Earlier this year, we wrote a blog post regarding some of our thoughts on inspiration. Sprungseven left a considered and well written response in the comments section, using a quote from the brilliant Bob Gill:
“Don’t look for inspiration in design books. Don’t sit at your computer, waiting for lightning to strike. If the job is for a dry cleaner, go to a dry cleaner. And stay there until you have something that you honestly think is interesting to say about dry cleaning.”
The sentiment is spot on and one we wholeheartedly agree with. If inspiration for designers comes from the same sources (a finite handful of popular websites and design books), its only a matter of time before things begin to look similar. Without wanting to cover old ground, we concur.
However, how feasible is this approach these days? The design process moves faster and faster as new technology progresses and clients demand quicker turnarounds on more work. The easy access and proliferation of design software means traditional graphic design is now a discipline virtually anyone can do themselves. The days of men in suits hunched over drawing boards, meticulously drafting ‘camera-ready’ artwork with Rotring pens and Letraset are, I’m afraid to say, gone. No longer do a select few learn the secrets of the trade through apprenticeships and wisdom handed down through generations. These days, a downloaded copy of Photoshop and a YouTube tutorial on how to make a drop shadow seems to be enough to make you the next Otl Aicher.
Advancements in the tools we use now mean all of us have a world of inspiration at our fingertips. In a matter of minutes we can have access to thousands of images, articles, videos and logos related to dry cleaners if we so desire. With this convenience and speed, why would we need to walk down the road to see the real thing? The same argument can be applied to looking to books or magazines for inspiration and news. What’s the point in paying for the latest copy of a design magazine (which are never cheap) to see content that has been on a hundred different websites for weeks already, and costs nothing to see? Surely the quick, easy and free option is a no brainer?
Yes and no. In terms of ‘waiting for lightning to strike’, we’re firm believers in going to the source. This doesn’t always mean sitting around in dry cleaners with our fingers crossed because frankly, we don’t often have the time to do that. What it does mean is fully immersing ourselves in the world of our clients, going further than the internet and finding out a bit more about the people we’re doing the work for. Asking stupid questions, thinking about the answers, talking about the answers, asking more questions. Of course we still look at websites and magazines and books, but the practice of discovering through experience and dialogue is an essential part of what we do. Designing a logo for a photographer? Pick up a camera and take a picture. Designing a website for a bar? Pop in for a quick drink and meet the people drinking there. Actually doing stuff is a valuable alternative to passive research and you never know, it might provide the key to answering the brief. Our clients and their customers are the ones that have the information we need, and only by talking to them and observing how they behave and work can we do our bit. It takes a lot longer than a Google image search and it’s a nowhere near as easy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Let us know your thoughts — we encourage debate.
Phil & Tom