No one is immune to the invigorating experience that is “creative block.” Unfortunately, this mind freeze comes without an instant cure. For that reason, we came up with 5 steps to get you past this obstacle and back to what you do best.

1. Take a break
Step away from your creative brainstorming and into a new space. Move out of your usual environment (your office, your desk) to a less-visited space (an adjacent room, the hallway). Forcing ideas in your ordinary spot can cause you more stress than useful results.

2. Exert some energy
If you’ve been stumped for hours, get up and move around for a few minutes. Stretch, stand, walk outside, or tackle the stairs. Get those endorphins flowing so you come back energized.

3. Get inspired
TCD subscribes to CA magazine (Communication Arts) and keeps copies of Workbook on hand. We recently discussed the importance of taking advantage of this library of resources we have in our office. Rather than searching key words on Google and Pinterest, these creative publications can spark relevant ideas even through a contrasting topic.

4. Accept failure
The fear of failure can be a big contributor to creative block. Be okay with failing. Create something outrageous to become okay with trying ideas out of your comfort zone. Scribble all those bad and crazy ideas on paper. Getting over this hurdle will bring you closer to a creative break.

5. Find a solution
While still accepting the possibility of creating something “awful,” find a solution. That idea could be completely mediocre, but it brings you to solve your problem in one possible way. This step gets you past the pressure to find a solution. Now that you’ve found one, you can push this idea further, be inspired beyond this solution, or come back to the drawing board with a clear mind.

In the midst of the doubt and stress that creative block brings, remember the amazing breakthroughs you’ve had in the past. Using these 5 tips, we hope you’ll be a few steps closer to your next big idea.

Posted on: May 11th, 2017 by Laura Uber



When research client SMG asked TCD Designer Megan Pace to create a t-shirt that communicated its brand and its business, she responded with a design showing a tongue-in-cheek survey question on the back. The design won First Place T-Shirt for all divisions in Kansas City's 2013 Corporate Challenge contest. SMG staff will wear the shirts proudly as they compete against other local companies in activities from bowling and darts to swimming, biking and volleyball. GOOD LUCK SMG!

Posted on: April 30th, 2013 by Creative Dept


Let open communication drive your partnership

By Angela Michka and Heather Bowen Ray


Wonder how to get more out of your ad agency or marketing firm relationship? Try these tips to make your small agency partnership more productive.

1. Remember why you hired your agency.
You hired your agency for a reason, right? Agencies can bring valuable perspective and special skills. Your account team may not have as much experience in your industry as you, but they know how to market your product or service, no matter what business you’re in. If you respect the skills your partners bring, you’re more likely to see great results. For instance, a graphic designer knows things about visual hierarchy, paper stock and type fonts that you would never even want to know. But if you want work that, well, WORKS, give your agency partners the time and space to do their best for you.

2. Let your agency carry the vendor load.
Cutting your agency out of the tasks of sourcing and supervising vendors can seem like a good idea, but is almost always a bad one. Your agency’s relationships with printers, photographers and direct marketing firms probably predate their partnership with you. Not only should your agency be able to identify the right vendors for the right jobs, it should also be able to attain each vendor’s best work and best rates. For purposes of accountability and quality control, you want your agency to be on the hook with its vendors. The best way to ensure your agency takes full responsibility for the work it does is to give it control over the finished product – and everyone involved in creating it.

3. Share accountability.
Be clear about your expectations at the start of projects and along the way. To measure outcomes of marketing efforts, set clear goals and build in checkpoints at the beginning of the process. Your agency should help you develop ways to measure effectiveness of marketing efforts and develop up-front financial benchmarks to help drive decision-making. Agreeing on deadlines from the beginning ensures there is a mutual understanding of a project’s urgency. This impacts an agency’s commitment of resources and designation of priorities. Make accountability a shared mandate. Acknowledge that it is a two-way street.

