Where does design inspiration come from? Here are some clues

In a design process, we diverge to look for answers and inspirations, then we converge to understand which is the right inspiration we should follow, but where should you look?

We want to start this article with a question: where does your design inspiration come from? That’s what we did when we first thought about this topic, asking ourselves “where”.

The answers can vary a lot, no matter if you are working on the same project or if you come up with similar ideas. Sometimes we even change the answer, because the pursuit of inspiration change and evolve over the years.

Inspiration is a feeling, something you sense when someone or something gives you input or an idea. Inspiration can also be a person and, well, in that case, we believe it’s one of the most intimate and appreciable compliments you can get. Not only because you can change other people’s lives with your actions, but also because it’s a great motivation to do better for yourself.

Elk inspo
Metafora’s TV stand project got inspiration from elks’ antlers

Since the beginning of our design collective, and actually even before that, we always considered each other an inspiration, at least on something. There is nothing worse than starting a collective with someone you don’t find inspiring.

Design is a matter of inspiration. It can be the final user, an old project, or even someone with whom you share thoughts about your work. We create processes, methods, and tools to stress our creativity in order to generate astonishing concrete results.

There are many intriguing stories about inspiration, we explored them thoroughly while working on this article. Some may be romantic some a bit daunting, let’s get into the first one.

Biomimicry design is a discipline that looks for influence from nature to design artifacts. Nature has always been a great example of human technology. Janine Benyus in 1997 wrote the book that coined the term “Biomimicry”. As shown in an interesting video made by Vox in 2017, the case of the Japanese train Shinkansen is the perfect example of inspiration from nature.

Eiji Nakatsu, the general manager of the technical development was also a birdwatcher, this peculiar interest gave him the opportunity to design with a different perspective. Lots of the components designed for the Shinkansen were inspired by birds to solve many of the problems a train might have.

[ Read also The story behind Metafora Design ]

Design Inspiration - train inspiration
The design of the Shinkansen train was inspired by birds

Sometimes design inspiration comes from competitors, there’s no reason to deny this: in every industry, design also evolves by copying successful cases. The birth and spread of “trend” is no coincidence, many companies somehow find themselves working on products that look similar responding to a similar customer need. 

Data-driven design might be one of the reasons why nowadays products like smartphones are so similar, (we will elaborate on this in the next articles), but, it’s also because we are so good at copying our neighbors.

Steve Jobs in 1996, famously quoted Picasso’s words “good artists copy; great artists steal” and added, “we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”: that was a tiny confession regarding how Steve was inspired by Xerox to design what everyone knows now as GUI.

One of the interfaces designed by Xerox which served as a design inspiration for Steve Jobs

If you think about the term Metafora, which of course is the Italian translation of the word “metaphor”, is nothing more than something (an object or a graphic) regarded as representative or symbolic of something else.

In other words, there is a strong similarity between metaphors and inspiration. In a design process, we diverge to look for answers and inspirations, then we converge to understand which is the right inspiration we should follow.

But where should you look? Well, the answer is everywhere, that’s the best part of the job.

You should avoid limitations because inspiration comes from the most unexpected corners. We noticed that due to time constraints and many other reasons, websites like Pinterest are becoming a popular tool for inspiration-seeking. It is powerful and dangerous at the same time.

We believe it’s better to seek for opportunities rather than trends, therefore tools like Pinterest can limit your eye-range.

Dyson inspiration
On the right, our project “Aroma”, a tribute to Dyson’s design language

Our team is constantly seeking new sources of inspiration. Not only in the design field but in every aspect of humanity. You need inspirations for your career, your ambitions and even to start the idea of founding a startup or a collective. You could be inspired by Childish Gambino for his ingenious lyrics, by Kobe Bryant for his dedication or even by your mom for her unconditional love.

[ Read also Metafora Design: “This is how 3D printing is shaping our design process” ]

We’d like to end this article with a reflection on the fact that in the world of today, the inspiration for new ideas is as much important as the inspiration for actually putting those ideas into practice.

In a world awash with ideas, don’t search for ideas, search for people,” Roberto Verganti said: ultimately, the world needs great strategies and implementations.

Article by Metafora Design


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