Monday Morning Zen – Design Block

Posted on August 17, 2015

Monday Morning Zen – Design Block

Design block happens to us all. Knowing how to get past it is really important, especially when the show you are programming is going to happen with or without your amazing light show. For me, this is something that typically happens when I am exhausted, stressed out, or have simply just hit the wall. But instead of talking about the causes, let’s talk about some work around ideas that might help you out when you feel most blocked.


Take a walk – Sometimes it is a matter of getting up from behind the desk and taking a walk. Go outside and get some fresh air. When I was programming on cruise ships I found it really helpful to get up and go outside once in a while and take a break. I found this especially important when we were programming production shows. Taking breaks is good, but leaving the room for a while is even better. This helps you to remember that there is a world outside of the room you are working in. Getting fresh air back in your body and letting your eyes see something besides the desk and your rig can make a world of difference in helping you get past the rough spots.



Eat something – When you are programming for long stretches, you can forget to do things like eating. Lack of energy can really do a number on your mental state. Go and grab a snack. However, I strongly recommend not eating at the desk. Force yourself to get up and move. Take a look at the previous point. Sitting at the desk and eating only allows you to grab a quick snack. Taking a snack break away from the desk allows you to re-focus on something completely different from the show you are programming. I like apples because they don’t need to be kept cool, they are easy for your body to break down and you get the energy quickly.



Change the subject – It often helps to let your mind wander and focus on something else because it is easy for our brains to get locked into a loop and block you from getting your ideas out. In these situations, I might check my Facebook to see what else is going on in the world or what is new on the CHAUVET Professional page, or I might listen to music that has nothing to do with the show I am programming. Sometimes it is just a matter of focusing on something different for a while and letting your brain reset to allow the good ideas to come back.


Get some rest – If you are on a longer programming gig, sometimes you just have to save your show and go get some sleep. After 10 to 12 hours of programming, it all starts to look and sound the same. This is a cue that sleep is in order. If you are doing one of those dreaded shows where you load in the day before, program all night, and then have the show the following day, sleep seems like something that you dreamed about last week. I know that last sentence made no sense, but trust me, when you are that tired, it will. Being awake and running for 15 to 20 hours (or more) is not uncommon in our industry. In those situations, I highly recommend cat naps. Find a quiet place and crash for 20 minutes. It does not replace a full night’s sleep, but it is better than nothing. Keep in mind that caffeine and energy drinks do not replace sleep. As a matter of fact, they can make design block even worse.


Plow through it – Sometimes, there is no choice but to plow through. No one likes it, but it is a necessary evil and a skill you need to have. In this situation, when you are totally blocked up, but you have to finish, go back to the basics of design. Make sure that your act is lit well with your three point lighting, and hit the dynamics of the music you are designing to. It may not be your most inspired work, but at least the portion of the show you are working on will be done and you can always touch up later. On top of that, sometimes when you are using this method, the elements start to fall into place and your brain will come back to life.


Design block is all in your mind, but since your mind is what is designing the show, you have to find a way to get past it. There are a lot of different ways to do this, but the above are the ones that work for me. I hope it works for you too. If you have some things that work for you, share them with us! We would love to hear from you!