Getting Inspired

The most important aspect of designing a quality print is the initial inspiration. I remember in interviews in the past, at least for design work, was where do you find your inspiration?

While the internet is a fantastic tool for synthesizing ideas, it can be a bit overwhelming. It can inform a certain aesthetic and be a valid guide, but it is also good to step back and let the ideas flow, to avoid being too derivative. It’s good to look at history, to look at current trends, and attempt to create something contemporary yet familiar enough to have an artistic appeal.

So, where are good places to find inspiration?

I recommend going outdoors, taking a walk and really just taking in everything around you. Colors, textures, nature, the air, all of these things can offer a multitude of ideas. Let’s say that you find a leaf  on the ground, pick it up and look at it’s intricacies, drink it in. Look beyond just the appearance of that leaf, think of the atoms that formed it, the process of photosythesis, the transformational aspects, it’s place in the world. Really a leaf is quite a marvelous thing, no human has ever created such an efficient machine. Look at the essence of things. What would a molecule of a leaf look like? How would you translate this idea?

The Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Auerilius encourages us to look at things in this way. To see the essence of things, what makes them up, what ingredients they have. This allows us to have a more profound appreciation for the world around us. Check out his book Meditations, which resonates as poignantly today as it did thousands of years ago.


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Nature  is an endless source of inspiration. All  of the phenomena it yields can be seen in the most minute detail and how it relates to the rest of the earth.  So how do you synthesize this? All art is an imitation of nature in some way, so you will want to focus on a consistent style for the particular design you are working on. And for that, we have the entirety of Art History to help us. Is it the sinuous organic linework of Art Nouveau that elicits your passion? How about the cryptic heiroglyphs of Ancient Egypt? Look at these styles and emulate them to an extent, while keeping your own hand, and your own interpretation of them in the forefront. In this way, it can only be contemporary. Look at designers you admire, watch documentaries on them, see their creative process.

Aside from nature, one must follow trends, or at least stay on top of them. When I traveled in France in my early 20’s I noticed a lot of women wearing a certain type of heel. Scarcely any women wore them in the states until a year or two later. So what you want to do is find the origin of these trends, and for that I look at Europe, and Japan.

Both those places are  far ahead of their time, and you will see their trends trickle down into the states sometimes years later. So  to get an idea of the future, look at these places in the present, and it should give you a good idea of what is to come trend wise. I would say specifically places like Shinjuku in Japan and the streets of Rome. If you can afford to fly to either of those places, it will be a once in a lifetime experience far greater than anything you are used to in your daily routine.

Shinjuku is a colorful and energetic place full of young trendsetters whom are expressing themselves through fashion and style, and some to the extreme. This is where you should look to find these gems of style to incorporate into your own aesthetic understanding.

So get outside your comfort zone, travel, and look at the essence of things.

And if you can’t do that at the moment, try some good fashion sites that specialize in this, such as Stylesight
It’s imperative to peruse online  fashion magazines, as well as sites like pinterest, that will enable you to assess current trends and find inspiration. It’s not a matter of looking at one item and flagrantly copying it, it’s looking at elements of a photo you like, the accessories, the colors, the make up, how it was styled. Extract something from there that caused you to respond so passionately to begin with. Most importantly, is to trust your instinct, and be thorough.

Also, clean up your work space, this is essential to produce something. With distractions like a mess to clean up, it’s difficult to concentrate. Arrange everything so that it is within reach, and you can access all your tools. Eliminate distractions, like cellphone notifications, turn on some music you love, or discover some new artists.

Make good use of your time. There is never enough of it. Focus.

Don’t expect to crank out a masterpiece every day. Sometimes it takes a few days, or months. Sometimes you have to start all over again. Simplify, edit, and look at the work with fresh eyes. There is a time when you need to stop if you are getting hung up, ask your good truthful friends or co-workers for honest feedback and then revise, or modify if you think it’s necessary. Good Art and design does not come easy, don’t be lazy about it, take pride in what you do and make something beautiful and worthwhile.