September 11, 2013
The only way to be inspiring is to be inspired.
As a graphic designer for nearly 20 years, I have been given my fair share of “Now go find some inspiration” assignments. It is a really challenging task to work into an afternoon. With years of conditioning, I have learned to see things during the “in betweens.” These are the unexpected color combinations, patterns and juxtapositions that you encounter in the co-op aisle or at the basketball free throw line.
Traveling is the most efficient and effective way I have found to accelerate inspiration. Taking yourself and your way of thinking out of context can absolutely reveal the unexpected. Sure, traveling to Amsterdam is the ultimate, but even a jaunt down the bike lane can be just the change up you need.
Way back in 1999, this farm kid took her first trip to Europe. Amsterdam, the design mecca of the world. I couldn’t have been more at home, more inspired, more in love. The Dutch hire designers to create postal stamps, government identities, city signage…you name it.
I spent a lot of time this first trip in the Post Office and antique stamp shops. Drooling over present and past stamps. Little mini examples of brilliance. Truly. I bought lots. I took a fair amount of pictures and I gathered up brochures, flyers, little pieces of paper — wherever/however.
When I returned from my travels, I always developed my pictures right away. I was in love with these stamps and I had the idea to put them on my photos. The stamps were then chosen based on the design, color, context. Some were funny thoughts I had, some finished an alignment, some were simply inspired by color. Design compositions based on my experiences. This practice was and still is something I do with every major visual trip.
This translates to branding tone + manner boards. I get asked all of the time how I come up with my color palettes, what made me use that shapes, etc. and I would say that my place—where I go—is being aware of what surrounds me and seeing the in betweens. I can still go through these photo albums all these years later and feel incredibly inspired. So, sometimes transporting yourself doesn’t take you far away.
For me, design will always be for the senses—Sense of Self | Sense of Worth | Sense of Humor.