These past few weeks, I've been trying to watch how my interaction with my laptop and desktop computer changes the quality of what I design.
As an example: When I'm writing copy for a web page, I often key it directly into the Photoshop comp and try to design the layout around it. However, if I'm writing copy divorced from layout, it invariably ends up being too long, and I end up struggling with paring it down to half of its length.
At this point, I usually go for a walk or take on another task until I've achieved enough detachment to find new angles for editing the content. But recently I thought of a new tack: reading copy off the screen and transcribing it onto a sticky note. In the process of writing the copy longhand into a tiny square, I don't even have to think about what I need to edit. New words suggest themselves just because I'm writing at the speed of my body, not the speed of my mind.
That was just one example of design hacking. Another design hack I've been experimenting with is practicing Surrealist automatism in meetings, then bringing ideas from the automatic drawing into my work. Automatism is a practice derived from Surrealist poets such as André Breton, which swiftly leapt into the drawing and painting work of André Masson, Miró, Dalî, and many others.
How do you do it? The next time you're in a meeting -- the more procedural, the better -- allow your pencil in your notebook to move freely. Keep your rational mind occupied: focus on what's being said with your rational mind, and participate in the conversation. And be sure to avoid trying to craft or shape what emerges consciously. You aren't trying to draw. You're just drawing.
After the meeting is over and when you're back at your desk, look down at what you've written. What accidents and chance marks on the page are suggestive to you? How could they evolve into ideas that, when the opportunity arises, infiltrate one of your designs?