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Posts Tagged ‘design’

How personal bias effects design

For years and years when someone asked me what music I liked I said, “Everything but country and rap.” A good friend of mine pushed me on my response one day and I finally realized that country and rap music is just another form of art that at that time I did not fully appreciate. I am not longer a punk rock snob, although I don’t listen country on a regular basis, I have a deep appreciation for the art form and its difference to the musical world. I have fallen in love with rap however.

We do the same thing in design, we have all heard it. “That design sucks!” Although most of us designers think we know and understand composition and can critique another works at lightning speed, do we really know why a design is flawed? Or is it just our own bias and perception that influence the way we critique and create design.

Popularity

Popularity, just like in high school, create copycats. Just because Facebook has three-bazillion users doesn’t actually mean that its design and composition is wonderful. I’m sure we can all find just as many wonderful compositional high points as low points (I’d root for more low points however.) Changing your header background color to solid #3B5998 to mimic Facebook will not guarantee the success of your Uncle’s Razor Scooter website.

Popular websites are destructive to the design world, but only for those designers who don’t fully understand why a popular websites design works. Facebook’s design works for many reasons but mostly because it’s form and function dance together very well. As another example, look at Web 2.0 and the rounded corner. When the rounded corner made its splash in the web world, every hip new Web 2.0 site had them, why? Because it was awesome. At the time every designer who wanted to achieve Web 2.0 (without even knowing what Web 2.0 was) would simply just copy the look and feel of a site that had achieved it. In many cases this meant implementing cool CSS tricks like rounded corners. But as more and more designers gave in to their popularity insecurities, the more and more the rounded corner became less meaningful.

Taste

I love corn on the cob, in fact, I don’t eat much corn unless its on the cob. But does this mean that ‘corn off the cob‘ is any less tasty or nutritious? Nope. It all boils down to taste. Some designers swear by dark text on light backgrounds and even work so hard to prove scientifically that it is better than the opposite. But light text on dark backgrounds can be more engaging in most cases. One is not better than the other, they both have their places in the vast world of web composition, but figuring out what compositional elements will taste better can be the hardest thing a designer ever does. The key is find out what taste your user prefers first.

If I have people coming over the house for a BBQ and I know most of them hate hot dogs, would I serve hot dogs to them just because taste wise, I KNEW they were far superior than hamburgers? Probably not, unless I was a jerk right. The point is, design is a matter of taste and one person may love your bright green text borders over your dead black background while others would say it was “stupid”, but what do your core user like? Who are your core users and what do they do on your site?

Utility

Just cause someone owns a truck doesn’t mean they are a construction worker. There is a reason why we design for familiarity but this doesn’t mean that we have to stick to stereotypes. In our minds we have a template for every genre of web design just like we have perceived musical formulas for music. We think that when we see a white background with three columns that is should be an e-commerce site. The utility of the website shouldn’t define the look and feel of it. Innovative, great design in most cases can break the utility convention.

The function of a website should marry with the form of a website, not dictate its look. This comes back to our user once again. What does our user prefer, or what will our user like? If you are creating a blog for a client, you’ll want to stick with the conventional elements of a blog, like having a sidebar with categories listing and tag indicators. These elements tell your users that they in fact reading a blog, but this doesn’t mean you have to use the formulaic two column layout with a large title header.

Closing Argument

Ironically, the websites that replicate every bias we have as designers are our wonderful design blogs we love to waste most of our days reading. Design blogs have been victim to popularity, taste and utility. Smashing Magazine is the QB of our all-state high school football team and then rest of us would really love to have the success that they have enjoyed. But the real brilliance of Smashing is its innovation. It was one of the first design blogs to really brand itself.

As designers we need to be making the interwebs better, not worse, that means trying out best to be innovative. When we are tempted to copy we need to smack our selves in the face and wake up, we need to not force feed our users designs that we think are great and next time you are working on an e-commerce project, add some freaking color!


