Posted June 10, 2010

Design and my own inspiration

This is one of the most beautifully simple web designs I have seen in a while. The Design Cubicle, recently redesigned, strikes a chord with me in every sense: the color palette, the typography, the intricate and delicate pixel-perfect details… and to top it all off the content is fantastic, well-thought out, and interesting to read. I can’t remember the last time I was compelled to not only finish a long article online (or offline for that matter) and THEN look for more on the same site.

Brian Hoff’s article Understanding Inspiration resonated with me.

“Also, having recently redesigned this blog, I can relate to playing the role of a "recorder.” The color palette was inspired by a book cover I came across while browsing a bookstore in Princeton, New Jersey, while the cross-hatching–acting as shading running along the sides– was inspired by my neighbors old little white fence that is half hanging over into my side (the way the fencing weaved and intertwined). The subtle grey texture was inspired by a newspaper feel to put focus back on my content and purpose of this site: to read. A majority of what inspired this redesign was drawn by offline inspiration.“

He notes that many designers first stop for "inspiration” is to hit the vast array of online galleries showcasing pretty sites. I have to admit, that’s exactly what I do. But after reading his article, I’m trying to bring myself back to when I last felt truly inspired - which was not online at a gallery showcase. When I say inspired, I mean seriously compelled to do something. Compelled to write, draw, paint, or produce. It’s been a long time. I tell a lot of people that I’m not creative, I just make stuff pretty.

Deep down, I’m unhappy with describing myself as such a person. Making things pretty can be hugely satisfying, but in the end pretty fades (just like old ladies) and content becomes more important. A great concept, a creative concept, something that can only come from real-life inspiration… something that wasn’t mimicked but produced from scratch. That should be what I’m aiming for, first and foremost.

His article makes reference to a few designers and their own “real life” inspiration. Among them, was the small web design agency Carsonified. This agency has a website that I’ve been ogling for 6 months now (though I can’t remember how I first came across it) and I was excited to see that they had written an article about the process of redesigning their site about a year ago. This designer must have gone through 20+ iterations of the site until they got to the final design. Ultimately, the guy was inspired by a Gap Outfitters sale poster as he was jogging, and Carsonified as we know it today was born that night.

Everything about that story is so contrary to how I have been thinking about my own design process. For me, inspiration comes at my desk on the computer, and my goal is to make the first attempt the only attempt, and refine from there.

I’ve noticed lately that looking at my computer screen for more than a few hours at a time actually makes me feel resentful toward it. Because we live in Blacksburg, not quite the bustling hub of city inspiration, I need to make sure I get out more and travel. I was never big on traveling because I constantly feared getting lost. Lately though, getting lost is sounding more like an adventure and less like something that will lead to my ultimate demise. (Another fantastic article by Crush Lovely on getting lost)

<3 Eno