Finding Inspiration for Design Ideas

Inspiration: the stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.
What inspires you? The world is full of these influencing stimulations, whether it’s your surrounding environment or people around you. As a graphic designer in the marketing communications field, I’m constantly challenged with gathering inspiration to produce a concept that captures the attention of the intended audience. Since we work with a variety of organizations at TRIO, I’ve learned a few different ways to gather inspiration for design projects. Below are some tips that help me with my design process.

Learn from other designers and their artwork
There are so many talented artists to explore, especially in a city like Charleston, and their work can explode with inspiration. From the colors they use, the technique they chose, to their perspective or even your perspective on the piece, viewing other artists’ work can be extremely influential on your own design process. Bad design can inspire you too. Analyze it and work up ways you could enhance the piece to better meet the needs of the viewer.

Understand your audience and know your competition
Research your target audience and truly dig deep to understand them completely. Brainstorm, mind map, collaborate with coworkers or perform surveys. Just do whatever it takes to equip yourself with the knowledge and tools you may need to capture the inspiration that sparks the project and points it in the right direction. In the design world, it’s important to study the competition just as much as you study your target audience. Gain ideas from competitors of what not to do if their idea isn’t working. See what they are doing that is successful and absorb a new perspective on the concept. Make it your own to mold to the needs of the project at hand.

Surf the web
The web in its enormity can be a very handy tool to utilize when gathering inspiration. With a new project, I usually start off by creating a mood board and gathering all of the images that inspire me in any way relating to the specific client/project at hand. It can include colors, textures, line strokes and type faces. Pinterest has been very instrumental for me when brainstorming for new projects. You can find plenty of inspiration on this site along with ways to organize your own ideas. Whatever catches that creative eye of yours, place it on a mood board or in a file designated for your creative juices to flow. Also, always see what your client’s competition is doing so you can find ways to make your work stand out in comparison to similar organizations out there. Take a look at their logo, website and social media outlets to get a better idea of how they market themselves.

Be aware of and appreciate your everyday life
Stop and smell the roses. Take a second every day to absorb the world around you. Your environment can be very inspirational. Stop and listen to surrounding noises, or to your favorite music, look at life in a different perspective. Go into the wild and check out nature or explore architecture. Travel, sketch, write in your journal, read quotes, laugh or just get out there and try something new. Sometimes it’s hard to absorb inspiration this way as it slips through the cracks of the routine of life, but if you take a second to step outside the routine, it can be very motivational in the design world.

Do mindless things
Take a break – let your mind unwind. Sometimes walking away from a project can trigger inspiration. Meet up with friends, walk the dog, do anything that gets your mind off what your concentrating on and new ideas are sure to come about. Or, like we do here at TRIO, eat chocolate.

All in all, new experiences make the mind stronger. Learning new things could inspire something for you to use in the future. Always keep an open mind and keep yourself well inspired!