This article has been submitted by Lauren Krause via e-mail as an entry to the Group Writing Project – Source Of Inspiration. Special thanks to Tara from GraphicDesignBlog for promoting this group project.
Lauren is a gifted artist. She works as a Graphic and Interactive Designer. Her design philosophy is worth noting: “Design doesn’t have to be complicated to be good… The most important thing to keep in mind about design is that it is supposed to deliver a message, if the message is lost in the design, form has overtaken function.”
written by Lauren Krause – laurenmarie.net
I keep a design scrapbook of sorts, though mine is mostly digital screenshots I’ve taken from various websites. I also have a document with written ideas about different styles I would like to try: make it look like an illuminated manuscript, watercolor painting, Victorian type poster, try using pure typography to create images, using only two colors, etc.
I have a small collection of Communication Arts magazines that I look through every so often, especially the Design Annuals. Similarly, other design books are a great source of inspiration.
I love scrapbooking and I have several idea books from that industry. These are SO useful for layout options, where to place images in relation to text, background ideas, and they’re also great inspiration for icons (the stickers and stamps).
Design sources from past
I recently discovered antique shops while spending time with my Gramma for Mother’s Day. These are the most awesome source for typography and graphics – everything in these stores is authentic! You cannot find resources like this online and it’s something else to be able to hold your inspiration instead of stare at it on a screen. It’s really very cool.
Yoga and Sumi-e
Yoga. Clear your mind. It helps sometimes to not even think about the project.
I love looking at Sumi-e art. It’s so simple. So beautiful. I wish I could paint like that!
Thinking outside the box
Design something without the computer and with non-traditional materials. I once made a scene using spices, yes, like the kind for cooking or baking. Although that was just for a class project, I know I’ve seen ads using snack crackers in the shapes of people and animals. This is a great book, too: Great Design Using Non-Traditional Materials. It’s not very long, but well worth the few bucks that people are selling it for on Amazon. It showcases designs using things from corrugated cardboard to glass.
A professor in college had us write half the alphabet down the side of a page and then in a column next to that write the other half. We had to come up with phrases, titles, product names, etc. with the two letters. Like say Z and P were next to each other. Zebra Phobia. What could that look like as book title? Might make a cute children’s story. It’s a weird way to loosen those creative juices.
I like word association and pulling out the thesaurus (or using Thesaurus.com). I like the examples of playing with language, too, by using metaphors or a positive negative.
Sometimes making the design look like a typical design from another industry can be catchy. For example, we had a car commercial in the U.S. a few months ago, with corresponding magazine ads, that looked like an advertisement for an allergy medicine. It sure made me stop and look twice.
I like to think about the essence of the product, service, etc. and try to do idea associations with it. I mean, what is money? Really? Some paper that we place a very high value on that really has no intrinsic importance. And what other forms could it take? How would I redesign it? Make it liquid? Interesting ideas come from this exploration.
Storming your brain
And above all: brainstorm. Really brainstorm. No idea is a bad one. If you can’t illustrate it, describe it, write it down and come back to it later. Don’t say no to anything. Don’t erase. Stream of consciousness or free-flow writing can help, too. You know, when you just pick a topic (probably the job at hand) and start writing for a set amount of time. You can’t stop (or erase!), even if you can’t think of what to write, you write just that; write about why you can’t think of anything. But only do it for a set amount of time, otherwise you might go too far off topic and then it’s not productive! It is immensely helpful to be able to go back and bounce these ideas off of another designer; s/he usually has a different point of view or way of thinking about the topic.