One of the things I enjoy most about being a Web designer is my peers. I’ve thought about it quite a bit, and I’m hard pressed to find another industry in which you find such consistent inspiration. I don’t mean inspiration in the form of design galleries or blog posts, I mean inspiration from within the people I talk to every day.
I sincerely doubt that you’ve come across a fellow [Web] designer who talks about his job as though it only pays the bills. I find that extremely endearing about our industry. We’re all here by choice, and apart from unavoidable frustrations found in everything, we love what we do.
People in our industry are often overly inspired to a fault, resulting in becoming burnt out. The trouble lies with inspiration. We’re often so inspired in the daily goings on, we’ll become burnt out before knowing it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been super excited to work on a project, only to be itching to work on anything else by the time a push to launch comes about. It’s not because the project became less interesting, not because the client bipolar’d himself on to my “Ugh” list, but because I put everything I’ve got into it for weeks on end and it eventually runs out, no matter how devoted you are.
Retain your inspiration
I’ve thought a lot about my inspiration lately. I can’t say for sure that I’ve got any solid, noteworthy results for myself, but I can say that both SuggestRSS and jchristopher.me are a direct result. I’d like to chat a bit about how I’ve approached things lately, in hopes that it strikes a chord somewhere.
When I speak about inspiration here, I won’t be focusing on design inspiration per se, I mean the inspiration to have fun with your work and enjoy it. That is to say, I won’t touch on having design block on a current project and give a list of the Top 10 Sites and Galleries I Use for Inspiration. In fact, that note right there brings up my first suggestion.
Look in new places
There’s plenty of inspiration flooding the Web at any given time. Whether it’s a design article from the people you look up to, or something you randomly stumbled upon, it’s almost trivial to find a new article that gets you thinking about Web design in a slightly different way.
That’s all well and good, but lately I’ve started to get inspiration from different sources, and it’s downright addictive. If you’ve got creative interests outside of Web design, focus on them and keep the Web out of it.
I’ve been devoting a lot more time to studying photography over the past year or so. I’ve been studying not only the art of shooting a photo, but the science behind it as well. On top of that I’ve made an active effort to talk to other photographers (Kevin and P.J.) specifically about photography and photography only, without the conversation turning to the Web, with both being designers themselves. Not only because they know more than me and that’s one of the best ways I like to learn, but also because it inspires me to go out and take more photos, to try to better what skill I have.
Another place I’ve been gathering inspiration is Xbox. That’s right, Xbox! There is some really slick design work in video games, tie that in with the experience of playing and your creative can go into overdrive. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll already know that I’m a huge fan of DiRT 2. Not only is the game itself (rally racing) wicked fun, everything right down to the menus look great. On top of that, Codemasters integrated the soundtrack in a really neat way that gets you excited to race. The menus in that game, for one reason or another (and hard as it is to see) actually had a bit of an effect on the design of jchristopher.me.
The final outlet I’d like to touch on is super generic and probably obvious, but the other place I’ve been gathering much of my inspiration is away from the computer. As a result of an entire series of circumstances in my personal life, work and design took a huge back seat for nearly two months. There were events both good and bad that helped provide an entirely new perspective on things for me personally, and that became inspirational over time. I think what I mean to say is that one of the most inspirational things you can do is get out and live life, as cliché as that sounds. People, circumstances, situations, and surroundings can be tremendously inspirational in the strangest of ways. The point to the anecdote, though, is that I found inspiration through prevention. Not living and breathing Web design helped me to enjoy it more once things settled down and got back on track.
Outside unconventional outlets for inspiration, there are some that remain more tied to the industry itself.
Actively ignore the junk, because there’s lots
Quit looking at “CSS” design galleries. Seriously. Take other designs for what they’re worth, but unless you want to get away with blending in and at the same time do nothing for your personal growth, peruse them in your free time, not to jump start your creative. I do feel there can be inspiration gathered from these sites, but little more than checking out what trends and novelties have filtered through the entire spectrum of Web designers.
Along those lines: push the linkbait, “Top 13”, design trend, monetary-inspired articles as far away as possible. Those pieces exist for little more than click-through percentage boosts and hitting the front page of Digg. What good is that to you? There’s a very fine line between information and linkbait, and it’s very important that you’re critical of everything you read. In my opinion, there’s quite a bit of junk out there, all backed by a lot of “leading” design sources. That’s not the place to find inspiration.
As closure to this section, one of the most important things to do is surround yourself with the proper people all the while doing what you can to remove yourself from The Others. I mean in person, not virtually. I’m also not speaking about strictly other Web designers either, I mean in general. People are extremely influential, and it doesn’t take much for the Human Factor to completely throw you off. I don’t mean to suggest playing favorites, being outwardly rude, or anything along those lines. I just mean to say that the people around you directly effect you, no matter how focused or introverted you may be.
If you’re surrounded by those with an equal interest and investment in Web design, you won’t be able to help yourself from becoming inspired. Not only are you provided valuable insight, you’re provided a new angle, which is super important.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Stress and anxiety are by far the quickest inspiration killers for me. Do what you can to let as much slide off your back as possible, especially if you’re in a position where there’s a lot going on outside design work itself. If you’re a freelancer, this may not apply as much, but if you work within a company of people, it’s probably a different story.
I’m not saying stop caring. I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is that everything is not an emergency, don’t make rash decisions on the spot because you’ve got a lot on your plate.
When working within a company there’s not only the general day-to-day activity going on, but there’s also company strategy, client issues, deadlines, concurrent projects, and email to deal with. Even if your company is well structured and you’re low in the ranks, things will absolutely come up at some point, no matter how big the company is.
Inspiration can be delicate, so be nice
I think the big Take Home lesson I’ve learned throughout the past few months is that my inspiration can be fragile; it doesn’t take a whole lot to throw everything off track for the day. There are things, however, that can be done to ensure that inspiration-destroying bits of life can be pushed the wayside until it’s appropriate to handle. There’s nothing wrong with that; hop in low gear and ride it out.