A couple of days ago I came across the following quote on Web Design Mash. I couldn’t help but pausing and thinking about these words. They are so true. A design itself seldom goes down in history, but the idea behind it does.
- To create a memorable design you need to start with a thought that’s worth remembering.
— Thomas Manss
Where do these memorable thoughts come from? Do great designers just naturally have great ideas or is there more to it? A while back, I talked to our head of design, Yoeri Hokken, about his personal approach to design. This chat was very interesting and we got a bunch of insights into how Yoeri goes about a new design. Now, I pulled Yoeri away from his sketches once more and asked him to help me solve the mystery of inspiration. Here are some questions I asked and again, very insightful answers.
What do you consider the start of a new design?
The palest ink is better than the sharpest memory.
The blank canvas is the very first step of the actual ‘pixel-perfect’ design. Sometimes it freaks me out because it’s so huge and white. But I agree, the actual design starts with an idea. This idea rally can be anything. What I do if I have a good idea, I write it down on paper, so I won’t forget it. A quote that I think perfectly suits this habit is: “The palest ink is better than the sharpest memory. With this initial idea in mind, I start to make first sketches, which to me is an essential step in the design process. Sketching with a pen allows me to make and think of many versions within no time and help me to sort my thoughts and decide on an initial design. When I’m satisfied with my sketches I start to work them out on the computer.
Do you have a pool of ideas that you can draw upon for any project?
Whenever I come across something nice or really good portfolio’s, I bookmark them. So whenever I’m in need of inspiration I can fall back on them. I pretty much use the same websites for my inspiration so I guess that’s my pool of ideas.
Also, during college I had to get a personal inspiration book for one of my classes. I had to put all kinds of stuff that inspired me inside it. After a while I had a whole book filled with quotes, images, products, sketches, and more. It’s like a picture book, cool to have it on your book shelf and at times I pull it out and look it through, but it takes too much time and effort to keep it up to date. Due to time-issues I don’t use a book anymore for my ideas. Nowadays there are some great tools, which make it really easy and less time consuming to manage inspirations, like plain bookmarks, Pinterest, or our new tool Usabilla Discover.
Where does your inspiration come from?
That depends on the project. Most of the time I get inspired by the work of other designers. For example, when I’m working on a webdesign project, I browse the Internet for inspiration. Portfolio platforms like Behance and Dribbble are great sites for inspiration. If I like the work of a specific designer, I visit their personal portfolio which (most of the times) includes great work, too.
I also follow websites like Abduzeedo and Fromupnorth. They have daily inspiration posts and anyone can contribute their artwork. This makes these sites very broad and I think every designer can find inspiration there.
For print-based projects, like posters, magazines, or flyers, I let the world inspire me. This might sound weird, but it’s true. The world around us has a lot to offer, such as textures, shapes, patterns, angles, or colors. For example, I find a lot of inspiration in Modern Architecture. These designs are so unusual and really break the ‘normal’. Often architects “think outside the box”, which I really like.
I also find a lot of inspiration in music and music related stuff like festivals or events. Just sitting somewhere quiet, closing my eyes and listening to my music can really calm my mind, which allows new ideas to pop up.
Do you always feel creative? What do you do if you lack inspiration?
I think that no one can feel creative all the time. it’s like sports; you just can’t stay focused 110% 24/7. Especially the “blank-canvas syndrome”, that I mentioned earlier is a game breaker from time to time. Whenever I lack ideas, I like to take a shower to clear my mind. Almost every time I do that I end up with great ideas that I then sketch on the steamy shower door. This sounds strange, I know, but it works for me. I think every designer needs to find something that works for them.
Another great thing to do (and maybe more suitable if you sit in the office all day) is talking to other people about an idea or problem. Even people who don’t have much experience in the field might come with great suggestions. It’s like user-testing, inexperienced people will encounter errors that you didn’t even think of.
Inspiration is everywhere
I guess Yoeri agrees with me and my quote from the very beginning. A good design starts with the idea behind it. If the idea is great, if the initial thought is memorable, the design will fall into place. There are many different sources of inspiration that designers can draw upon. These go from anything we come across in the real world to very intentional design inspiration blogs on the Web. of course every designer has his own style and not every source of inspiration works the same for all. But inspiration is all around us and in the end, designers only have to figure out what works for them and what doesn’t.