13 ways to boost your creativity and productivity as an Industrial designer

Being a designer is a “24-hour work”.

You see, hear, eat, sleep as a designer. Everything that surround you is a source of inspiration. Under the condition that you are actively aware of it. To enhance your creativity, don’t wait for it. Provoke it! Actively pay attention to your surrounding like nobody else do, and you will enrich yourself.

If opportunity doesn’t knock. Build a door.
– Milton Berle


Take care of the quality of your source of inspiration. If quality elements come in your brain – quality creation will come out from your pen. Of course, the opposite applies as well.

Just saying that your inspiration is about exposure. And it’s something you can’t control 100%, but YOU ARE THE MAIN ACTOR to influence it.

Let me share with 13 techniques you can use daily. It’s about creating routines and how to be more aware of people and things we see everyday. 

1- Make the world moving.

Creative people question previously held beliefs.
It’s not because something works well today that it couldn’t be better. Innovation, enhancement, iteration, upgrade are common words that come from a designer’s mouth.
A designer doesn’t aim to reinvent the wheel but he often wonder:
How to make things easier, faster, better, painless, cheaper, environmental friendly… The world keep changing and designers help it to progress.

TIP: Do not focus on technology first. Instead, focus on your goal even if it may look impossible at start. Then grab or create what you need to get there. 

Take care of the world

2- Dream even at day time.

Creative people let their ideas “dance” freely in their mind and create some random combination of ideas and scenarios.
They can sit, walk, wait, jog, wash dishes and entertain themselves with their own imagination.

TIP: I believe Ipad and Iphone are disturbance for creative people. These technologies tend to “abusively occupy” our time – so we give lesser chance to our mind to escape in dreams (That’s what is happening with our generation’s kids). Don’t get dependant of “other people’s content” and disturbance. Know how to allocate your own for yourself – it will help you build and strengthen your personality. Uninstall Facebook, Email provider or any notification from your Apps so you will get rid of most of your daily distraction. To me it was like having dozen of alarm clock that could ring anytime. Get rid of all these, and check your email and Facebook once a day from your computer at home will do. No ?

lost in thoughts

3- Observe differently.

Creative people like anybody have 2 eyes to see the world. However their brain interpret it differently. Whenever they see something, someone, a situation they also see its past and future story.
Try to identify the initial idea of a product reading the designer’s mind – thinking backward. Find the essence of it so you will better forecast how the product will succeed and used by people.

TIP: Do not only give critics to things you see. Make sure you learn from them and ask yourself how they can be improved. Simple idea can change the world.
i.e. Using windows of high buildings or the road as solar panel.

Solar roadways

4- Lost in time

Creative people often spend too much time at the creative phase which is pretty addictive. That is is usually where creative people have the most of fun. It’s like when you dream of something so good that you don’t want to wake up.

But a designer make things happened. A designer have to say stop, to produce and deliver on time.

TIP: Allocate a time frame for your research, or you may end sleeping less and finishing your work in the rush! (VERY COMMON SITUATION)

Lost in time

5- Meet people!

Creative people are curious and are looking for new experiences. Their brain want to connect to new things, elements, people… to expand the limits of imagination. More ingredients you have, more recipe you can make !
Why ? Because anything can be source of inspiration. However our daily routine need to be spiced up!

TIP: Look actively for new events, new meetings and ask a lot of questions to people and what passionate them. Transfer their knowledge into your brain! There is so many things we can discover by simply asking. The beauty of it is that we can learn from anybody. Ask without expecting anything but discovery.
I.e. Last week I met an airplane pilot. I learned that direction is the easiest part. Everything is so well controlled by computers. The pilot are there especially in case of dysfunction or emergency. I was wondering that if a car could drive without driver, I guess a plane could do as well. But are we ready for that ? It may be just a question of time I guess?!


6- Explore the world!

There is nothing more exciting that a culture shock.

I studied 3 months in Los Angeles ain a Fashion School, FIDM (I am French, majored in Product Design). I took an apartment with other students and had great flatmates who had to bear my broken English. I admired How my flatmates seams having entrepreneurship in their blood even though they was only about 18. Even though everything was not easy, they was confident and so passionate. One of them, Arthur Booker IV (That Denim Guy) is nowadays the founder of MISCH, a fashion brand that I pretty like the style. I was pretty impressed on how in USA, young students are such daring and self confident.

Misch Arthur Booker IV That denim guy

I had to go everyday at school with all the courses in English. I went back to my room every night with a huge headache. The year later I went to Japan for a car internship for Daihatsu (Toyota group), few years later I went to work in China for 3 years and a half to be closed to the shoe sample room… the language barrier was huge. But lucky we are designer, and Sketching is our universal language! I also learned how to speak with hands. Haha. If you speak with someone who know only a bit of your language, use the MINIMUM of words. Every single word you add is an extra “noise”. Keep it to the essential only.