If you liked this article, do me a favor and re-tweet it…

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Categories: Design Tags: , ,

UX Case Study: My Antique Slot Machine

12/05/2010 1 comment

When I was a kid, my Grandpa bought a couple of 1948 antique slot machines made by the Mill Novelty company. One was a quarter machine and the other was built for dimes. Every Sunday we went to Grandpa and Grandma’s house for a visit and Grandpa would always give each grand kid a roll of quarters and dimes so that we could play the slot machines. One Sunday, after spending all my dimes and quarters on the slots, I had a good idea. There was a keyhole on the back of the machine where you could take the back off and get the money out of the machine. Learning how to open locks with a bobbie-pin from the movies, I shoved a bobbie-pin in the lock on the back and broke it off, jamming the lock and rendering the antique machine useless. After a long talk from my Dad, a lot of tears and a locksmith, the machine was eventually fixed.

Before my Grandpa passed away, he gave me that old 10 cent antique slot machine because of my attempt at Casino robbery. I now have the key and can play it anytime I want. It still works great and occasionally I get a big win, but ever since I was a little kid I have never hit the jackpot, unless you count inheriting the machine itself.

Playing this Mills antique machine the other day I realized something. For being a simple machine, it has a great user experience. Through a couple of simple inputs and outputs, it manages to create anticipation, amusement, pressure, addiction and even anxiety. All the things I experienced when I was a kid that made me want to break into the back of the machine. This machine, with its very complex, mechanical inter-workings has a very simple user interface that entices and intrigues the user keeping them coming back for more.

This machine is perfect for a website/app analogy don’t you think!

The Backend

When you take the back off the machine (using the key preferably) you reveal a very complex mechanical system that blows the game Mouse Trap out of the water. Its pretty scary and amazing to look at, much like viewing the backend code of a piece of software or website.

Functions

The mechanics of the slot machine are a series of functions that build upon each other and work together when a dime is inserted and the user pulls the handle. Watching the machine process a dime with the back open is pretty interesting to watch. Before the lever is pulled, the machine must check to see if a dime has been inserted, if there is a dime present, the machine will unlock the lever for the user. After the lever is pulled a series of functions are called and executed, each function is started either by the initial pull or by the completion of another function.

These mechanical functions include:

  • Slide dime(s) down the coin slot to the collection box OR the jack pot container
  • Start spinning the all spindles
  • Stop each spindle randomly one at a time from left to right
  • Stop all spindles
  • Calculate results
  • Pay out appropriate amount of money
  • Lock lever

Along with these basic functions, there are more safety feature functions, adjustment functions and a variety of other mechanical logic functions. All these functions must work together to accomplish the machine’s task (stealing your money). This is the equivalent of scripting functions on a website by which the website processes how the user interacts with it and how the website dynamically displays information for the user.

The Frontend

The outer shell of the slot machine serves not only as a cover to disguise the complex functions that hide inside, they also make the machine appealing and inviting for the user. This is where the user gets to interface with the many moving components on the inside. This is where the user gets to experience its magic and wonder.

Structure

The over all, compact structure of the slot machine is built on a wooden foundation. All the components are contained, or wrapped inside four steel walls. These steel walls serve to keep all the parts and pieces together as well as the foundational structure of the user input, output and display components like the dime receptacle, the lever, the output slot and the spindle display windows.

The structure of the slot machine is much like the structure of a website, the HTML and CSS. The mark-up code of a website serves as the structure of the website, its determines the layout of smaller structures, the position of components and the location of user devices. The HTML and CSS should be a simple structure that props up the website and holds and hides its inter-workings. It allows the user the interact with the complex functions on the inside without having to display its functions.

Design

The main purpose of the slot machine is to make money right? To do this, the machine can’t just be a big steel box sitting on a simple piece of wood. It needs to attract the potential users and then keep them there playing for hours until all their money is gone. That’s where the sweet cherry burst design, bright colors, user friendly shape, ergonomic user inputs and spinning fruit symbols come into play. This is the skin or graphic display of a website.

