The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart.
– Helen Keller
That, my friend, is your answer if you’ve been looking for your stealthy, sneaky, covert friend- Inspiration.
We, as designers, have this peculiar temptation to reinvent the wheel and design something really cool. And in that curious itch, we keep on stretching until that cupid moment strikes us. But wait! why do we have to be inspired in order to work? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t it be- work, in order to stay inspired!
Everything around us is a story — a hot steaming cup of tea, a tree bearing fruits and the wind blowing its branches, a cat meowing, a cloud taking different shapes, or even a person with a straight face! Even the simplest of things have a lot to tell.
Inspiration is a little bit volatile. It appears when you least expect it. One moment you would feel like you have got it under control, but the moment you sit down to materialize that inspiration, you see your idea in freckles. Gone with the wind.
I am sure you must have experienced it a lot of times!
So, what do you do to get back into the inspiration mode? I go to design galleries like Dribbble and Behance to get some “fresh” ideas. But here’s what I felt after doing it for umpteen number of times- my designs weren’t reflecting my idea. Rather, they looked like an amalgam of a lot of other’s ideas. Nothing looked fresh. The stale design ideas had kicked away innovation from my designs.
Does inspiration even exist?
I have a perfect quote to answer this question-
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.”- Pablo Picasso
Let me tell you an interesting anecdote of my personal experience to validate this quote. One of my colleagues had written about going to nature to draw inspiration (Why every designer needs to discover the nature). So, I thought of giving this method a try.
I packed my bags for the weekend, took a one-way ticket to mountains and promised myself that I won’t come back unless I designed something which worked as per my imagination.
And it happened…
It was way past midnight and I was inside my tent, listening to music and trying to fill the empty spaces on my screen. When nothing seemed to work, I went out to take a walk.
The full moon was glittering in all its glory. There were concentric circles around the moon and the brightness was fading away with increasing distance. There wasn’t any source of artificial light, just the moon. And with that natural source of light, the whole sky was lighted. What I saw was captured in my eyes and that, my friend, is what you call inspiration.
I immediately went back, opened my laptop and used this prompt to make this-
The design I developed was intended for an iOS app for capturing a person’s dreams. I was looking for an inspiration to illustrate night. The mountains, the stars, and the moon came out as a perfect landscape for my designs.
Now, you might think of it as a very common experience. Mainly because we all have seen a full moon night innumerable times and it’s a natural phenomenon that occurs every month. But all I remember is being in awe with that spectacular scenery.
But does that mean you have to travel to unravel your mind’s creativity?
No, not necessarily!
There is no secret sauce to creativity. You have to find inspiration in the routine. Easier said than done, you say? I agree.
I had the same thoughts until a few days ago. I was looking for inspiration to draw an empty space UI for the same mobile app. The use case was this- “the empty state UI should encourage the user to start taking down notes, even in the middle of the night.” I wanted to design something different which the user could immediately relate to.
One fine day, while struggling with my usual self, I decided to stay back in the office and complete this pending task. I was juggling with various thoughts but nothing seemed to satisfy me. So I got up and went to the cafeteria to fetch myself a cup of steaming hot coffee. There was absolute silence in the cafeteria except for the groaning sound of the coffee machine. I looked away and saw this-
The emptiness appealed to me. It wasn’t the kind of space which spurred negativity or abhorrence or darkness. It was the kind that strikes a chord with creativity, fosters indulgence, motivates new beginnings.
I immediately took my cup of coffee and took long steps back to my seat, still visualizing how would I use this in my designs. And guess what, another prompt appeared before my eyes-
I stopped for a while and imagined a table in the middle of that space. On top of that table, a lampshade with streaks of light falling upon a bundle of papers.
Yes, that’s what I imagined!
I know this sounds unreal. But some days are like that. And on those days, you will be able to produce tangible things from your wildest dreams. And some days nothing would suffice to fill your creative buckets. Does that mean that we should be in that work mode?
Not necessarily. What I would suggest is to keep your eyes (and ❤️) open to the world around you. The world is a beautiful place to be!