6 Designers Reveal Their Source of Inspiration & Secret to Creative Success

One day an amazing idea pops into your head and you think of how much other people would like your idea. Ideation is basically the act of bringing your idea to an experienced professional. This is the first step in creating your new product; refining your idea! But what happens before the ideation phase? How do you find a well of inspiration and conjure up new ideas?

We spoke with 6 designers and creative entrepreneurs to find out how they sourced their inspiration and tackled creative roadblocks. Read what each one had to say about finding inspiration to successfully design and create.

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 Jeff Sheldon, Founder of Ugmonk

1. What is your go-to source for creativity or inspiration?

I don’t really have one go-to inspiration source. Inspiration usually strikes at the strangest of times while doing something completely unrelated (going for a hike, mowing the lawn, taking a shower).

2. What are some tips you would give to designers stuck in a creative rut? How do you overcome these?

The first thing that usually helps is just to sleep on it. Step away for a bit and come back with a fresh set of eyes. Often times we get so close to our work that we get trapped in the details without seeing the bigger picture.

A second tip would be to show your project to a friend (designer or non-designer) and get feedback or suggestions.

Third, start a separate small personal project just for fun. Something that you aren’t getting paid for but just want to try experimenting with. This often brings back the excitement of creating and designing will can help fuel you for the other projects you are working on.

Read Jeff Sheldon’s awesome Kickstarter tips!

3. What are your creative and design goals for 2015?

My goals are just to continue refining the way I see things and to continue bringing new products to market. As a designer, I’m never 100% satisfied with my work which fuels me to always be improving and learning.

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Matthew Burnett, Co-Founder of Maker’s Row 

1. What is your go-to source for creativity or inspiration?

Museums are a great source of inspiration for me. It’s fascinating to see the ideas and product prototypes imagined by history’s greatest inventors and designers. What’s more interesting is the pure and untouched nature of those ideas that never made it to the public. Revisiting inventions of the past is a fun exercise of creative exploration. Understanding what makes the difference between a “good” product and a world-class invention is interesting.

2. What are some tips you’d give to designers stuck in a creative rut? How do you overcome these?

When I’m in a rut like that, I try to narrate a scenario where other inventors arrive at the idea of a fantastic product idea but fail to bring it to fruition. These designers weren’t necessarily failures, but simply ahead of their times like Charles and Ray Eames.

Try to stand in someone else’s shoes to free yourself from the burden of having to achieve perfection. That way you can get a chance to dissect and attack the problem objectively.

Read Matthew’s tips on putting together your startup dream team!

3. What are your creative and design goals for 2015

My goal is to connect with other creative entrepreneurs. I’d like to hear about the things that inspire them. I think it’d be interesting to learn from the dark periods in their career or times when the well of creativity has dried up.

I’m really excited about the launch of the Maker’s Row Shop and the work we’ll be doing to rebrand what “Made in America” essentially means.

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Fabian Pfortmueller, Co-Founder of Holstee Manifesto

1. What is your go-to source for creativity or inspiration? 

The best way for me to be inspired is to not work, ideally by taking a long hike or just cooking.

2. What are some tips you’d give to designers stuck in a creative rut? How do you overcome those?

I can recommend the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and specifically her approach called “Morning Pages” where you write every day at least 750 words, no matter what kind of words. It’s a really great exercise to get the creative juices flowing. Also, I always try to go offline, sketch, or write in a physical notebook when I feel stuck in front of my computer.

3. What are your creative and design goals for 2015?

Learn to say no and focus on essentials.

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Emerson Fry

1. What is your go-to source for creativity or inspiration?

Creativity and inspiration are found in nature, reading, meditation, exercise, and conversation. Quieting the mind to see all the beauty around us. On the other end of the spectrum, the web is an amazing tool that allows you to see so much so easily.

2. What are some tips you’d give to designers stuck in a creative rut? How do you overcome those?

Step away from your work. Work on a project that is totally separate for the design process. Spend more time on things you love outside of work. Do the very best you can do and be proud of that. Focus on things you love and love to do. It helps bring a new perspective. It’s only realistic to get tired at times if you are going all in.

3. What are your creative and design goals for 2015?

Quality and cost are recurring themes, but a main initiative is using more and more vegan, organic, and low impact materials while maintaining our design intent. Simple in concept, and not so much in reality. But suppliers are making more and more materials in this area so it’s pretty exciting.

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Mike Morarity, Creative Director of Stock Manufacturing Company

1. What is your go-to source for creativity or inspiration?

I like to start with a sketchpad and maybe some tea (or beer, depending) in as quiet a place as I can find. My favorite thing to do is to dig through photos and materials from old military styles and all things Chicago, as a jumping off point. Because Chicago’s fashion community is still burgeoning, at least in the field of menswear, it’s fascinating to try to work around what the quintessential Chicago style might be in the future.

2. What are some tips you’d give to designers stuck in a creative rut? How do you overcome those?

I tend to inundate myself in as many inspirational and reference materials as I can find and meditate on them without really focusing on a hard design. Envision the customer or client really hyped about what you’re delivering. What does it look like? What’s the overall feel of it? You’ll feel it when you’re pulling the thread of something. Once you get a good result, keep iterating. Deconstruct the design and reassemble it from a different angle. If all else fails, I work on a different project – something creative with fewer parameters, even if it’s just an exercise. Once I went outside and listened to birds fighting in a tree and tried to draw the shape of the sounds. I was sober.

3. What are your creative and design goals for 2015?

Lettering and graphic design never came easy to me. Every year I like to work on developing a new skill in the field, and this year I’d like to focus in particular on lettering. Other than that, working on creating a thru-line within our ever-expanding collection and making sure our design language is cohesive are very important to me this year. We’ll be debuting a few projects this year that I really had (or am still having) a blast designing, and I think that will come through clearly in the end result.

Read what the guys at Stock Manufacturing company had to say on starting a successful clothing brand!

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Melissa Lonsdale, UX Designer at Maker’s Row

1. What is your go-to source for creativity or inspiration?

I get really inspired by the success of others. Reading biographies or watching documentaries about other creative people always motivates me to work harder. I recently read the biography of Diane Arbus by Patricia Bosworth, and really fascinating to understand how Diane found and developed her niche over the course of her career.

2. What are some tips you’d give to designers stuck in a creative rut? How do you overcome those?

I love reading biographies/autobiographies, whenever I get concerned about whether or not I’m doing what I should be doing. They tend to remind me that even the most successful and admired people have had to deal with difficult times. Find a project to work on that has boundaries, material / process, or time restrictions. Sometimes a limitless blank canvas is more intimidating than anything. Also, find someone to work with. Working alone is tough, sometimes joining forces can be a great way to come up with ideas neither of you would have thought of alone.

Also, find someone to work with. Working alone is tough, sometimes joining forces can be a great way to come up with ideas neither of you would have thought of alone.

Read Melissa’s tips on organizing your product development process!

3. What are your creative and design goals for 2015?

This year my design goal is to get into the habit of making time for creative pursuits on a regular basis, even if it’s just 20 minutes a day. I’m always more inspired when I push myself to create.

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