Design Inspiration – How to Find Your Muse

Kelsey Hodgson

January 4, 2013

We’ve all been there. Sitting at our desk staring into the abyss, wondering why our muse decided to take a day (or week or month) off, leaving us with no artistic design inspiration.

When I’m creatively stumped, it’s usually because I’m over thinking it. I’m trying to create something revolutionary that will change the world and cause minds to implode from its sheer awesomeness!

However, waiting on that divine inspiration to come solely from within your own mind is like trying to hitch a pop-up trailer to your 10-year-old minivan without anyone helping you. #badmemories

Inspiration can come from anywhere if you keep your eyes open. Perhaps your muse is hiding. So find her. You just need to know where to look.

• Be a bookworm: In college, the head of the Graphic Design Department would always ask us which book we were currently reading (his office was literally filled to the ceiling with books). I’m not talking just design books either, any kind of read was welcome. The key is to keep learning.

Chat it up: Take a break from staring at the computer screen and start a conversation with your coworker, your friend, your barista or even the guy in the elevator. Socializing is a perfect way to turn on the ol’ light bulb.

• Subscribe to magazines: I’m more than a little obsessed with Communication Arts. HOW Magazine and Print are also fantastic. While flipping through their pages or scrolling through their interactive content on your tablet, your muse is sure to appear and essentially spoon-feed you the inspiration you crave in the form of flavorful design trends and tantalizing bites of art.

• Be an art snob: When I studied abroad in Italy, we visited museums for several hours every day. While you may not have access to the Uffizi or ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, it doesn’t mean you can’t reference fine art from centuries ago—if you think that it can’t help you solve a modern design problem, you are wrong my friend.

Take your mind for a stroll: Whether you take a break to daydream or you’re dozing off at night, write your ideas down. I keep a notepad on my nightstand for those fantastic ideas that my muse whispers in my ear right as I’m drifting off. If I don’t write them down, I fall into slumber and forget what I was so jazzed about.

• Surf the Internet: This is a given, but sites such as Pinterest or design blogs are the first places I go when I’m scraping the bottom of the idea barrel. I personally have a massive board dedicated to graphic design.

• Venture outdoors: No matter if you’re seeing cityscapes or you’re in Big Sky Country, inspiration can easily strike in the form of urban graffiti, eye-catching billboards or pristine horizons – go on a drive, look out your window, walk your city, take a hike.

• Pick up a pencil: Save those old sketchbooks, fill those current ones, and stock up on those blank ones! Never stop sketching. You can see how far you’ve progressed by going through old sketchbooks and your former self may be able to inspire the present you. There’s something about a pen and paper that gets those juices flowing better than any computer can.

If you know where to look, your muse will return, and those great design ideas will come pouring out as your artistic equilibrium returns to normal.