Jun 28, 2021

5 min read

5 Ways For A UI Designer To Come Up With Ideas

5 Ways For A UI Designer To Come Up With Ideas

As a UI Designer, you are essentially paid for your ideas. They are your greatest source of value.

Because of this, your job is dependent on always creating more value. This type of tension can result in burnout if you don’t acknowledge that your creativity comes in waves.

It’s not always possible to come up with amazing ideas on the spot. But, if you realize this, you can leverage your creative moments of brilliance and store great ideas for when you need them.

To do this, let’s look at 5 ways you as a UI Designer can generate great ideas.

#1 Create An Inspiration Resource

Let’s start simple.

Create a repository for all your sources of inspiration.

A place where you can store examples of great navigation, a cool pop-up transition, an appealing color palette.

This could take any form but here are some examples:

  • A folder on your computer
  • A Figma file
  • A Pinterest board
  • A Notion database

By building a resource of inspiration, you have a go-to place when you feel like you have no ideas.

#2 Take Different Concepts And Remix Them

Here’s a book recommendation if you’re any kind of creator: Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon.

The most important thing I learned from reading this book is that nothing is truly original.

Every idea is a mashup of existing ideas.

With this in mind, an excellent way to create new ideas is to take different things and combine them to create something interesting.

In a practical sense, you could:

  • Take 2 or 3 components from your inspiration repository and mix them together.
  • Mix a color palette with an idea for an accordion.
  • Take an idea you have for a project and turn it into a logo.

Mix and match creative ideas to create something new and you’ll never run out of ideas.

“What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.”

— Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist

#3 Borrow Ideas From Everywhere

Ideas can come from anywhere.

From conversations with friends, something you think about on a long walk, an observation you have while reading a book or an article.

A great way to come up with new ideas is to look outside of your discipline for inspiration.

In his book, The Design Of Everyday Things, Don Norman talks about the usability of doors, kettles, and sinks.

While this all fits inside of the realm of usability, it’s outside of the discipline of UI Design.

This is how I like to think about looking outside of your discipline for inspiration.

The most creative people can take inspiration from anywhere and apply it to their own work.

To do this for yourself:

  • Have a conversation with someone in a different area to you. Maybe your brother is a doctor, your sister is an accountant, and your mother is a teacher. Consider all the different viewpoints and life experiences these conversations can offer.
  • Read fiction books or classical books unrelated to anything you’re working on.
  • Go down a YouTube or Wikipedia rabbit hole on a random topic.
  • Read this book for more creative insights: A Whack On The Side Of The Head.

“Our best creative work comes from a mindset of abundance and generosity rather than one of scarcity.”

— Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative

#4 Schedule Time For Weekly Creativity

Scheduling time for creativity might sound counterintuitive but it will help to build your creative muscles.

The more you practice “being creative”, the easier it will be to generate new ideas.

Here are the steps:

  • Set aside some time in your week — mark it off on your calendar.
  • Pick an activity that you like doing that allows you to be creative. Drawing, mind-mapping, gardening, learning an instrument.
  • Define the structure of your creative time. For example: 1 hour, no distractions, no internet.
  • Be creative!
  • Document your journey. Keep a journal to document the things you learn or observe during your creative time. These are prime candidates for new and creative ideas!

I wrote more about this topic in this article if you’d like to learn more:

Why You Should Schedule Time For Creativity

#5 Schedule Time For Weekly Idea Generation

In a similar way to scheduled creativity, scheduled idea generation will help to build your idea-generating muscles.

These are both skills that benefit from regular practice so it makes sense to schedule time in your week for these types of activities.

Here are the steps:

  • Set aside some time in your week — mark it off on your calendar.
  • Begin with a clearly defined problem, in the form of a question. This is your challenge. Have a list of these ready to go ahead of time to pick from.
  • Ask yourself:
    — What does the solution to this problem look like?
    — What is the definition of done?
    — What are some assumptions I’m currently stuck on? Do these need to be challenged?
    — What other problems have I faced that are similar to this one? Is there anything I can learn from those problems that I could apply here
  • Document your observations.
    — Keep a journal in some form to store all your thoughts, ideas, and learnings. This will be an invaluable resource when you’re looking for new ideas.


Let’s summarize the 5 ways you can come up with ideas as a UI Designer:

1. Create An Inspiration Resource
2. Take Different Concepts And Remix Them
3. Borrow Ideas From Everywhere
4. Schedule Time For Weekly Creativity
5. Schedule Time For Weekly Idea Generation

I would encourage you to try these techniques out and to read the book recommendations for further inspiration.

Let me know what you think about these techniques over on Twitter. Is there anything on this list that’s missing?

If you did find some value in reading this, please consider sharing it on social media.

This article was originally published over on my website: 5 Ways For A UI Designer To Come Up With Ideas — Mishacreatrix.