Contrary to popular belief, everyone is creative. It’s a human trait, and it shows itself in many ways, every day of our lives. When it comes to visual design, some people may be naturally more open to exploring different ideas, but there is much you can do to get the creative juices flowing.

So what’s the secret? If you’ve lost your visual creativity or believe you never had it to begin with, how do you find it? Read on for some simple advice to help you locate it within yourself and let it flourish.

Step 1: Stop telling yourself you’re not creative

If you take nothing further from this article, at least remember this: nothing hampers creativity like the belief that you’ll never have it. Have faith in yourself and read on.

Step 2: Stop trying so hard

Creativity doesn’t come any faster, nor does it look any better, when you work too hard to find it. Creativity comes to you freely when your mind is ready. So minimize your stress, chill out, get comfortable, play your favourite music. Do whatever it takes to relax your mind and you’ll find yourself far more open to new ideas.

Step 3: Draw inspiration from others

Look at the creative work produced by others. The purpose here is not to copy ideas (there’s nothing creative nor ethical about that) but to be inspired. Take a moment to admire the cleverness, skill or uniqueness of an existing piece of work, then ask yourself the following question. What makes this work creative? If you can find the answer, it will help you inject some ‘creative’ into your own design. Think of yourself as an apprentice learning from the masters.

Step 4: Learn to use the best tools your budget can buy

While using the best tools won’t suddenly make you more creative, it will go a long way towards helping your creative ideas become a reality. Here’s what you do: buy the tools, learn the tools, and keep using the tools. Then you’ll be ready and able to act when a creative thought comes to you.

Step 5: Take feedback with a grain of salt

This step is a little tricky to master. On one hand, feedback is vital to improving your work, learning the opinions of your all-important audience and gaining a much-needed ego-boost when things are going well. On the other hand, there’s a chance the person giving the feedback is not as open to creativity, or has preconceived ideas or may not even be within your target audience. Here’s what you do: ask for feedback, accept it gratefully, evaluate it carefully and then determine its value before taking it to heart and allowing it to change your creation.

Step 6: If it’s not working, do something else

All creations require some degree of work before they reach their full potential, but some ideas were never meant to be, no matter how much you work at them. So if what you’re doing isn’t working after considerable effort, put it aside (don’t throw it away – you may find a use for it later) and try something else.

Step 7: Let perfectionism drive you, not control you

If you’re a perfectionist, or have obsessive tendencies, this one’s for you. Difficult though it is to accept, perfection is unattainable. No visual design you create will ever serve and please every member of its audience, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Let your need for perfectionism drive you to a better creation, but then let go and accept that your creation is as good as it can be. Madness comes to those clinging to perfectionism.

Step 8: Accept the risks, the rewards are great

The sad truth is that not everything you set out to create will be a success. This may be disheartening, and the risk of failure may be enough to stop you trying again, but remember this: there is a thrill that comes with every successful creation that is well worth the risk.

There’s something really exciting about being a designer. You start with a brief, form an idea, fight with it, develop it, watch it grow and mature, then marvel at the moment of creation when it all takes shape. The result fills a need and communicates a message to the world. This is your ultimate reward.

Step 9: Break from tradition

No new idea ever came from the need to conform. A truly creative idea is one that has never been seen before, so don’t cling to tradition when you’re trying to be creative. To quote a cliché – think outside the box.

Step 10: Stop telling yourself you’re not creative

This one’s so important it’s worth mentioning twice. You’ll never produce something really creative, and you’ll never enjoy it, if you don’t believe in yourself. So shed your self-doubt and embrace the freedom and unlimited possibilities that come with being open to creativity.