If you need inspiration, don’t force it. There is no denying that your deadline is looming, but the first step is to relax into having the confidence that you will find your inspiration. Focus on the fact that inspiration is already there. You just have to be open to finding it and the inspiration will present itself.
This blog post outlines five examples from daily life which have influenced my design concepts and design process:
I typically leave the overhead door open when I’m in the workshop and occasionally I have (insect) visitors. Sometimes they come to die, and sometimes they are just flying through. There were times I’d take a minute to snap a photograph and look closely at some of their details.
Six months into launching this business I had an injury which left me lying on my stomach for three months. Long story short, I decided to capitalize on the time I had laying around by focusing on ways to grow my business. One day I was laying there working on my corporate tax returns and it occurred to me that all those insects who had been visiting my workshop tended to be my favorite types of insects because of their expressive tectonic characteristics. The thought extended to a realization that designing toy insects would be a manageable project because they could be small and lightweight; so I spent the ninety days of my injury developing our Tectonic Toy Insects
In summary, I found inspiration from unannounced visitors, and the unexpected circumstance of an injury. The image below shows my visitors, my early design models and the resulting insect toys.
A good friend of mine in graduate school shared my passion for traveling. She and I traveled extensively together, but had differing goals for travel destinations. I always argued for urban places to see buildings and plazas. She always argued for natural landscapes. Most of our trips were to urban places, but always included excursions to landscapes. This sketchbook entry from one of our travels is from a side trip to Cameron Highlands, Malaysia illustrates an indirect design influence on the Strata Chair. Although I normally give credit to the stratified desert landscapes of Southern Utah you will see that I was picking up on the stratification of landscapes abroad too. Or perhaps I was imposing Utah’s desert layers on my view of Malaysia.
The point is that we are surrounded by natural landscapes which become a part of our language, part of our perspective, and also our understanding of light and form. If you spend enough time paying attention to the natural landscapes around you, they will become a part of you and extend into your craft.The built environment (buildings, plazas, courtyards, parks) which surrounds us can inspire us to look upward, or encourage us to look outward. They can demonstrate rhythm, exhibit unique forms, and invoke curiosity. Most importantly, the built environment impacts our daily perspective and the aesthetic choices we make as designers. Studying architecture, not just academically/professionally, but by traveling, sketching, and observing it can be a way to understand history, cities, and civilization. I find that my most massively creative urges are when I’m sketching architecture both old and new.One of my favorite types of inspiration is also the most difficult to explain. I don’t pretend that design doesn’t take effort, but my favorite ideas usually show up on accident. The simplest way to describe it is when I’m loosely sketching to figure one thing out, and then see something I drew unintentionally which makes me conceive of an idea about something unrelated. I call this type of inspiration; finding happy accidents.Inspiration can also come from products we use and take for granted. For me, bicycles have been an ongoing inspiration. Not just as an object, but as an idea. Bicycles are an elegant resolution of form and function which is proven by the fact that bicycle design is still fundamentally unchanged after decades of designers' simply adjusting the geometry, material and components.
I am also inspired by the fact that bicycles’ technology is completely transparent, and so readily adjusted or repaired.
The photo below shows me and my everyday utility bike that was my main form of transportation when I lived in Haarlem, Holland
For more about our design inspirations, check out our blog post about the layers of influence of the American Bison on its Tectonic Toy namesake.