Do you sometimes feel drained and out of ideas? Great! That means you’re a real designer. It is impossible always to stay inspired. Every designer you know loses inspiration pretty frequently and, unfortunately, that is a part of the job.
Throughout 2019, which was my start as a UX designer, I found that to remain innovative, you must continuously keep exercising or, at least, stimulating your creative muscles. So whenever someone asks you for a good idea, you will be ready to start brainstorming.
In this article, I will cover how you can remain creative for as long as possible, and what you can do to recover your inspiration.
Reconnect with the Larger Mission
I have noticed that most of the time, when I feel uninspired to work on a project, it’s because I lost touch with the broader mission. To solve this problem, I try to find a way to regain my motivation and to remember what was the thing that brought me to design for this company.
Regaining my motivation often involves spending some time to understand our users and competitors better. Casually researching users is an excellent way to remind yourself that what you are designing is not for you, but rather for someone that has a problem you intend to solve. This way, I get inspired by the humanitarian mission of the UX designer, which is to help people make use of software easier. Researching competitors, especially the ones that are better than you can provide you with a vision of what you could achieve if you continue to work hard on the current and future projects.
If users don’t motivate you that much, or if your competitors fail to inspire you, always remember why you started designing in the first place. I started designing because I always loved making things and digging deep into problems. That’s why, when stuck, I remember my love of making things. I hope you can find the reason why you design, and I am sure it can help you get out of the sticky non-creative mindset.
Feed Your Creativity
While the internet is flooded with design inspiration and other means to fuel creativity, it is kind of hard to find something that suits your expectations and standard. Here are some sources I think you could use when searching for design inspiration:
1. Browse Dribbble – a Classic Choice
Dribbble is an invaluable source of UI inspiration. Here you can find everything, from typography ideas, colors, layouts, to animations. But as with all things, it also comes with a downside – back in the day, Dribbble used to serve the purpose of sharing your work in progress with the design community. The problem with Dribbble is that these days people tend to post things that are more likely to gather views, likes, and sometimes it results in poor design quality.
Either way, it is still an excellent site for visual design inspiration from which you can borrow tons of beautiful UI samples, but always take Dribbble’s designs with a grain of salt.
2. Award Your Creativity with Awwwards
Awwwards is probably the first website on my “let’s find some inspiration” list. Seriously, what can be a better source than a showcase of the world’s best web design works? The only problem that I have encountered when seeking inspiration here was that most of the time, these websites are built on super-advanced, fancy technologies, and make use of intricate interactions that designers love. Unfortunately, most of the techniques there won’t work if you’re designing something for a wider audience, especially the folks with slower internet connections.
3. Medium – to Spark Your Thoughts
Seeking inspiration should not end with looking at visual design. A lot of great ideas and inspiring thoughts come from other sources, that are not entirely visual. Medium, for example, contains a lot of great articles about literally any topic you can imagine. You can read inspiring articles about new tech, case studies from the world’s best design agencies, and thoughts from industry leaders, like Chris Do, Pablo Stanley, Ran Segall, and other great designers. As I mentioned earlier, it is essential to keep feeding your creativity. So reading an article a day from Medium might help you out.
Did you know that the more types of input your brain receives about a particular topic, the more likely you’re to remember the information? I also believe that this can be applied when seeking inspiration. That’s why alongside articles and examples, I enjoy listening to quality podcasts – they’re essential to me, and I think you should also give some of them a try. Here is a list of some design-related podcasts I listen to today to inspire my work:
Hosted by Jason Ogle, a Senior UX Designer from National CineMedia. In this podcast, Jason talks about the ins and outs of UX and his experiences. He also invites guests to his podcast, some of which you probably heard about. I especially enjoy the episode with Seth Godin.
If listening to designers having laidback conversations about designs that include a lot of banter and some comedy is your cup of tea, then you will enjoy Design Details. It is a podcast hosted by Marshall Bock and Brian Lovin, where they talk about UX, visual design, game design, and digital products.
The Big Web Show is a podcast, where Jeffrey Zeldman, founder of A List Apart and publisher of the book Designing With Web Standards, interviews web design industry leaders and talks about content strategy, typography, user experience, front-end technology and more.
On Design Blind Date, Ran Segall, who, for me, is the most inspiring web designer on the internet, shares his insights about the web design industry, his working process, and he also interviews other incredibly inspiring and successful designers from around the world. As he claims, his goal is to help designers learn, think, and work to achieve their full potential. The format of this podcast is fun and casual. It will motivate you to build your career and business as a designer and to focus on bringing value to your clients.
Don’t Limit Yourself
Luckily, there are a lot of experienced designers who create visual designs, articles, and podcasts, which they share with the world, helping us learn from them. But to remain inspired, I think you should also broaden your horizons and consume content that is not design related.
Diversifying your sources of inspiration will help stay unbiased and will give you another point of view when trying to solve a particular problem. There are plenty of things a web designer can learn from graphic design, movies, books, and other sources, like traveling and getting to know different cultures. So when in need of inspiration, don’t just browse Dribbble shots, get creative, and do something different. Who knows, inspiration may come to you when doing something simple, like taking a walk.
Originality Kills Creativity
After a long day at the office doing research, trying to brainstorm new, unique ideas, nothing comes up. The hard work did not result in any good ideas or any ideas at all. You are feeling uninspired and thinking that maybe you are bad at design. But I think design skill is not the problem here. I think you are trying too hard to be original.
Seeking originality in design work is what kills creativity and drains every last bit of inspiration from many designers. So save yourself the pain and suffering and start stealing others’ great ideas.
For creatives, stealing is a word that sparks a lot of emotions. Most of us think that if you’re not original or innovative, you’re probably a lousy designer. In his book Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon explains that in practice, great artists and designers are most often the ones who steal, and designers, who try to be original, are often left out. There is nothing wrong with borrowing ideas if you take them correctly.
There are two ways to steal ideas:
First, is when you find a UI layout on Dribbble or a link to the webpage. Then you take this layout and make an exact copy of it with the same images and written content. Finally, you slap your company’s logo on it and call it your own. Needless to say, that’s how NOT to do it.
The second way is to collect a lot of designs from the designers and sources that you like. Then analyze the designs thoroughly, and pick the ideas you could borrow, talk to your colleagues about them. Then ask why five times and try to answer the whys with fellow designers. Lastly, take those insights and make some sketches of your remastered idea.
You can quickly notice which of these is the wrong way. So next time, when you are looking for inspiration, don’t be afraid to borrow some ideas from others. Just do it correctly.
A Final Note
Seeking inspiration and staying inspired is something that requires you to put in quite a bit of work. You can either do it by feeding your creativity with visual, written or audio content or analyze the work of the designers that inspire you. And maybe pick up some of their ideas as well. It’s not about where you look for inspiration – it’s about how willing you are to exercise your creativity daily by working on projects, learning, and enjoying the process of the work you do.