News & Views

Designer’s journal: Walking and creativity

Woman walking through a fantastical mountainscape.

For the past several years, walking has been widely discussed as a significant means for boosting creativity. A 2014 study from Stanford University found that a person’s creative output increased by an average of 60% when walking. In a separate study three years later, Stanford researchers found that walking increased 81% of people’s creative thinking.

Since then, many pieces have been written about the benefits of walking at work, whether it’s conducting walking meetings or simply taking a break to stretch your legs. Today, the Covid-19 pandemic has only amplified the importance of consistent walking and movement to get creative juices flowing, especially as many of us continue working from home.

Walking around my neighborhood in the morning has been an essential part of my design process this past year, informing both my creative thinking and the work I ultimately produce. Here are some of the key benefits I’ve experienced from these routine promenades:

  • Clearer thinking. Prolonged movement like walking helps me think through projects more clearly. By stepping outside — away from my computer — and moving about, I can make associations and connections between ideas and objectives.
  • Direct visual inspiration. I have spotted signs, colors, and objects on my walks that have influenced my design work. Most recently, I drew inspiration from my neighborhood’s emblem, a rising sun, after passing the same sign multiple times. The extended sunrays and rising position informed how I animated starburst illustrations for Warburg Pincus’ 2020 holiday card.
Mural of a graphic sunburst with the work "Reynoldstown" painted underneath
Still from a video of a graphic sunburst with the phrase "Time to start anew" written underneath.
  • Greater calm and purpose. Without the disruptive rush of a commute, walking allows me to start my day on a calmer, purposeful note. By not focusing on navigating crowds or train times, I can use my mental energy to set intentions for what I want to accomplish.
  • Fewer inhibitions. Without the expectations of “appropriate” movement in the workplace — mostly sedentary — I can keep my body more energized by “shaking it out” throughout the day. Having the ability to step out for a walk, pace about my apartment, and do smaller movements like stretching without fear of judgment preserves mental and physical energy that I can then put into my creative work.

While these are my personal observations, the physical and psychological benefits of walking feed into creative pursuits in a myriad of ways. Whether you find a good walking trail in your area or simply take time to pace about your living space, your creative juices will thank you.