Don't be distracted by inspiration

Fred Yates

Every designer is inspired by something somewhere. Most of us have been known to say that you can find inspiration in anything. While I do believe in this mindset, being inspired does not always equate to producing successful design. As my experience grows I find this to be the case more and more.

Take the following image, for example

inspiration blog post

I was tasked with making a surfer themed site. Fun, fresh, light and airy. I had recently seen a cross-section landscape design on dribbble and wanted to replicate this in a slightly less realistic manner. I spent a good amount of time going down this path because I really loved the image that I was inspired by.

In the end I realized two very important things that I should have noticed much sooner. I was so transfixed with this seemingly great inspiration that I was unable to come to this realization quickly.


The first thing I noticed: I was not going to be able to recreate a design as good as the inspiration. This is very often the case since it’s very easy to be inspired by amazing work. In fact, I’m rarely inspired by work that I can recreate at an equal quality or better. While it’s great to strive for better results and to continually improve your skills, we need to be careful of getting blinded by this goal.

Appropriate Style

The second thing I noticed: The style I was experimenting with was not going to be appropriate or successful for the site we were designing. Sure it looked cool and was a fun illustration to work on but in the end something much more basic would have been a smarter and better route. As your work is evolving, if you can’t realize its success or failure potential you need to take a step back and really think about what you’re doing.

The final result

inspiration post

In the end we completely changed the design and Kevin came up with a very relaxed, simple look that was very well accepted and we think is going to serve the client nicely. If I had been more strict about realizing the design’s potential it would have saved us a day or two in design time. That time wasn’t exactly wasted because it did help us realize the correct path to take, but it could have been done much sooner with a clearer outlook.

How to avoid this

The next time I’m heavily inspired by a certain piece and I really want to try doing something similar I plan on taking a long, hard look at the practicality of the idea. I’m going to try and envision the best possible result I could create stemming from the inspiration. Will this best possible result add value to the design? Will it fill the project needs? I think evaluating an idea before trying to execute it is key. Once I’ve started the actual design it consumes me and I just want to keep at it until it works (regardless of whether it has potential to actually succeed or not).

All in all, it’s just important to keep a clear head and not get swept away by grandiose dreams of designing the next amazing thing. Be inspired but make sure the inspiration is pertinent or can transform into useful output.

Here’s some awesome inspiration to close out with. It’s by far the funnest thing I’ve seen and participated in on dribbble. Find something that inspires you but remember not to get consumed by it.