The main purpose of a website is to make money right? Just like the slot machine, a website can’t just be a white screen with blue underlined links and black Times New Roman text, it also needs to attract and keep the user. This is where brilliant color schemes, enticing graphics, well placed user elements and animated displays come into play.

The Experience

Functions, structure and design all come together to create a unique, fun experience for the slot machine user. The user is attracted to the slot machine because the design promises to deliver instant winnings and in some cases big winnings all for the price of a dime. After the user drops a dime in the coin slot they are un-aware of the physical and emotional experience they will have in the next 30 seconds.

The user reaches up, grabs the lever and pulls. They instantly hear the functions fire as metal levers, gears and linkages click and clack together. The dime moves and is displayed for the user under a thin piece of glass. The spindles the hold the fruit graphics start out spinning fast and make a whirling noise that starts to build the anticipation. One at a time each spindle stops instantly revealing a fruit symbol, the slight delay between spindle stops continues to build tension and excitement. After two spindles stop, the user can compare and anticipate what the results will be by referencing the visual description of the different winning combinations on the front of the machine. After the third spindles stops and makes an audible clunking noise, the results are finally revealed and the winnings are then ejected through the machine into the little cup at the bottom. If you don’t win, then the machine just goes silent, its like a little quiet smirk the machine gives you.

Collaboration

With a few more dimes in hand, the user is now hooked on all the noises, movement and excitement the machine has created so they pull the lever a few more times. This user experience is created by seamless collaboration between structure, function and design. The user experience of a website is no different. A successful website or app needs to have a solid structure, fine tuned functions and a beautiful interface. To accomplish this complex task of creating a unique user experience, seamless collaboration between designer, developer and programmer has to occur. User experience goes much deeper than just the simple interaction the user will have. Like the slot machine, the functions, structure and design are all key parts of the experience itself.

Categories: UX Tags: , , ,

Wait… Don’t Design for the Advanced User

To often as designers and developers we focus on the sweet, slick features of our apps instead of focusing on who is gonna use they features. Complex, feature rich apps are very powerful tools and are great products, but we can’t keep designing these apps for the advanced users. Advanced users are the low percentage user of any app and they won’t keep your product a float.

Facebook, Gmail, Pandora and many other popular web apps are very complex and deep in features, but one reason why we all use them is not for there complex features but the experience that they have created.

Facebook has a sophisticated email system, a decent notes app, an event planning and invitation tool and a powerful group feature for sharing private info between group members of your choice. But the majority of users don’t use any of these things, a lot pf people don’t even know that Facebook has a grouping feature. The majority of users just use Facebook for its intended purpose, to share their status with their friends and to view their friends status’ (and to play Farmville and MafiaWars of course).

The 80/20 Rule

I call it the 80/20 rule (in general terms). Lets say that the majority of your users make up 80% of your apps demographic, this includes your first time users and your average users. The other 20% of your users are your advanced users, the people who love and use all the features of you app and understand its power.

This is a general rule, obviously these percentages don’t actually represent your users, but its a good visual concept to use as you design and attempt to guess at what your users are doing on your app.

If you think in these vague terms as you figure out what functions and features you will “feature” than you can get a better idea of which ones will best suit the largest amount of users. Facebook does this really well, the status updating widget is located at the top of your home and profile pages where the majority of the users spend their time.

The power of the 80/20 rule is that is forces you to examine what 80% of your users should or are doing. I like to break it down even further and find the three features that the 80 percenters should or are using.

Focusing your design on what the majority of your users will or are doing allows you to re-focus you attention on the user instead of the features. Features are awesome, but kind in mind that the majority of your users will not use all the features, just a few of them all the time.

Create Advanced Users

When you design, assume that every user is NOT an advanced user.

If you are just launching an app for the first time is not a assumption, this is fact, you have no advanced users yet. On a new app, focusing you attention to what 3 features will the 80% use is very crucial because this is where you will teach your users about the app and create an app culture. The purpose of any app is to keep people using the app, if you over whelm your users with a bunch of features from the get go, then you will scare them off and intimidate them.

