At some point in your life, you’ve probably sat in front of your computer staring blankly at the screen hoping against hope to find inspiration. Instead of putting your fate in the idea that inspiration will find you, we’ve put together a list of dos and don’ts to help guide you through the design process; from finding inspiration to testing your designs with users.

Do: Start with pen and paper to create your vision. In the past, we’ve talked about failing fast, and there is no faster way to fail then by drawing out your designs. The goal is to quickly get your ideas on paper to use them as a guide for when you move to your computer.

Don’t: Strive for the perfect sketch. The exercise of sketching is to help you save time. My rudimentary sketches take no time at all to draw, and they allow me to fail my way towards the right idea.

You can even set it up as a challenge. Put five minutes on the clock and see how many new ideas you can come up with, once the time is up, continue to develop your favorite sketches.

Do: Find inspiration online. The internet is filled with talented designers. Sometimes it can be helpful to look at other’s work to see if you can draw inspiration from it. This tactic can also be a useful way to stay current with design trends.

Don’t: Steal the work of other designers. This should be obvious, but stealing people’s work isn’t only uncool, it is illegal. If you find a designer’s work that you HAVE to have, contact the artist to see if they are available to create a unique design for you.

Do: Test out new tools. If you solely use Photoshop to create your designs, it is time to branch out. Instead of creating a still image, consider bringing your work to life with Adobe Premiere.

Don’t: Stick to the same-old, same-old. One trap that designers can fall into is designing the same work over and over again. Over time, your audience will lose interest. Push yourself outside of you designing comfort-zone. This will help grow your skills as a designer.

Do: Spend time off your computer. Designer’s block, just like writer’s block, can be a dull place to get stuck. When this happens, I like to close my computer to clear my mind. With distractions like Twitter out of the way, you can better focus on the task at hand.

Don’t: Design without purpose. What message are you trying to send with your work? Make sure it’s clear and easy to read. For example, if you’re creating a flyer for a concert, make sure to include the performer, location, and time. If people look at your work and can’t find this information, then it is not doing its job.

Do: Get right to the point. In any work you are sharing with the general public, keep the text short and sweet. Whether it is an infographic or press release, people’s eyes are drawn to short sections of text.

Don’t: Be the only one with eyes on your design. Getting ready to launch an ad campaign? Share your work with people from your target audience. Ask them what their main take away is from the graphic you created.

If your work can’t be shared with the public before it is released, then ask a co-worker who doesn’t work on the account. Gaining an outside opinion will help you know if the message you’re trying to convey is getting through to your audience.

Do: Be open to constructive criticism. If you are not happy with your test subjects’ takeaways, it’s time to take another look at the graphic you created. It can be easy to say that the test subjects are wrong, but nine times out of ten their confusion means there’s a flaw in the work.

Have any design tips you would like to share? We would love to hear them, let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @MoakGroup.

Happy Designing!

Rebecca McTear