This post follows countless other designers posting about their favourite design inspration sites. Also an interesting post by Dead Wings Designs. A few years ago, I never used to find websites with the purpose of posting interesting work for designers to look at, yet now they are everywhere.
It is just another example of how the design industry has changed and become more fast moving. But in this post, I will ask the question is this change of information sharing good? Does it encourage creativity? Does it make design a ‘look and feel’ rather than communication industry.
A few weeks ago, I produced a contents page to a brochure running horizontally across both the front and back of the brochure. A few days later I saw something on a design inspiration site which was pretty similar. Obviously it did not look exactly the same – but pretty similar. I realised I had seen it before and subconsciously remembered it and used it myself. I had seen it on a design inspiration site. This is one example of how it maybe stifled creativity. I used an easy solution that was already available rather than displaying innovation to find my own.
OK, so from a personal point of view I love looking at design inspiration sites. Just last week, I wrote a post containing my top 5. But how can a designer be truly original or tap into his own creativity when he is surrounded by examples from everyone else. Like the above example surely he or she will note things subconsciously which will then pop straight back into the head when doing a project. Designers now tend to look outwards rather than inwards for their inspiration.
Another point to consider is the ease of them. Sure this sounds like a good thing. Inspiration – and fast. But is it too fast? Yes a designer has always been able to look at other work, but now this has become so easy. It takes a few minutes to display hundreds of designs from the past 50 years. But they are designs of anything. Displayed often more for their aesthetic beauty rather than communication.
In the past at least you would make the effort to research similar or alternative market places. Find other company brochures, by contacting weeks in advance in preparation of a project. It would give you an insight into the whole industry, marketing, sales approaches as well as communication design or good typography. Looking at design inspiration sights just give you a look at visual treatments and the tendency is to look quickly and move on.
Whilst in some ways this is great, it also must be noted that to me design is a research based industry. It is not enough just to look at the look and feel of things. Rather we should be analysing all competitors closely. Reading their brochures and not just taking an overlook. Designers in a way are no different from marketeers. It is not about just applying a visual, but rather the best way to communicate a message.
Currently I think the industry is in danger of not thinking enough. For me this is the difference between art and design. Art is a product in itself. It is something someone would buy on its own merit. Design on the other hand is always communicating something else. It sells another product, or gets a message across. Because of this it is essential that we analyse the whole marketplace. Start thinking like marketeers again, analysing the industry and doing our research. Not just doing things because they look nice.
I will finish this post by again asking do design inspiration sites stifle creativity? Indeed is creativity possible in a world filled with influence and inspiration? I would always argue no, it is not. I would also argue that it has never been truly possible and inspiration has always been everywhere.
But I would also argue that taking inspiration from things is not a problem. There is nothing wrong with borrowing ideas from other people. The skill of a designer is to look at current communication and question what is appropriate and what is not for their won project. I believe the skill of a designer or anyone whose trade is innovation is to add their own touch. Never do things the same, but add a twist. Take it that step further.
We must however keep questioning at the source of all our designs. We must not get carried away with quick inspiration and quick solutions. Rather we should analyse the whole project audience and market place. It is only with understanding that the correct and not easiest solution will reveal itself.