Whenever I introduce myself as a designer to people who don’t know me, one of the first questions I get asked is; Where do you find your inspiration? Such a cliché question to ask but I always know it’s going to pop up.
Here is my somewhat complicated answer plus hopefully some inspiration to the ones that want to get inspired:
Who, What, Why, How
Of course different things inspire me in different areas such as my personal life, my job as a designer, my business as a whole. But my number one main inspiration when designing is the product itself. I have to answer myself the question WHY. Why does this product exist, what should it do to the person who uses it and how should the person that wears it feel in it.
Since I’m a clothing designer, the human body itself plays a big role as well, because the garments I design will be used by a person/body. That means that the garments should facilitate the wearer’s experience. The pockets should be in the right place for you to be able to put your hands in, and the sleeves should be cut in a certain way so that you can move properly, etc. I also have a little obsession with outerwear. I drool over vintage military and workwear pieces. I guess it ties back to my preferences of form follows function.
I have noticed that I have a “no bullshit” approach to almost everything I do in my life, including design. Keep it simple and user-friendly. I prefer to design features that have a function, otherwise I edit.
And now I’m gonna be boring as most designers and say: Everything inspires me. Life, simple things, a conversation on the buss between two strangers, architecture, the material itself, photography, behaviour patterns, illustrated picture books, I try to see what’s NOT there as much as I see what is.
I also get pretty angry and worked up when I see opportunities and things that can easily be improved, for example the service at a coffee shop, or the making and finishing on a product, or someones way to say hello. That’s when I go WTF…
Look And See!
I take a lot of pictures wherever I go, I rarely look at all of them but I know where to find them if I need to. Pics of shadows, materials, birds, flowers, faces, outfits, packaging, structures, patterns, nature itself, lighting, EVERYTHING that i go “OH” about. The only thing I need to do is to LOOK and SEE, it’s all out there and it’s free. I force myself to look in other fields than clothing, otherwise my designs will end up looking like someone else’s…. and that I do not want! The products I design need to somehow “speak” ME. I always draw my ideas first, with old school pen on paper. The lines need to come freely and never be forced. If I feel forced, I work on something else till the lines “come to me” naturally.
I also have a notebook with me at all times ( my problem is that I have to many and I have a hard time finding what Im looking for, cause I have 4-5 at the same time). I write stuff and draw stuff and tape things in them. I love my notebooks, and what I love even more is to flip through old ones from time to time.
Observe But Don’t Follow Fashion Trends
In the fashion world there is always the talk of trends. A stupid thing with trends is that they don’t last. Another thing is that it’s almost always “superficial”. Sorry fashion folks, I’m a very practical person so take this in consideration before getting angry with me. Seriously, who cares about the flowery trend that is IN right now, or the fringes, or the leopard prints, I care more about the usability of the product, the materials involved and the craftsmanship and quality. THAT is the first and foremost important inspiration.
Keep It Personal
Since design is something very connected to me as a person, as with all designers, it includes my believes, my view of the world, my “brain” and all its experience, I want to keep the designing personal. I am my own muse in way. If I need to design a trail running short, I know what a trail runner needs from a short, since I’m a trail runner myself. I think that if you are not your own customer then your in deep trouble. You could argue that in a way you will look at the product development with fresh eyes and see problems from different angles but you can never put yourself in a trail runners state of mind and body, while running if you’ve never run on a trail. You will never be able to understand the features, the feeling someone needs to have in your garment or by using your product. Let your designs “speak” you and be your own muse.
Steal With Pride…
Everybody copies in one way or another. Nothing is new under the sun as they say. But what’s new is the way YOU combine things you have seen and registered. Hopefully you improve what you have seen, otherwise theres no point in doing it at all. So do “borrow” from others, tweak it, improve it, add the “you” to it and congratulations, you are an innovator!
Stop Thinking And Start Doing
Get the hand going and start doodling. Just put those lines on the paper. Don’t overthink and let the hand do the drawing.
Go For A Run Or A Walk
Of course I get stuck from time to time. The design won’t “come” to me and I don’t know how to solve a problem or improve a solution. The best way to not force things, and open up my brains thinking, is to go for a run, or a bike ride, or for a walk. It works every time! I don’t know if its the fresh air, or the blood flow but it just works.
A designers brain is always on. It’s always registering and seeing things. The intake doesn’t run on a clock or in-between 9-5. It’s constantly on, looking and mixing things up, connecting different ends and sometimes puts them in new interesting outcomes. I have also gotten pretty good at asking myself why I like or dislike stuff, and learnt from the answer.
There you go, as you can see, it’s pretty simple. Just LOOK, SEE, SENSE and REGISTER. Now go make amazing things with that information!