As someone who makes visual things, I have always sought inspiration from the creative world. Whether it was whilst doing art at school and later animation at University, or — more recently — for web design.
One piece of advice has always stuck with me: keep your range of inspiration diverse.
So I have, turning to art, photography, design, architecture, animation, film, fashion and (occasionally) music in my search for an idea. This can take the form of trips to galleries, flicking through books and blogs, and practice.
The trouble is, it can be easy to fall into the trap of looking in awe at pretty things. When this happens, the opportunity to analyse what works and evaluate how this can inform our own practice is lost. Rather than feeling inspired, it can leave us questioning our abilities — “can I ever be this good, their work seems so effortless…”
This summer I found a new source of inspiration. London 2012.
From Danny Boyle’s immense opening ceremony I was hooked. Olympic coverage was ever-present on our TV. I watched the men’s cycling road race as it passed through Putney. Tickets to to the Paralympics for Athletics and Wheelchair Basketball on my birthday was a personal highlight. Living in London, just being here, the atmosphere was electric.
I enjoyed watching the competition, the British triumphs and the near misses. That’s not what inspired me though. Having just turned 30, I am very unlikely to replicate their achievements at a high level in any sport.
What did inspire me is the dedication of the athletes. You can see it in their emotions after competing. Many are raw, having given their all to an event that may only last a few minutes.
The athletes who made it to London 2012 work harder and train longer than anyone else in their respective sports. In Outliers Malcolm Gladwell suggests that practice (about 10,000 hours) is a good indicator of likely success. It may be a cliché, but — amongst other things — each athlete got to London 2012 by going that extra mile.
Seeing this had an impact. It encouraged me to try a little harder when designing and writing code, to commit to ideas that took me out of my comfort zone, to push my projects further. My work this summer has undoubtedly been better for it, and I’ve been happier with the results.
London 2012 has to be one of the most inspiring experiences of my life.
It has made me re-evaluate what I consider to be inspirational, and I realise now that I hadn’t diversified my sources enough in the past.
The creative work of others is just one possible facet of inspiration, and is still is an important one for me; however it must be used with care to avoid becoming a burden. Remember why your looking at the work, and objectively evaluate it within that context.
Most importantly though, keep an open mind…
Inspiration can manifest itself in different forms.
What inspires you?