You can’t teach somebody math by jumping into Linear Algebra, you have to start with the basics functions first, but this can be tricky because you can assume that most you your users are not new to web apps. The best way to teach a user without making them feel dumb is to focus your feature set, this way the user can jump in and start using the app and then when they get brave they can discover the other features as they wish. The design goal for your new app should be centered around creating advanced users not designing for advanced users.

If you are re-designing an existing app that already has a large user base the same rules apply. The most appropriate thing to do though is find out exactly what users are doing in your app. Don’t just assume that all users are using all the features, you may discover that a lot of your regular users, the ones you consider advanced users, are not advanced users at all. They may just be using your app for a few of its main features. I am a regular Gmail user, but I only use it to email, I rarely use it to set up tasks or to manage my calendar.

Keep that in mind as you re-design. The real struggle with re-designing an app that already has a user base is not to disrupt the app culture that had been created. In some cases, you must change the culture if the culture is bad and is the reason why you are re-designing, but most of the time you want to maintain the cultural aspects and user workflow of the app.

The key here is design for both the 80 and the 20. Keep the advanced features available but also provide simple, easy methods for the first time or average user. Remember that you still need to be creating advanced users, just because you already have them doesn’t mean you don’t need more of them.

An App that has Everything

Look, if features where that reason why people did something then why doesn’t somebody just come up with one app that does everything, that allows me to check my email, manage tasks, socialize with my friends, listen to the radio, watch the latest viral video, buy e-books, plan my vacation to Yellowstone and teach me how to fly fish (I know, Google is trying).

The reason we can’t just have one giant app that does everything is because people don’t really care about the features, they care about how they access the features. If an app could really do all these things there would be no user friendly way to access them, unless of course the app could Jedi mind trick you and read your mind.

Besides the Magic 8 Ball, apps can’t read the users mind, so focusing your app on its purpose and designing your app centered around what the user is doing is important to the over all success and usability of the app. People are more likely to use multiple apps that focus on a particular feature then use an app that tries to be all things to all people.

A car is used to carry a few people from place to place, a truck is used to carry lots of stuff from place to place and a bus is used to carry lots of people form place to place. But its not a good idea to combine the three into some multi-functional car-truck-bus that can carry 50 people and 2 tons of lumber at 42 miles per gallon, it just doesn’t make sense. It would be pretty cool though.

The Moral of the Story

Don’t design for the advanced user, design for the creation of advanced users.

Categories: UX Tags: , , ,

Mobile Design Presentation – Code Jam 11/9/10

Here is my Mobile Design presentation I did at Code Jam #2, November 9th, 2010. The main focus of the presentation was designing a mobile website and designing a native app.

Code Jam Presentation on Mobile Design

Mobile Design – Code Jam – 11/9/10

Things to remember when designing for mobile:

  • Think Mobile First
  • Design for the user and not the features
  • Pare down functions to core interactions
  • Use larger buttons and fonts
  • Design for gestures not mouse-overs (use textures, gradients and other elements to guide user)
  • Reduce clutter and non-important content
  • Content is navigation
  • Keep plenty of space between items (fingers aren’t precise)
  • Avoid bright, obnoxious colors
  • Remember your brand
  • Take advantage of already designed native UI
  • Use both orientations, don’t forget them either
  • Don’t forget the launcher icon!

My Web Super Heros

I sit in front of my TweetDeck all day and receive tweets from awesome web people. Awesome people who have tons of experience and knowledge in web design, UI design, development and programming.

These people are the ones who get me excited to come to work and expand my knowledge, they have more influence on me and my career than any college professor I had or any other web professional out there in the web quagmire (that’s the word of the day, everybody scream!) I’m gonna share these people with you. If you are someone who follows the interwebs regularly, you have probably heard of most of these people, if not, here you go. They are listed in no particular order..

