Dealing with inspiration overload

There are times when I come to work and get sucked into the vortex of Design P*rn.

There, I said it!

Before you judge me, I’m not a pervert.

I’m a designer. A designer who is in love with the craft of other designers on platforms like Dribbble and Behance.

I’m someone who looks for ways to learn from other people. Observe their art. Find inspiration from their work so hopefully, I can do mine better. There are times that I stalk people and devour their work to understand current trends or how they solved varied kind of design problems.

It gives me a high. Like no other.

Okay, I lie. There are other things as well but you would have to corner me for a chai some time. But, there are days when few hours would have passed and I did nothing but to flip gorgeous layouts.

That’s the vortex that I was talking about.

Dealing with inspiration overload

When the browsing frenzy is over, I always kick myself in the butt (rhetorically) for being a lousy designer. I start comparing myself to their beautiful art, thinking – ‘why can’t my craft be like that?’, ‘when would I get to produce such brilliant work?

Wait, there’s more.

I also kick myself in the butt thinking why did I put in so much time observing whereas I could have spent those precious hours working on my craft. To make mistakes. Maybe, to push myself to create alternative versions of whatever I was working on. But, that’s hard work, you know.

Observing is easier.

But, in my saner times, I do think what kind of designer would I be if I wasn’t swimming in other people’s designs all the time? Not getting loaded on the beautiful sugary design calories and eventually suffering from the inspiration overload.

Yes! Inspiration overload

A tiny tingling sensation in your brain that makes you chase the latest trends. So that you can mouth off and sound…wait for it…legendary in front of your colleagues. I believe FOMO drives the constant search for trends and patterns. God forbid, if we were to miss out on some design fad, we wouldn’t be great designers then, right? NOT.

I agree that there are huge upsides for creative observation. It indeed makes us better — story for some other day.

But, I also get shit scared about the downside. Would I lose my voice? My originality? My signature style? I wonder if my work would end up looking like a banal mix of other great designers. An impostor to be precise.

I know creative inspiration is a great thing. In the famous words of Steve Jobs – Great artists steal. And Austin Kleon wrote a whole book on it- How to steal like an artist? Can you believe it?

So I understand great ideas are built on other ideas. But, where does one draw the line? Shouldn’t the work have my signature style? Like Da Vinci, Michelangelo or Sir Jony Ive.

There are days that I go cold turkey to avoid getting any inspiration but I know that isn’t right either. One just has to control their inspiration searching frenzy which causes the overload.

Are you kidding me? Since when inspiration became a problem?

No, it’s not. You might be missing the point.

There’s nothing wrong when you draw inspiration from others. What’s disturbing is the bypass of real groundwork.

The logic behind inspiration should be to go out, find another angle to it, find the right reasons, sprinkle your charm and authenticity to it, and get some shit done. Reach for the stars, don’t succumb to what others think or do.

I know, easier said than done! *rolls eyes in disbelief*

Solutions, anyone?

Although, I feel I am not the right person to give solutions because I am a sufferer myself. But I like to think that I have some ideas.

  • Before going out seeking inspiration, experiment a lot. Force yourself to think divergent ideas for the problem that you are working on. How about 3 design ideas for everything you work on before seeking help?
  • Never let inspiration from the Dribbble/Behance be your only source.
  • Albert Einstein once said: “We know less than one-thousandth of one percent of what nature has to reveal to us.” Nature is an endless source of inspiration. Find your spark and grab it.
  • Become self-aware of why someone inspires you. Ask yourself — “What did this person do that looks so inspiring to me?”  Understanding such nuances help you restrict the inspiration overload.

I have just four personal recommendations, I would be glad if you could add on to it so that others might benefit from it as well.

I hope this inspires you! 😉 *pun-intended*

More power to you!

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