Like any industry, design is a bit incestuous. We know you, you know us. Together we know so-and-so. If we haven’t met face to face (which is oddly the rarity these days) we’ve no doubt ‘met’ on the net or conversed via Twitter — the goto hub for conversation. Our friendship circles are tight and everyone knows and talks to the same people. Views sometimes but rarely differ and before you realise it you’re in an echo chamber of thought and opinion with lots of nodding heads (one of the reasons we now rarely attend industry ‘get-togethers’ — controversial, but true).
This circle of people who think the same thing is not necessarily a good thing and something that got us thinking about the knock on effect to design and everyone’s work.
Put simply, design is all about ideas. Creative, brilliant and original ideas. To come up with these ideas, designers need inspiration, which can and should come in a number of forms. The seed of an idea could be planted by hearing a snippet of a conversation, seeing a painting in a gallery, watching the news or reading a book. However, waiting around for the creative lightening bolt to strike can take time, and time is a luxury that most designers simply don’t have. Deadlines loom, clients chase and sooner or later, the ideas need to be coaxed out from somewhere.
Visual inspiration sites such as Ffffound and Designspiration can be really helpful to aid this coaxing. There are a few similar sites about, but Ffffound seems to be the most well known and widely used. For the uninitiated, it’s a ridiculously simple site on which users (only those with a Ffffound invite) can upload any images they want. Graphic design, photography, art, animated GIFs, pretty much anything goes. The unwritten rule is that it should be at least a bit inspiring.
And generally it works, it’s a great place for creative types to show off amazing new ideas they’ve come up with or discovered elsewhere. On the whole, we love it. What’s not to love?
Well, there is one thing… The problem is that it’s used by a huge number of designers who upload things for other designers to look at. These designers often get inspired by what they see and want to create ‘their own version’. So they do, and it looks great, so they upload it to Ffffound. And the cycle continues, endless waves of trends seem to sweep over the site, starting with one great idea, which is eventually swamped in a huge number of derivatives and variations on a theme.
We’ve spoken before about the importance of taking inspiration from sources other than design, and we still feel it’s something that’s hugely important. Sites like Ffffound don’t crush creativity, they promote it and provide a brilliant platform. But the design community, incestuous as it is, does need to take care not to take too much inspiration from the same places, be they websites or peers. If what we do is largely about ideas and original thinking, surely it’s worth looking beyond the realms of our little world and taking inspiration from as many different places as possible?
The alternative? Graphic Design Will Eat Itself.
Or maybe we’re wrong? There’s a very fine line between inspiration and copying what you see on a website or in a magazine. Do you take inspiration from these places? Or are they just nice to look at? Is anyone brave enough to admit they’ve been a bit cheeky with the word inspiration and ‘recycled’ someone else’s idea? Maybe you follow all the same people on Twitter too and agree with the point?
What do you think? Naturally we’re aware the very mention of this topic could create further Inception levels of industry nodding, but let us know, we promise we won’t nick your opinion…
Thanks for reading,
Tom and Phil