With the internet at our fingertips and the wealth of creative inspiration on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, it’s never been easier to see what other designers and creatives are up to. And of course, subconsciously or not, once we’ve seen a really cool design by someone, especially if it relates in some way to something we are currently designing, it can be very hard to get that image/colour scheme/illustration out of our heads when we’re designing, and sometimes our own work can end up looking very similar to that thing we’ve just seen online. Even if we don’t mean to, the temptation to copy is very real.
So the question is, how can we be inspired creatively without stealing other people’s ideas?
(A small side note, I’m not saying that Pinterest/Instagram/Dribbble/whatever, are bad, in fact I think it is a really good thing to be inspired by other designers, but the key thing is being *inspired* by them, not copying them.)
Designers, here are my top 2 ways in which I think it’s possible to get inspiration and passion for a project without falling into the trap of just copying what’s gone before:
1) Know your brief
Often when I hit creative block, it’s because I’ve lost sight of what I’m trying to achieve. It’s crucial in every project to know what you’re designing, for who, and why. By doing your research properly, you’ll be able to think much more clearly about what design solutions would be appropriate for the project – for example, a hand-lettered logo is not going to be suitable for a corporate company, even though it may look very pretty.
2) Know where to go for inspiration
For me, I get inspired by going outside and just observing the world around me. Shop signage and ghost signs on buildings in particular really fascinate me, as well as looking for colour schemes, patterns and textures in plants, nature and the sea.
Another great place to go if you’re looking for some offline inspiration, especially for typographic projects, is your local bookshop. The way colour is used to grab your attention, or the way typefaces are paired, or the patterns on endpapers are all likely to spark creativity and get me thinking about a problem in a different way.
Similarly, for more illustrative projects, the world of fashion is a great one to turn to, I love having a quick browse in a shop to see what colours are paired with what, what patterns are mixed together and the way different shapes and textures are used to create interesting lines and looks.
Once you start looking, design is literally everywhere, from nature to street signs to posters to food labels, and although it’s great to follow other designers’ work online and to be influenced by it, your most unique and interesting work is going to come by not copying them, but being inspired by everything else you see around you.
Do you have any other tips for getting inspiration without copying? Let me know!