How I Use 8tracks As My Creative Block Killer

Creative blocks are something that happen to everyone once in a while, and most people have a way of coping with them and getting through them.

There are so many different ways to break through creative blocks, you can check out inspiration galleries, stumble, go for a walk, if you live in a metropolitan area and have some spare cash maybe you can even take in a show or go to an art gallery. My personal weapon of choice against the dreaded creative block is 8tracks. Whenever I’ve been stuck in a rut, or needed to just work on my skills or test out new ideas, I turn to 8tracks.

I’ve loved making mix tapes from the time I was knee high to a grasshopper, and as time and technology progressed, mix CD’s. There was a certain joy putting together the track list and designing an album cover from whatever magazines and scraps of paper I had lying around. Inevitably the covers looked something like a ransom note had it been put together by a music fan.

When I finally got my hands on a computer, I started putting together the digital equivalent of the musical ransom notes of my youth. Looking back, this is probably the first design I ever did, and why music and design are intrinsically linked for me.

So back to the main topic at hand. 8tracks, if for some reason you’re unfamiliar with it, is a site where you can put together mix tapes using music from your own collection, or searching through 8tracks. The basic premise is that each mix tape you make has to have at least eight tracks and no artist can show up in the mix more than twice. These mix tapes are then available for anyone to enjoy.

The premise of the 8tracks mix tape is simple, choose eight songs or more, upload them, make sure they flow (or not, I’m pretty picky with my mixes) and call it a day…or not. Here’s where I start working through my creative block…

With each mix tape you upload, you have the opportunity to create and upload an album cover. Now what you do for your album cover is strictly up to you. I have a certain method that I use to ensure that once the creativity gets flowing it doesn’t all go to the album cover.

mixtapeI give myself one hour from the time I finish my mix to design my cover. Sometimes this hour includes gathering resource materials, whether a specific font that I think may work, images, or looking up a quick tutorial to try out a new technique.

I give myself deadlines and time limits because that is how I work best. I can have two or three weeks to design a site, but I won’t actually get it designed until the last couple of days and then in a whirlwind session or two, I bang it out, this works for me, and I don’t know if it would necessarily work for most people.

At the end of the day, I’m designing this cover for the sheer sake of designing something. It’s not going to be a mind blowing design piece, it’s not something that will ever end up in a portfolio. It’s designing for fun, education, and for the sheer sake of it. Experimentation is something that is crucial to developing your own style and pushing design forward.

Hopefully the next time you’re suffering a creative block this article will creep into your brain and you can sit down with some of your favourite tunes and get rid of it once and for all.

You can find me on 8tracks here.


Here are a couple of free albums that I’ve found really great for getting the creativity flowing:

Amon Tobin: There are four free albums on his site available for download. You have to register to download them, but truth be told I don’t think I’ve ever gotten an email from him.

Girl Talk: His new album ‘All Day’ is spastic and jumpy, combining rock and rap in unusual ways.

Cheers, if this helps you make sure to come back and post a link to your mix.