Inspiration is a fickle thing. Most designers, when lacking ideas, turn for inspiration to what they know and are comfortable with. There is a fine line between “inspired by” and “copied”. Looking to others for inspiration can crush your spirit for originality and creativity. How do you move beyond magazines, Pinterest, and Instagram to generate new ideas and different concepts?
Whether inspiration shows up as an “a-ha” moment or reveals itself slowly like a mystery novel, it comes from connections between observation and realization viewed from a different and unique point of view.
Majestic views, a beautiful work of art, innovations or new cultures can all have the same effect on our inspiration. Being exposed to something we may not have seen or experienced before awakens connections within us. Whether we are aware of it or not, our experiences in the world around us connects one thing to another and another in our brains until they form something new, exciting or original. When you find yourself inspired, take in the details, nuances, and complexities to extract the essence of what speaks to you. The key to interpreting what you see into what you do requires that you then take those pieces and assemble them into an authentic creation of your own.
An example of nature as inspiration is Art Nouveau style. The interpretation of organic patterns such as grass moving in the wind, swirling water, and intricate vegetation as decoration was the solution developed to counteract the stressful industrial nature of the times.
Generally, using your inspiration as a design concept requires consistency throughout the design. Thoughtful and meaningful use includes using the essence of your interpretation where appropriate and where it makes sense; whether a pattern, color, or element. For instance on the above photo, the image on the left has fretwork used as an accent for the openings at the top of this historical monument in Asia. The photo on the right shows similar fretwork fabricated using modern methods and applied to the façade of a contemporary building in the US. Through hundreds of years and half a world away, the essence of that visual story has been absorbed by the viewer and reinterpreted.
Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”
About the Author
Sally Chavez, NCIDQ, LEED AP ID+C is a senior designer for Wilsonart in Temple, Texas. She graduated from The University of Arizona (back when they had an interior design program) and began her career in Arizona. She worked in the southwest market for more than 30 years’ in commercial interiors, with a focus on healthcare, workplace and education. As a product designer for Wilsonart, she uses the skills she cultivated and the knowledge she gained to develop products that are relevant for today’s A&D market.