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What Is Inspiration?

Years ago, when I first started designing1 I was a plagiarist. No really, I was. And I have friends, who thankfully are still friends, that can attest to this…sadly. I would often see a design and I’d say “I can do that” and I would…but then I’d try to change it a tiny bit, and ‘make it my own’ when in fact it was completely someone elses. I know younger people around me who want to be designers, and many times I see the exact same traits that I portrayed when I was beginning: taking something you see, and trying to make others think you made it. Believe me, it really doesn’t work.

Is This Something We Should Care About?

When stepping back and looking at the big picture and the steps newbies often take along the way, I see that a lot of what assisted me to develop my skills, were the times that I saw a design, and copied it. But what didn’t help me build skills, or a reputation, was abusing what I had made and publishing as/calling it my own. I really remember that time well, because it was first, very helpful, but also detrimental. The reason it was so, was because building a reputation takes a long time, but it can be wiped away in a moment. And that’s what happend to me continually. Making the occasional design that wasn’t a copy of someone else’s didn’t cut it.

A design, a thought, words, or ideas are flowing through us as designers, but when we see something we like, it’s hard not to want it as our own, and that is a continual challenge; being original, and knowing what inspiration really is.

So What Is Inspiration?


Inspiration, first and foremost, is NOT seeing a thing, and making a thing just like it. While, like I said, this can be useful in the learning process of a unseasoned designer, it’s not something you want to get used to. Inspiration by definition is: “stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity.”

Inspiration can be found in many things, such as music, movies, scenery, rivers, patterns, sounds, designs. « Say whaat?

YES! You can find inspiration in designs. But it’s such that you see something you like, and you make something totally different with maybe a few attributes that remotely tie back to the original design you saw, but this time ‘round, it’s actually yours.

In Closing

  • Understanding what inspiration is/means, is crucial.
  • Turning off the web and staring at a white blank page can really help.
  • Think. Think big, not small. Think long, not short. And think hard.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

1I’ve always had somewhat of a bent for design/art but had never fully expressed it

Really good article written on much the same subject here: http://seanwes.com/2012/on-copying/