Keeping Inspired: How to Fend Off Creative Block

At Parsons, we’ve been known to be a pretty “conceptual” school. What does this mean you ask? Depending on your major choice you’ll be working with a variety of media, often very specific to your trade. For instance: Fashion designers often use a variety of textiles and trims, product designers a variety of hardware and tools, communication designers often explore various techniques for printing & printmaking, and so the list goes on… But how do we keep these materials, processes, and techniques fresh? By researching, creating, and developing concepts around them.

Concepts are like the inspirational threads that make each students work unique from one another. The fascinating thing about Parsons is that even though there are so many students, all with similar project parameters, each outcome always turns out different. This is why professors emphasize conceptual based inspirations. Although, with multiple projects due each semester it can be easy at one point or another to feel a creative block. Luckily inspiration comes in all shapes and forms, so here are my tips and tricks to stimulating a creative mind in NYC!


Charles James at The Met


Sometimes design inspirations are backed up purely by aesthetics. Designers often create in order to solve problems, so when the problem is lack of inspiration where better to go than a museum? As Parsons students, we have the very unique opportunity to visit many of the cities art and design museums either for free or at extremely discounted prices. Both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA are open on a suggested donation basis for students as to encourage frequent visits. The great thing about having so many influential museums right in our back yard is that not only are the permanent collections so readily accessible, but often some of the greatest temporary exhibits come to New York. Just this summer there were exhibits as influential as “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” at the Met, and “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective,” at the Whitney Museum. Both came highly recommended by professors and peers, which is always encouraging. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we’re encouraged to copy what’s in these museums, not by any means, but it always helps stimulate the mind having exposure to what’s happening currently in the world of art and design to make more informed and innovative works of our own.


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Bell Hooks in Conversation with Cornel West at The New School ! Photo by Stephanie Leone (BaBfa student)

On the other hand, some people fuel their creativity with concepts powered by socio-political subjects. In the city there are plenty of ways to keep informed, there is information everywhere from the New York Times to the the New York Public Libraries! There’s no excuse to not be informed, especially with the great recourses available at the New School. Parsons, as a part of The New School, is known for being a very socially involved University. Often the school hosts major lecture series open to the public as well as exhibitions on everything from political art to literature. In fact, recently a popular week-long lecture series was held in our New University Center auditorium with Author, Feminist, & Social Activist Bell Hooks in conversation with a variety of guests. Having these kinds of events available on campus is just another way to stay current and informed about what’s going on in our world outside of the immediate parameters of art and design.



Finally, one of the biggest downfalls of creativity is stress. A little stress can be good when it pushes you to power through a tough deadline, but a lot of stress can cause creative block worse than anything else. One of the great advantages of going to school in the village is our proximity to recreational venues perfect for taking time to mentally recharge. One of my reoccurring inspirations is often motifs found in nature, so visiting parks and taking time to look around as I walk outside (instead of just buzzing from point A to point B), has been a key part of my constant search for new inspiration; It’s in the parks, the streets, the architecture, and even the people. It’s important to take the time to slow down: maybe walk south of campus to Washington Square Park on your lunch break, or plan your day around visiting The Cloisters uptown in Washington Heights, or maybe bike downtown across the Brooklyn Bridge, there’s plenty to do to relax in this city, you just have to make the time for it. Taking more than a second to really open our eyes to the familiar can often bring some of the best inspiration.


So, what I’m saying is take advantage of what the communities, the school, and the city have to offer and you’ll have no excuse to have creative block. Have any other tips and trick to avoid creative block? Leave a comment below!

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