efelle Talks Design Inspiration, Part Two: Our Process for Transforming Inspiration into Professional Websites
Step One: Get Inspired. Step Two: Do Something About It.
In Part One of this two-part series, I chatted with the designers about the kinds of things—online and offline—that inspire them on the regular.
But inspiration doesn’t mean much without action.
In Part Two, I’m back with designers Kerry, Ariana, and Veronica to discuss the process of bringing inspiration from the “real world” to the digital screen.
What do you do when you have a moment of inspiration? Do you like to write it down or take a picture? Sketch it out?
Veronica: I try and remember the way it makes me feel rather than noting specifics. When I feel inspired, I think, “Why does this image or experience make me feel this way?” and "How can I recreate this feeling in my own work?” Taking photos is always good to jog my memory!
Kerry: I write stuff down. I'm definitely still a paper-and-pen person. In project kickoff meetings while our clients are talking, if I’m hit with inspiration, I'll write down those ideas—what I'm thinking and what the client is talking about. I try not to lose those little things I think of.
Ariana: I take photos of everything. I use my phone to store inspiration either by screenshotting things on Instagram or photographing things that catch my eye on the street. Sometimes I just buy things because the packaging is so beautiful.
Kerry: I remember one time I was walking home along the bike path and I thought, “That looks like Ariana.” You were stopped and taking a picture of a tree.
Do you think it's easy to transfer or design out what inspired you in the first place?
Veronica: I agree 100 percent. No.
Kerry: Sometimes you have an idea and you're like, "This is going to be so awesome!" But it rarely plays out like it did in your head.
Veronica: Websites are two dimensional and designs have to be flexible and responsive. Most things that you see offline are printed or 3D.
Ariana: When you're drawing something and put it on the web, it often doesn't work. But I think you can take whatever inspires you and transfer it, in essence, to the web.
Ansel Adams—who’s famous for his Yosemite photos—says every photograph you take is a combination of all the photographs you've ever taken, plus everything you've seen in your life. In web design, too, who you are is put into your work. When I get super pumped and feel creatively fueled, I know I subconsciously put that in my work. But it's not like, “I took a photo of this and I'm going to use this element.” It's more like what Veronica said about how you feel. And it’s about being open minded.
Veronica: Yeah. For instance, I felt kind of stuck creatively last winter; then I took a trip to Thailand and when I came back, I felt way more inspired because I had seen new things, learned new skills, talked to new people, and engaged in a culture that wasn't my own. Coming back, I felt like I had broadened my perspective, and in doing so I was able to think more creatively.
So, it doesn't always have to be, “I saw this thing and want to put it on the web.” To me it’s more about opening up your mind to new perspectives and ideas.
What do you do when you're having a design block?
Veronica: Sometimes you just have to take a break. There comes a point when I feel like I need to step away for a bit, or even work on something else for a day so I can come back to it with fresh eyes.
Ariana: I'll ask Syd [another designer] and say, “I hate this. Please come over.” And then she'll help me through it. But yeah, asking for feedback or looking on Pinterest and just being like, “What can I use now to shake this up because it looks so ugly?”
Or even letting yourself relax. Whenever I go home, take a shower, or get ready for bed...I feel like that's when the best ideas come. It's not when I'm pressuring myself to think of something—that usually means it's forced and it won't work. When you're in the mindset of forgetting about it, then it's like, “That might be a good idea. Why couldn't this have happened at work?”
Where else do you use your inspiration? Do you have design-related hobbies?
Veronica: I use inspiration for fashion. Whether walking down the street in a new city or in Seattle, I like to just look at people and how they're expressing themselves with what they wear. Especially with color. That's fascinating.
Kerry: I like to make things. I hand-make all my cards for people. That's definitely more of a hobby where I'll use stuff that's maybe too crazy to use on a web design project.
Ariana: I take photos, so sometimes I try and use inspiring things for my own photography. I get to mess around and not worry about feedback because it's just for fun.
Kerry: That's a good feeling.
Veronica: Though I do find myself feeling kind of the same pressure doing projects during my leisure time as when I'm working. I'm like, "No, this is supposed to be for me!” But I still want it to be perfect. I have to tell myself, “It's okay! There are no goals for this one.”
And if I do anything that's not online or on the computer, picking out colors is so hard because I can't just go in and change them later.
Ariana: I sometimes get stuck in the mindset of working on the computer—the feeling of being able to “undo” everything. But in real life, that’s not always possible. If you do anything physical, you don't have that liberty.
I took a ceramics class to try it out and it was terrible. You have so much control on digital platforms and I feel like with other art forms, you don't have that; it's more like you have to feel it out and make things at a slower pace.
Anything else you'd like to say about the inspiration process?
Kerry: My final thought would be this: Stay open minded!
Ariana: To piggyback on that, yes, be open minded because there's inspiration anywhere, even when you walk on the same street every day. Something might catch your eye.
Veronica and I had the same design teacher in college, and I remember he said, “Everything around you has been designed by other people” and that just blew my mind. It sometimes seems like everything is stuck or just “is” with no intention behind it. But really, people make decisions about everything—I feel like that really opened up my mind in terms of what you're capable of and what you can change...and what you can get inspiration from.
Kerry: I’d also say that just because you aren't a “designer” by title doesn't mean you can't have great ideas. I feel like for me, I talk to clients and even if they, ya know, own a plumbing business, it doesn't mean they don’t have really great ideas. It's my job to interpret those ideas and create something that will make sense on the web.
Veronica: I think novelty is the most inspiring thing. Experiencing new places, people, art or food always stimulates my creativity. So if you want to get inspired, try something new!
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