the computer for the executional part of the process. In the real world however, constant deadlines and client requests make this easier said than done. Sometimes I’ll go days without having the opportunity or time to slow down and sketch something out. Working on the cards was a nice reminder of the benefits of being away from the computer. An analogue medium forces you to work with intent. You don’t have the luxury of pressing command z, so you have to think through every decision. It was a good experience that got me thinking about ways to get away from the computer screen while working in the digital industry.

  1. Pick up a book instead of checking a blog.

    Research and mood boards are an important part of the design process. My first step is usually to look through the different design blogs I follow. But scanning a blog is a pretty passive experience. It’s easy to scroll past dozens of images without really thinking about what’s in front of you. Looking at a book or a magazine is a much more involved activity. You’re more likely to spend time reading and analyzing a printed page than a digital one.

  2. Spend half an hour a day sketching ideas.

    It might not be possible to work through every idea on paper, but spend at least some time each day sketching. Drawings let you resolve a concept without having to worry about perfect execution.

  3. Look at design in the wild.

    From architecture and fashion to the lettering on storefronts, the city offers a wealth of inspiration. A short walk during lunch can be a great way to get you out of a creative rut and gain some fresh perspective.