Inspire The Process, The Process Inspires
It is the end of another week at Usman Group. We have started new projects, finalized others, and are looking at the future as well. It is an exciting time to be a web designer with new technologies to learn and old technologies to learn from. However, in this fast pace world we live in, visual design essentially remains unchanged.
At times I get the feeling I have stumbled into new knowledge, that has been known for decades but is rarely shared in a public resource. Throughout college and my early career (only a couple years ago) I had mostly, as a musician would say, learned by ear (eye). So knowing the common approach to web design without the exposure of professional process was difficult. I was just creating pretty, communicative pictures to say the least.
How do you get inspired? Everyone has their own process don’t they? Not that my way is the correct way since there is really no correct way, but I would love to share.
Normally everyday is a search for inspiration. Whether it be by textures, architecture, other design, nature, or conversation. Inspiration comes from everywhere when you pay attention. If there is anything I can ask that a designer not do, is search for hours for what other designers have done. What will most likely happen is precisely where trends come from. You could sit on a design for reference, and eventually begin completely copying what has already been done by someone who put in the real effort. This isn’t design, it’s being good or bad at replication.
If anything take mental notes on what has worked for others and how you can make it work better. This is the only real use for inspiration blogs and skimming other designers’ work. Without the ability to dissect what makes a design work, you will inevitably end up completely replicating what you see in others’ work.
A great way to collect a visual direction as well as ui/ux direction is to put together snippets of typography, images, graphics, compositions, etc. to create a complete direction in which a project will flow. We implement physical mood boards in collages of magazines and prints, as well as online mood boards in Dropmark. This gets the juices flowing and helps in the dissection of what is inspiring, and what areas need not apply to your project.
Whether you’ve just finished up with wireframes and are beginning a site design, or just beginning the branding process, you need to sketch your design. Your mentor, instructor, favorite designer, have all most likely told you this several times. Sketch your ass off, and then sketch again. You don’t have to be good at drawing, which is why I said to sketch it. Sketching is your mind outputting your mental notes onto paper through your hand. You’ll need these notes later when you forget how you were going to style your design. If you do not sketch, you will be doomed to run in circles in Photoshop/Illustrator for hours without any clear direction. Honestly, its pretty easy to see if a designer went straight into the computer without previous thought. Type treatments don’t match images, the message is unclear, and the composition is either boring or entirely too confusing. Sketch please. It saves time, and gets your head immersed in the correct direction.
Keep Your Head Clear
Usually when headed down the right path, an engaged designer doesn’t move from their seat for hours, in some cases even when nature calls. Other times it is a fight from beginning to end. The latter is the most frustrating spot to be in. Whether you are self inducing frustration, or being treated to a healthy dose by your client, you need to keep your head clear. Get re-inspired by going on a walk, breathing fresh air, look up rather than at your feet. Come back to the work station when you are mentally prepared. You might find you’re ready to take on the project in a much clearer light. Hopefully your employer understands that the creative mind can’t always produce on command and a process such as this will be respected.
Stay Focused, Refresh Your Inspiration
This may be the hardest part of finding inspiration. You have already been inspired, now you have to keep the momentum going. There can be plenty of mental obstacles when on a long term project. There have been moments early on when by the time I have finished a homepage design, the subpages fall by the wayside. Mostly because I spent all my energy on a great homepage, the subpages were rushed and ended up feeling empty. Eventually you have to realize what the problem is and fix it. Since then, the inspiration process has been recycled many times during the course of one project in order to insure the work’s integrity. Focus your energy on the project as a whole, and think ahead to what your next move will be while you’re making your current decisions. If you can stay focused and retain your inspiration for the remaining project duration, you will not only have a great time with your work but also find the results are on a whole new level.
Inspiration is a mind game you have to master. Because it is often fleeting and great ideas are everywhere, staying focused is essential.
Over and out.