Inspiration, where art thou?by Sarah Ritchie on 15/10/2012
As designers hired for our creativity we (unfortunately) do not have the luxury of waiting for our muse to appear, nor for the light of creativity to fall. As tempting as it is to utter “I am just not feeling inspired“, our clients don’t give a rats whisker, so we need to find a Plan B…quickly!
As creativity is demanded of us 8+ hours a day, 5+ days a week, what can we do when we are catapulted into that solid “creative block” wall? Here are some ways to get those creative cogs a-spinning. Feel free to add to the list in the comment section. We can all help each other build our inspiration toolkits!
Look to nature
Take some time to look out the window. Sometimes you may have to peer quite closely, and other times the inspiration you seek will be splashed across the sky. Look to nature to find interesting colour palettes (in a bed of flowers, a sunset, or a foggy morning); patterns (lines on your cat, or the markings inside a cut ponga log); shapes (silhouettes of trees or a bowl of berries). Becoming an enthusiastic observer will pay off!
Talk with others
For a fresh squeeze of inspiration, have a chat with someone. It may be another designer, or with a person totally unconnected with design. Nuggets can be found in any conversation if you listen closely enough. This is not the same as brainstorming; this is more organic and akin to “soaking” in the droplets of wisdom and inspiration that will inevitably fall. We could call it “maximising the value of conversation”.
Ask Mr Google
Research is a great way to generate ideas. Google (Search and Images) is a handy, free and quick reference source – a one-stop showcase of ideas, techniques, tutorials, advice, imagery, history and discussions. Phew! How did we ever cope before the Internet was born?
And now for something completely different…
All good designs should begin with some form of research, so let’s mix things up a bit. For example, if you were about to create a magazine ad for a cat food product, you would usually start by looking at other cat food advertising, and maybe dog/rabbit/chicken food advertising. How about sourcing inspiration from the travel industry, or from the fashion industry? This approach can often inject freshness into a category that has become stale. When all the competitors are doing it one way, it sometimes makes sense to try something new. May also be just the thing to give your inspiration a jump start.
Spock was right, there is power in the mind-meld. If your agency is like mine, you tend to do the collective brainstorming only on the larger, “important” projects, yes? If we know that brainstorming will increase the chance of coming up with a really clever or unique idea, we should consider using the technique more often. Next time you are down in the creative doldrums, grab a design colleague for 10 minutes and brainstorm some ideas. This is an (almost) guaranteed bacon-saver.
The library can be cool
Often our inspiration comes from other people. What lights our fire could result from another’s artwork or music, life story or experience. One “old-fashioned” way of consuming the output/tastes/worldview/opinions/experiences of others is through books (the papery kind). Why not take some time out to go to the local library and swim in the sea of free inspiration that is to hand. Remember, your design inspiration may well come to you from a book that is not about design!
Start an inspiration database
If you thought iPhoto was just for your holiday snaps, think again! How about setting up some “design albums” titled “brochures”, “posters”, “web design”, “DM”, etc. When you are surfing the web, going for your morning walk (with camera) or flicking through a magazine, take a photo or copy of things that inspire you. It may be a colour palette you like, or a typeface, or layout, and file it away. When you are stuck on a design project, it may be the perfect time to revisit your inspiration database.
Next time you are hitting the wall and the anxiety is beginning to build, just stop. Breathe. Go for a walk for a few minutes. It’s no use straining to be creative when your head-space isn’t intact. When you get back to your desk try approaching your project from a completely new angle. Remember, if you are trying to force something to work, you probably need to look at a new design tactic anyway. All the best to you. You can do it!