Jeffrey Zeldman

Every time my Growl alert pops up and I see that blue beanie in the corner of my display I pause whatever I am doing to read Zeldman’s latest tweet. Some times the tweets are funny, some times they share good articles, but most of the time they are just way over my head. The problem with reading Zeldman’s tweets is that most of the time I have to do some research to figure out what he is referencing or talking about. This is awesome though. Zeldman’s tweets force me to learn and expand my web knowledge is ways that I never have. He’s like own Yoda of sorts. ‘Better web design you must.’

I first saw and heard Zeldman on 5by5’s The Big Web Show, episode number two, when he was interviewing Jeremy Keith the author of HMTL5 for designers (which I still don’t own and haven’t read yet). I was hooked on who and what Zeldman represented for web design. During the show I added him to my twitters and the rest is history.

Zeldmman manages zeldman.com where he shares his brilliant web ideas with the world through blog posts and conversation. He is the founder of Happy Cog and is most famos for his book on web standards called Designing with Web Standards. Zeldman is also the co-founder of An Event Apart, the best multi-city web design convention ever, and A Book Apart with Eric Meyer (he’s further down on the list.)

Jason Santa Maria

My freaking favorite web designer ever. If only I could just copy his style and get away with it. Jason Santa Maria is great on so many levels. He is great at bringing typography to the web in beautiful form. He designs information that is pure and readable. He lays out content in brilliant, simple and elegant ways so that it is usable and easy to navigate.

The average web surfer has used his designs on many occasions. I used dictionary.com (and its family of products) for years, and up until a few months ago I never knew that Jason Santa Maria was designer. He also has a really great portfolio that I have used in the past to inspire me as I go through the design process if I get stuck or if I am just bored with design.

Jason is the founder of a the design studio Mighty and is the creative director for A List Apart and Typekit and the co-founder of A Book Apart. Some of is design include; Happy Cog, A List Apart, Objectified, The Chicago Tribune, Dictionary.com, They Might Be Giants and much, much more.

Luke W

Luke W is a little green man that spreads the word of web design and usability across the world. Okay, he’s not really a little green man even though that’s his avatar, but he does spread the word of better web design and usability across the world. I was introduced to Luke W on somebodies design blog where I heard his presentation on Web Form Design in Action. I had a class on interaction design in college, but that class lacked any real education on the subject. After hearing Luke W present on designing web forms, I started to understand what interaction design really was. From there I started learning more about usability, a lot from other Luke W presentations. He was the first web ‘dude’ who really struck a cord with me on the importance of user centered design.

Luke W is an entrepreneur and the co-founder of Stealth Start-up. He was the Chief Design Architect at Yahoo! and was the Lead User Interface Designer at Ebay. Luke also does amazing presentations on web design, user interaction and usability at a variety of web conferences all over the world.

Elliot Jay Stocks

Surfing the design magazines one day I came across a site called neutroncreations and I was blown away by the design. I was like, “man, who designed this freaking site?” For some reason this site jumped out at me, maybe its because up to that point I had never seen anybody use typography and background images real well. Plus I had never seen anybody use content blocks and offset grid patterns in that fashion before. The layout was cool and it’s unique in that the layout changes ever so slightly between pages. Not enough to freak your senses out and make it unusable, but just enough to make you interested. After perusing this site I found out that Elliot Jay Stocks and Tim Van Damme were the masterminds behind the design.

Seeing more of Elliot’s work I really started to see a real original style developed in his work. It seems that most designer and developers love to recycle and not take the necessary risks to break the mold and create original designs. His use of background images blew me away, nobody uses background images, that’s so crazy! Plus, my professors had drilled it into my head that you NEVER use background images because it destroys load times. Well, now I know that they had no idea what they were talking about. Its not the image that destroys load times… its the method. I appreciate Elliot’s designs because he likes to push the boundaries and conventions of web design, which is just awesome. He’s not your father’s web designer, if that makes any sense.

Elliot currently tweets from London. He is the author of the popular SitePoint book Sexy Web Design, an extremely good illustrator, and the slayer of the “Web 2.0” look (thank goodness.) Elliot is also a musician known as Sourhaze, which makes me like and appreciate him even more.