Today I converse and share with you what I learned through this blog in English even though it is not my mother tongue – it may not be perfect, but we communicate and keep growing together. Smile In design, no perfect condition is needed to start progressing.

TIP: Enroll in a design school abroad and/or apply for internship abroad. There will be a flow of new experiences that will come in your life. If you are worried of unknown, don’t focus on the danger. It’s an illusion. Of course, don’t be naive and take basic precaution. Most people are nice and will take care of you.

7- Keep learning.

A designer forecast the future and is up to date with the world.
He likes to meet situation he never met before. Why? Because a designer is a problem solver. By solving more and more problems, he gains experience and constantly face new challenges. That’s how he keep learning.
Basically, what is difficult today will become easy tomorrow. Of course, he can’t possibly learn, know and do everything alone. So he will learn to work with other people skills as well.

TIP: Combine the relevant forces to create something great. Empower people with whom you work with. That is something I myself didn’t learn at school and was tough in real life to manage. After school, I definitely kept learning in real life making mistakes. Remember that a designer doesn’t work alone!

Keep learning

8- Humility.

It doesn’t mean you can’t have pride in yourself. If you have done something great so you should feel proud! You deserve to celebrate that moment.
Humility is precious as it will help you to listen to others and not only your own point of view and past success. However, know when to take your stand when needed. 
A designer doesn’t;t grow alone. He knows how to ask for help and also help others. You are always better at something than others today, so lift them up. Keep in mind that so many more people are better than you today – and a good number will lift you up as well. 

TIP: Respect people who have greater success. Don’t feel jealousy but admiration. Make them your mentors and work toward being better than them. Challenge is a great spirit among designers who respect their pairs.


9- Take risks

Fail and get up stronger. Repeat it and you will naturally build your “thick skin”.
Creative people often face rejection or situation that seams impossible. So many people won;t believe in their proposals. Instead of telling themselves.  I can’t make this because… Designers say:  What do WE need to make things happen ?
Instead of calling for frustration, you will empower people. This simple twist of mindset can change the world. This is how you will convince other expert in their respective fields (Engineers, marketing, sales, modeller…) to go beyond their limits.

TIP: Challenge the real world and create new ideas asking yourself: What if… so you will discover places where nobody dare or even thought going.

Take risk

10- Do things with passion

Creative people tend to get bored fast if they are given a task that doesn’t exploit their potential. Creative people do what they love, and give meanings to their action only if they have passion and if what they do respect their values. Ultimately, designers create for human and not for money or investors’ bank account.

TIP: Do not work for a job but a passion. If you need to apply for a company, do not send your resume to 100 companies. Send only to your top 3 only, and do it very well.  Make sure your values fit so you will create great things together.
i.e. 3M allocates free time to their R&D team to create whatever they want ! They believe this creativity time with no brief will benefit the company soon or later.


11- Connect the dots

Creative people often have a selective memory.

However, they often connect a hidden memory with something new. This is why sometime ideas seams popping out from nowhere – saying Eureka !

TIP: Let your ideas flow freely – making mind-mapping that let your ideas go into hidden corner of your brain.


12- Create opportunities

Japanese say: “Every problem is a treasure.” It means a problem is not made to be avoided. It’s an opportunity to make people life better and create an healthy business.

TIP: Look for problems!

Opportunity - Build a door

13- Empathy

Creative people do not only associate ideas through tangible reason are technical reasons. There is a huge part of emotion and feel. That feel help you to associate unexpected ideas together. We nowaday create for human and talk to his 5 senses and experience. Sharpen your sensitivity about human behaviour. More people you  meet, more you refine your sensitivity. This is why a Design school put aside marketing for instead talk about Sociology.

TIP: Do not think function or aesthetic first. Think human’s needs and behaviour. A good way to do that may be identifying if the people you target is part of a tribe.

And you?
What are your techniques to get more creative?


About The Author


Hello! I am a Product Designer from France. If the sketching methods I’ve acquired aid me in my life and in my industrial design career, I believe that they can also help you reach your design goal as a student or professional. My aim is to help you all along with your design projects and journey! Leave a comment in the blog or send me an email at choutac@thedesignsketchbook.com : ) Chou-Tac


  • Yostina

    Reply Reply March 15, 2016

    That is one brilliant article, I understand and agree with everything in it.

    Thanks Chou-Tac.

  • rooben

    Reply Reply February 18, 2016

    Thanks for the post Chou-Tac.Looking at abstract pictures to derive forms works well for me.http://ffffound.com/ is great for inspirations

    • Chou-Tac

      Reply Reply February 18, 2016

      Thanks Rooben for the sharing.

      • rooben

        Reply Reply February 19, 2016

        No probs Chou-Tac

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