4. Don’t stew.
If you’re not getting what you want and need from your agency, talk to the people who touch your account every day, and be open about your frustrations. If your agency’s responsiveness is an issue, formalize your expectations. If creative product isn’t up to snuff, have a creative strategy session to communicate what you feel is lacking. Chances are, there are solutions to any problem that will make everyone happier. In the spirit of true partnership, work together to achieve the goals you’ve established for your client/agency relationship, your brand, and your bottom line.

5. Have fun.
Meet quarterly to brainstorm, think big picture, and collaborate without the day-to-day distractions of the ongoing tactical work. Go off campus. Take turns planning these sessions to be productive, and foster an environment that encourages innovation and creativity. While everyone seeks the common goal of building a stronger brand or increasing profits, there’s no reason that interacting with your agency couldn’t be the best part of your workday.



Angela Michka has more than 20 years of experience in market research and campaigns for national and international brands. Currently Director of Client Services at The Creative Department, Inc. in Kansas City, Angela has provided marketing strategies for clients like SMG, Kansas City Cancer Center, and HNTB. Formerly a partner of On Your Mark, an innovative marketing and research firm focused on female consumer behavior, Angela worked with Adidas, Timex, and Rawlings. She earned her BS in Marketing from Emporia State University and began her advertising career at Barkley/Kansas City and Sherry Matthews Advocacy Advertising/Austin.

Heather Bowen Ray, owner of Murmur, has served in both client- and agency- side roles while working on marketing communications and branding projects. Heather earned an MS in Marketing at Johns Hopkins University and a BS in Journalism from the University of Kansas. She has instructed university communications courses and regularly contributes content for the International Social Marketing Association, which encourages use of commercial marketing techniques for social good.

Posted on: March 26th, 2013 by Creative Dept


TCD presents at Hogan Prep High School's Career Day

By David Owens


Recently, Hogan Prep High School in Kansas City invited TCD to join other community professionals at high school career day. Megan and I jumped at the opportunity to spend an afternoon chatting with high school kids about two of our favorite subjects: art and design. Recalling our own awkward years roaming the locker-lined halls of high school, we brainstormed several things we wished we had known. How could we use our 25-minute presentation time blocks to inspire our young audience and help them catch a glimpse of how they might channel their own passions and hobbies into a career some day?

We collaborated and built a simple ipad presentation along with a handout of helpful resources. Sharing our work with the kids was so much fun! They were attentive and engaged throughout the presentation with (mostly) relevant questions. We discussed how doodling on homework might actually be practice ground for young illustrators. We talked about how a future visual communicator could dissect and analyze different messages via their heavily branded environment. Most importantly, we left them with a piece of advice that we wished we’d gotten at their age: school, grades, teachers, and parents all impact your education, but ultimately, you must embrace an attitude of initiative and own your future.


Posted on: March 21st, 2013 by Creative Dept


Academie Lafayette Information Brochure Philly Award


The Philly Awards, sponsored by NonProfit Connect, honor Kansas City Area nonprofit communications projects and professionals. The 2012 “Best of Show” award went to Académie Lafayette, for a campaign that included a brochure created by The Creative Department and a video produced by Mile Deep Productions.

The Creative Department also raked in a first place award in the Informational Brochure category for its work on behalf of Académie Lafayette. The brochure was designed by Megan Pace, with photography by Jeremy Parsons.

Angela Michka recently represented The Creative Department at a NonProfit Connect panel discussion for the organization’s membership on the topic of how to produce award-winning nonprofit communications work.

Posted on: October 22nd, 2012 by Creative Dept

The Creative Department is a proud sustaining member of AIGA.

We follow AIGA's Standards of Professional Practice and adhere to its principles of integrity that demonstrate respect for the profession, for colleagues, clients, audiences or consumers, and society as a whole. We utilize AIGA's Basic Terms & Conditions and Intellectual Property Provisions to maintain the professional practices of the design industry.