The information age has brought with it an inspiration age. Finding inspiration is easy, it’s what we do with it that matters. And with no shortage of beautiful images to gorge on, it’s increasingly important that we learn how to digest and control what we are consuming.
I often say that designers get stuck when they don’t make decisions. In the middle of a project, spurred by a lack of conviction we turn to “inspiration”, failing to convince ourselves it’s not just good old fashioned stealing. #sadface. This often signals the start of a common worry cycle for designers which should be confronted, as self-doubt has already set in and feelings of failure will only grow. It’s important to note here that the need for inspiration is not bad, it’s how we use it that is key.
Inspiration is supposed to open up possibilities which we had not yet considered, rather than refining and defining them for us. It will make you ask more questions, and not just one: “how do I fit this into my design?” Here are some classic signs to help you recognise when things are going awry:
Outside of the research process, we often search for inspiration when we are stuck, hoping that it will make decisions for us. Be careful not to look for affirmation or validation in the work of someone else, instead take a look at the brief. It’s the brief that will set the parameters for how to solve your problems, and give you conviction for making decisions. Alternatively you can get a second opinion from someone who knows the brief.
2. What are you taking?
Alright, we’ve all done it. Lifting someone else’s layout or type choice almost exactly and drop it into our designs is far from uncommon. Whilst this is not always wrong – as small aspects of another’s work might be appropriate for your project – it can hide an unhealthy mindset. Inspiration is supposed to open up possibilities which we had not yet considered, rather than define them for us. The former is liberating, but the latter undermines our belief that there are multiple effective solutions for our client. This makes us worse designers in the long run, who start to aim for a single all-perfect solution that is incompatible with client decisions. Worse still, it undermines our ability to solve our design problems with clever thinking and practical play.
3. Are you worrying?
Aimlessly searching through pretty images online or in books is actually fruitless and the real answer to worry is work. It’s telling that these things don’t tend to happen on short briefs, where time is so limited there is no room for self-questioning and over analysing. Set about going beyond what the brief demands, hungry for diversity with an attitude of play and you will have material to work with very soon. Aim to be like an oak tree that is incredibly generous with it’s acorns, and then show the fertile ground to your client/creative director. No doubt, you’re in this game because you have a great eye for recognising that fertile ground.
So there you have it, some small tips to help you stop worrying and find some conviction. If you found these helpful, please let us know. And we would love to hear your thoughts on how to manage inspiration overload and keep a healthy design mindset.