When should the search for inspiration stop?

20 June, 2011 § 0

Teachers, lecturers, peers, everybody who's anybody will tell you that the biggest, most important step in any design project is research. And this is largely, though not undeniably, true. Back in college, I wasn't quite the online research guru that I am now. The only 2 websites that I ever ran to for help were Google images and DeviantArt. And although, looking back, I realize that my visual eye was really immature, I still made it top of my class. I didn't need endless hours online, just my concept and the little visual culture I had growing in the back of my head. Things have drastically changed now. The magic word for any Google research now is "showcase", they're everywhere and they cover EVERYTHING!
So after going from little to too much visual research, I'm realizing that I should hit the brakes again. Why, you might ask? Here's the reasoning behind it:

Building the right visual culture

Good taste is acquired. It's the result of everything you see around you, from what your mother wears to the shop signs you see on your way home everyday. It defines who you are just as much as you define what it is. It is always important to remind yourself that your visual culture should focus on the smallest details just as much as on online research, international standards and trends. I believe this is one of many factors that are leading to losing our own identity. The web holds very little visual treasures on Lebanon but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be looking elsewhere.

Internet vs. books, the endless battle
I will not go into the pleasure of laying back and taking the time to go through page after page of a good book. That's not the point of this post. What I will go into is the time factor. When you're on the net, time flies. You're browsing link after link after link until you find yourself stuck in a whirlwind of eye-dazzling designs that just will not end and before you know it day is dawning. As mesmerizing as the possibilities on the internet look, you just have to know when to stop. And you also have to know that your concentration and your eye for detail are practically asleep. You save and save in neat, tidy folders on your drive, thinking that dissection is for later on. But how many times have you actually come back to those files? I know I rarely do.

The thin line between inspiration and copying
I am totally for the thought that everything is inspired from somewhere and that there's no harm in starting from where someone else has been and taking it to a whole new place. That's actually the good, effective side of research. However, I'm starting to notice that too much research leads to too much stuff looking the same. It's a fast business our business. And when you're under such tight schedules, sometimes you just can't help it. But you can take a step back, forget any inspirational trends you've been drowning into and ignite the smallest change. You can save something you don't like, something you think you can never do or something that is conceptually strong but visually poor. This can make the whole difference.

We're doing research even when we're not.

It all comes down to this. If you're a designer, you encounter daily a minimum of 5 inspirational links a day. So either skip these links for when you really need to be checking them or know how to make good use of them.

So from now on, I should probably keep the research for a later stage and start by taking a long precious moment thinking things through on my own. And I should never forget that research isn't helpful if it isn't good research. And good research involves the right time frame, the right amount of concentration and a sketchbook. I keep a tumblr account where I try my best to save things that are not design-related but still inspire me. It's always a struggle to do so but I'm making it a point every time.

P.S: Notice how much repetition there is on the first Google results page?

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