Design Inspiration or Random Ideation?

Indian Design Society
3 min readMay 20, 2020

The art and analysis behind creating ‘something new’

Behind every good design is a carefully curated (read complex) design process. Behind the design process are relatively simple and potentially problem-solving mini-steps. Objectively speaking, design inspiration is one of those mini-steps we deem necessary to motivate us to kickstart this process. Yet this ‘inspiration’ is a word of many possibilities and perceptions. In today’s age of information, it can be narrowed down to a tiny idea or expanded enough to accommodate an entire concept; it can be a hypothesis of the mind or a vivid semblance of handcrafted art.

As for random ideations, we all are familiar with tales of designers explaining how their best works were not the outcome of an extensive process but the result of a random thought that made them ‘see’, in vivid clarity, the final design outcome.

If we were to build a case between inspiration and randomness, the oddity won’t be in what or how we consume as inspiration but how much of what we consume before we start forming biased opinions and losing the originality of our style. The question is how different our work process would be if the step is eliminated? Or if it benefits us in creating ‘something new’?

It depends upon the problem

At its core, Design is a sum of problem, idea, and a solution. The explanation is simple. You (or your client) encounter a problem, try to collect relevant data and think around it, and design the aptest solution that fits the problem. Imagine a process where you find a problem, google your way around it, and end up finding if not the aptest, the most appropriate solution to your unique problem. Your mind is already bursting with ideas to customize this ‘hypothetical solution’ to suit your unique problem. That act of googling was equivalent to taking a design inspiration.

In other words, inspiration can be just a library of solutions belonging to other unique, but similar, problems we can scroll through.

Originality is a perception, inspiration a part of the thought process.

No solution is unique though. It is an improvement on someone else’s ideas or as TS Elliot once said, “All the great creative minds use other people’s ideas as a start.” Creating from scratch is a rare, few-times-in-a-century act. The rest of us are optimizing, and that’s probably as close we will get to ‘newness’. The question is whether you chose to place inspiration as a motivating factor or actively use it as part of your design process. The latter is when an inspiration ends and biasedness begins. But if originality is just a perception, how do we go about creating a design that carries the appeal of being experimental, fresh and very different?

Ideas come in all shapes and sizes…

Cutting off design inspiration from your design process cannot be a motivation but sure can make a difference if you have felt that you haven’t created something innovative in a long time. But ideas and motivations can come from anywhere- yes even from that graffiti down the street!

Stimulating peer conversations on design, self-exploration, researching well on the design brief before inception- all lead to personal growth as a designer and thus result in innovative, original ideas. For once, we have to try breaking free from our comfort zones and step into the uncertainty of not knowing about the final art direction. The artwork will be different.

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