Be creative under pressure

Creativity isn’t breakfast. It isn’t something on-demand (though as a professional, you should strive for it to be). When I’m hungry, I make toast, and then I eat it, and I've solved my hunger problem. When someone asks for a logo, I open Illustrator, and I design a perfect logo, solving my visual communication problem. Right?

Yeah, no.

While creativity is a vital part of what I do as a designer and needs to become something I can call upon at any waking (working) moment, there are most certainly times when my creativity is flowing more abundantly than other times. Those easy creative times are great, and in those times are when I solve problems to the very best of my ability.

But this blog post isn’t going to be about those times. It’s going to be about those other times, the times when creativity is asked of you and it has to be on-demand, quick, now, and under PRESSURE. How do I handle it? What do I do to utilize those times? Here are five tips that can help you be creative under pressure.

Be Creative Under Pressure | Finicky Designs

1. Eliminate distractions. Close your web browser (unless it’s open to great design- we’ll get to that). Put on some music (Pandora might not be the best option in this case- you don’t want to concern yourself with thumbs up or thumbs down). Get out your sketchbook and pencil. Close your eyes. Breathe. And now accept the fact that your mind is going to actively search for distractions. (Didn’t care about the dust collecting on top of your monitor before? You will now.) Decide to do your best to eliminate those distractions and to focus on the task at hand.

2. Don’t think about it. Ever watch the clock, tapping your pencil on your empty sketchpad, knowing that in a mere few days you told your client you’d be showing them something? The WORST thing you can do right now is panic- is stress over it- is FORCE it. Don’t worry about the clock. Don’t worry about the one poor concept you have floating around in your mind. Don’t fear the end result. Don’t ask yourself- What if I don’t nail it? What if the client hates it? What if I don’t capture their vision? STOP filling your head with those thoughts! If it helps to revisit your past successes, then do that. But start focusing, be confident, and stop worrying. Your worry will stifle your creativity.

3. Quick! Find inspiration! I’m not going to solve any design problems staring at blank walls or poorly designed Facebook memes. One of the best ways to produce good design is to surround yourself with great design. I immediately get out my design magazines, open up a web browser to Behance and my Pinterest design board, and I fill my mind with great design. The intention isn’t to copy (obviously) or even use any sort of specific design element that I find- in fact, you’d probably never guess what I was looking at for inspiration when comparing it to my sketches. But looking through all of those designs puts my mind in a place of creativity, it gets me excited about the possibilities, and it reminds me of how beautiful the world can be (and how much more beautiful I’m about to make it).

4. Start with the basics. Are you struggling making that first mark on your paper? Try writing first. Yes, use words in your sketchbook. Write out what you think the color scheme might be, write out the shapes you’re drawn towards, write out the company’s core beliefs- don’t be afraid to WRITE. Then think about layout, page count, page size- all of the logistics. Sometimes the logistics need to get out of the way before creativity can make its appearance. Just don’t get so caught up in the logistics that they become a distraction.

5. SMILE. Yep, smile. If you’re miserable, you aren’t going to be great. So relax a little- and do what you do best. You’re creating a life-long partnership with someone, and you being the creative professional that you are, need to be a pleasant creative professional. If you’re not finding gratification in the work you do, you shouldn’t be doing it.


Being creative under a great amount of pressure is one of the most difficult things I face every day. But the more I face it, the more I find out how to deal with it and what works for me as a designer. If you’re a designer or a creative entrepreneur, what works for you? How are you creative under pressure?


I help passionate writers get heard by giving them a cohesive brand through unique designs. Owner and designer of Finicky Designs. I'm a mountain-dweller that loves french toast and foxes.