With sites like Pinterest, AWWWARDS, SiteInspire and a variety of others geared to display what is hot and new in website and logo design, we creatives seemingly have an endless supply of visual inspiration to fuel new ideas without ever having to step outside. We don’t even have to get up from our desks. Personally, I was more than happy to ditch the cumbersome annuals and award books from what seems like a lifetime ago for the ease of entering a few keywords, sitting back and waiting for inspiration to hit me. Its a beautiful thing. A visual playground with no end. Or is it? Maybe what seems like an endless display of new ideas is really a smaller collection of the same ideas just repackaged in new colors, fonts and arrangements? Don’t get me wrong. I am not accusing myself or anyone else of turning to the internet to steal ideas. That is not what I mean at all. I think we see something that inspires us and we use that inspiration to come up with something that is our own. But maybe we are really limiting ourselves and our potential. When I think back to how I used to get my ideas, this seems like an immense luxury. In the age before Pinterest, I had to look elsewhere for my inspiration. I would take walks around the town and look to architecture for logo ideas or the rolling hills in the open space near my home to observe shapes from the trees and hills. I would go to the Museum of Modern Art for inspiration in color and composition. In fact, I made a bigger effort to not look to other brochures for brochure ideas or logos for logo ideas. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing that. One reason was that once I started working for an agency, it was hard to justify to the non-creatives in the office that I needed to leave for several hours to “get inspired”. Another reason might be the shear joy of spending hours and hours just looking at beautiful graphic design on all the wonderful design blogs that have popped up on the internet in the last decade. There is a lot to look at and I do still think it is a good place to start. But it doesn’t need to end there and probably shouldn’t.
Here are just some ideas to consider to get inspiration for your work.
If you can, travel to new countries, islands, or even just a new city. Getting out of your studio and your normal surroundings opens your eyes and your mind to so many more visual possibilities. When you travel to new countries (or even different regions of your own), you may discover local art and culture with bold colors and designs that you have not experienced before. The architecture, clothing , music, cuisine and natural landscape can spark exciting and new ideas. When you visit new places and see new things you are building your mental reference library. Life experience gives you more to draw from.
Look to Fine Artists.
I got into this business because I loved art. Art of all kinds, but primarily fine art paintings. It didn’t make me want to be a painter, but it made me want to create. Design was my vehicle for which I could do that. I still get a burst of creative energy by just laying my eyes on the work of Picasso. My inspiration comes from artists of the late 19th and early 20the century. They were rule breakers and were always trying to push the boundaries of the norm. New colors, different perspectives and unique compositions can offer up a new way to look at an ordinary object making it more provocative and exciting. This can apply to a business card design as well as a portrait. I recently watched Genius:Picasso on the National Geographic Channel and rewatched the movie Frida about Frida Khalo. Both were so visually stunning and filled with history, culture and beauty. Each filled me with the desire to make something new. Look through art books, go to a museum, read their story. It will inspire you to do great things.
Look to Nature.
Different landscapes can inspire so many new ideas. The unique terrain can offer texture and color inspiration. A trip to the ocean, the dessert or mountains will present you with dramatically different color combinations, angles and compositions to draw inspiration from. You may not need to go far. Just walk outside with an open mind and pay attention to the world around you.
Flip through Magazines.
Graphic Design, Interior Design, Architectural, Photography, and Fashion Magazines are all great sources of visual inspiration. Study the colors, the typography and the composition. This isn’t a huge departure from going to the internet for inspiration, but breaking free of your screen and flipping though the luxurious, glossy pages of Vogue, Elle Decor or Vanity Fair might be enough to give you a fresh, new perspective
Write it Down.
Although it seems more natural to start our create process by sketching, there is another way to trigger visuals in our minds. By writing. For me, every word, story, sentence, idea triggers visual imagery in my mind. Often, this is the best place to start when I am trying to come up with a collection of concepts for a new logo project. I will start with the basics, like writing down the strategy, the audience, the message. Then I simplify it to key words. Then I start playing a game of word association and see where it takes me. It doesn’t take long to fill pages of my sketch books with words that have a visual representation in my mind. Soon, those pages of ideas, get narrowed down to clear, streamlined, simple messages. That is where the drawing begins.
It is not for me or anyone else to dictate where you should draw you inspiration from. I see every inspirational moment as a tiny miracle that great things have the potential to grow from. By opening our eyes and our experiences even a little, we are increasing the instances that these moments come to us and that is a great gift we can give ourselves.