Janko Jovanovic

Jankoatwarpspeed is pretty freaking sweet. It’s like a free college course on web design and usability, except you actually learn valuable stuff. Janko writes on everything UI from the ideological theories behind the human mind and how people react psychologically to the web, to the the practical side of just making things work better for users. If you want references for UI Design Patterns or know why you users aren’t sticking around, Janko will have the answer for you, not just the answer though, the reason why and the solution. In the world of web design and development there are a lot of ideas, some proven and most unproven. Jankoatwarpspeed is a practical blog that will not only show you if something works or doesn’t work, but he will tell you why. Janko is huge into Javascript and the Jquery library, I didn’t know that you could do so much with it. He shows you how to use Jquery to make your web pages sing with usability delight. Plus, its one of the most unique and coolest web sites I’ve been to.

Besides publishing Jankoatwarpspeed, he is also an artist and painter, go check out his flickr photostream. Janko has also published a lot of free UI and design tools like the Sketching&WireframingKit and HandyIcons, and if you are zipping around from design blog to design blog you’ll so more of his free designer tools pop up here and there.

Eric Meyer

CSS Guru. I use Guru because ‘Ninja’ is so overused and trite. Eric Meyer is a Bill Gates look a like who is one the foremost experts in Cascading Style Sheets and one of the rare individuals who have moved the web into a better place as a whole. I first found out about Eric after picking up his book CSS: The Definitive Guide. Then I realized that I had already owned his CSS Pocket Reference. If you ever want to learn CSS, learn it from Eric, either through his speaking engagements, his many books and articles or his blog where he throws in some of his own thoughts as well. And he has some great free tools on CSS, design and WordPress for you to use.

Eric Meyer is the editor and co-founder of A List Apart and the co-founder of An Event Apart and a founding member of Global Multimedia Protocols Group. He has written the best CSS books in business and pretty much every designer has purchased and owns his books.

New Goal – Design Everyday

I recently re-read “Design Something Everyday” by Jad Limcaco in Smashing Magazine. I read it along time ago when it was first published back in December 09 and I thought to myself, “Yep, I’m gonna do that. Its gonna make me an awesome designer!” Then I never did it. I am gonna take the pledge now that I will do this. I am gonna use this blog to help me meet my goal. My new goal is to do this everyday for 30 days (not the articles recommendation of 365 days) so by December 3rd I won’t even think about it. I’m gonna set up a category titled “Practice is Perfect” and I will be posting my designs there for all the world to see, or at least just the one reader, if there is one reader. Not only will posting my daily practice on this blog help me to get my design practice on, it will also get to post stuff. 2 birds with one stone, err, post.

The Basic Idea

The article challenges all designers to design something everyday, not some big project but just something small on a daily basis. Its like practice. To make a stereotypical sports analogy, if you hit the gym everyday and work on the fundamentals, when it comes game time you won’t need to think about it, you’ll just do it. The idea is that by practicing design on a daily basis, your ‘real’ projects will reflect that practice and you’ll be ore inspired and less likely to get bogged down in design decisions. The article continues to explain a couple important keys to taking your daily dose of design.

  • Just take a few minutes, 15-30 minutes or so will do.
  • Theme design ideas or focus your practice designs on particular concept, say typography.
  • Be accountable. They recommended starting a blog to help out (kind of like this one, except I will just use a category to stay focused)

A couple more things that I think will help me stay motivated through my 30 day experiment is to set aside the same block of time everyday and to make sure that I make rational design choices and keep practice simple. If I set aside the same time everyday then I will be able to remember to practice. This will help me to create the design habit, sort of like brushing your teeth every morning. Plus, just like practice should be, I won’t have to think about it, I’ll just do it. The second thing added to the list, rational choices, means that what ever design ideas I choose I need to keep them simple and to the point. I need to make sure that they are not long Illustrator tutorials that take 3 hours or something crazy like that, keep practice simple.

