Having the Courage to be Inspired

Inspiration is an interesting thing to discuss. Designers surround themselves with books, and lightboxes, and samples. It’s an arsenal we build to avoid the sometimes inevitable feeling of not knowing what to do. As a young designer the problem is not being uninspired- everything inspires you. Rather the problem is not being able to filter your own ideas into something cohesive. If you make it long in this business, eventually the table turns. Your ability to filter is razor sharp, but you feel like everything has been done before. Post-modern, art deco, modern, vintage… You’ve danced those dances many times. The whole thing feels a bit played out. It’s design fatigue– and it’s the enemy. When you start to feel yourself give in to the temptation to re-hash ideas, to not push your individual boundaries- quit it. Wake up! There are amazingly inspirational things happening in visual design constantly. Design is the single most exciting field to be involved in today. There’s a growing awareness of design like never before. Office workers know the names of fonts, “consistency” is a word that means something again, even the big box stores are investing in design. Across every medium, design is becoming more prevalent, and valued. A few things to get the design engine going again:

  • Turn to the masters: Bass, Rand, Bauhaus, Glaser, Scher, Carson, Olins, Sagmeister to name a few.
  • Give yourself permission to play. Find some time outside of a project to just experiment again.
  • Learn a new technology. We always poo-poo filters and things that novices rely on, but in the right hands, they can be useful.
  • Buy some new fonts. it’s amazing what a little spice in your tool belt can get you. Check here, here, and here for a few.
  • Check out other cultures for inspiration. Japanese packaging, Swiss Packaging, German Billboards, Chinese packaging
  • Read up on the creative process. This book recommended by this guy is a great start.
  • Write about what you do. Forcing yourself to put your ideas into writing can help you to formalize those things that inspire you most.

What we do as designers is not just making things pretty, and it’s not just spitting out computer files. It’s solving real business problems. It’s a really worthy profession, and it deserves the dedication it requires to keep doing it well. Inspiration is just that weird little illusive thing that separates design from most other business related professions. But luckily inspiration can be grown, and harvested if it’s properly fed, and cared for.


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