What To Do

So, like the article says, I need to pick a theme or a concept that I need to work on or to keep me motivated. I’ve thought about a lot of things from learning Illustrator better to just sketching something everyday. But I want something more specific, something that I will be able to do that will make me a better designer and something that will keep me on track and motivated. I have decided that over the next 30 days I will practice my design chops by (insert drum roll here) sketching a new web or mobile wire frame everyday.

I will pick a type of website or mobile app or concept and wire frame it out either by sketch or laptop. As a wanna be UX designer, this type of practice will not only help me with design in general, but it will also allow me to start seeing thing on a more macro level, a user centered level. Most of the time at work I am focused on the look n’ feel layer of the design process and I am busy pushing pixels around. Spending some time everyday to wire frame new ideas and will hopefully allow me start looking at the design process on a deeper level.

So tomorrow I will embark on my daily design journey and I hope I don’t fail. I have never been very good at achieving goals or changing habits so this will be a struggle for me. I will spend about 20 minutes every morning for the next 30 days wire framing my heart out and who knows, maybe I’ll come up with that great web idea that will change the world! Ya, like that will happen.

In the immortal words of one of the greatest shooting guards ever, “Practice? We’re taking about Practice?”

You Too

Hey you, my one reader. Ya you. I think you should do this too. Make your own goal and figure out how your gonna keep yourself motivated to design something every day for the next 30 days. If you want, share it with me and we can help each other stay motivated.

In Reference:

Design Something Everyday by Jad Limcaco

Finding Inspiration

So I ask you… When you need inspiration, where do you go?

I had a professor tell me once that there is no such thing as writer’s block. Great writers just write, they don’t need some artificial form of inspiration.

I’m not sure whether I believe this or not, but I have often wondered, if there is no such thing as writer’s block then maybe there is no such thing as designer’s block. Which scares me a little because I have had my moments where I had nothing, moments where my mind was blank. Luckily for me I have never long periods of not being able to think of anything, I usually can by some time until something strikes. Sometimes it has been something I have seen while surfing the web or a blog post I have read that jolts my brain.

To say there are a lot of blog posts written to spark inspiration in designers is like saying there is a lot of salt in the ocean. Its countless, you could print out and line up all the blogs posts on design inspiration, add this one to the end, and be able to touch the moon. My problem with inspirational design posts is that when you actually look at them you start to see the same designs over and over again. Literally the same designs. There isn’t a web design inspiration blog post out there that doesn’t highlight or talk about MailChimp. Don’t get me wrong, MailChimp is awesome, but this creates a problem for designers. As designers we are supposed to be creative, we are supposed to create new, fresh looking designs and concepts. What these types of posts do is create cookie cutter websites because they offer no new inspiration, just recycled ideas, like the idea that every Web 2.0 site has rounded corners. These types of inspirational posts breed copycats and only serve to make trends, not spark innovation.

So I ask you… When you need inspiration, where do you go?

If only a writer could cure himself of writers block by reading more books. Original thought, like original design is hard to come by and it takes time, effort, practice and failure before you have that Billy Joel “In the Middle of the Night” moment of clarity. I for one have never woken up in the middle of the night with a brilliant design idea, usually its just to go pee. I have however had moments of clarity and trying to recreate these moments is like chasing your tail. These moments for me have never come from trolling design websites looking for inspiration, in my case they have usually come after working on a project for a while or even speaking with someone else about the project. It seems to me that my inspiration comes more from doing, not looking.

When I get stuck on a project or a design I have learned that if I want to quickly copy somebody I’ll hit the design blogs, but if I truly want to create something meaningful I will start working, start sketching, start wire framing, start typing or just start doing something. A lot of the time I never have a moment of clarity, but I have a moment of sheer adequacy where my average idea becomes something that will work, not something that will alter someones life. That’s okay too, I think sometimes the average ideas are like doors on a car, they’re not as important as the steering wheel or the motor but there function is still important to the overall safety and security of the vehicle. Unless of course you are Bo or Luke Duke.

So I ask you… When you need inspiration, where do you go?

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