Inspiration is something that I think any creative person occasionally struggles with. I recently traveled to California and at my first stop, Yosemite National Park, I immediately felt inspired and humbled by all the amazing things surrounding me. I thought about all that we can learn from nature and how it relates to what I’ve learned in my career so far. The following 13 photos and accompanying thoughts on designing are things I wish I could have told a younger me, things I still have to remind myself of, or things I wish I could have (or would have) told people I’ve met along the way.
1. STAY HUMBLE
You’re not one of the largest living things on the planet and you don’t know everything. Stay humble and learn what you can from those around you.
2. BE OVERWHELMED
Glacier Point — Yosemite National Park, CA
Some projects have such great potential that it can be really exciting. Go with it.
3. WATCH FOR BULLies
Road Block on the way to Stump Meadow — Sequoia National Forest, CA
Sometimes you’ll work with people who will treat you like a little design puppet, as if you have no thoughts or feelings of your own. These people can be extremely arrogant, hypocritical, ungrateful, and a lot of other things that I probably shouldn’t type out in here. Try not to let them get the best of you.
4. DO IT YOUR WAY
The Jeremiah O’Brian at Pier 45 — San Francisco, CA
There are lots of different kinds of boats and they all float. Everyone has their own way of doing things and their own process. Sketching, talking to yourself, expecting ideas to come in the shower, or whatever else works for you… go with it.
5. KNOW THERE ARE UPS AND DOWNS
View from the top of Lombard Street — San Francisco, CA
There will be amazing days when you’re feeling like the most creative person ever. There will be rough days when you feel like a kid with crayons might come up with something better. Days when your client’s feedback makes alcoholism sound like a good life plan. You’re a creative cat though so you can totally make it through all the ups and downs. Try to smile and do what this guy is doing and you’ll probably feel better.
6. WORK FOR IT
Sea lions high up on a rock off Point Lobos State Reserve — Carmel, CA
Maybe you were told that you could do anything you wanted since the day you were born. Or maybe you went to a college that told you companies would be lining up to hire you once you graduated. Either way, you should know that you still have to work for it. There are a lot of creative people in the world and you’re just one of them. Work hard enough to stand out.
7. LOVE WHAT YOU DO
Artwork by Mr. Brainwash on the side of The Cypress Inn — Carmel, CA
If you don’t love your work, you can’t expect others to. Aim to create your best work every time and know that it might still get rejected. Don’t fall so in love with it that you refuse to make changes. I had a teacher once that suggested taking out all of my favorite parts of a design and working only with the elements I didn’t care for as much. It was a really interesting experiment and forced me to transform those elements into something great, instead of just leaving them in because they worked well with what I had loved.
8. ENJOY THE JOURNEY
View of Coast — Somewhere along Highway 1, CA
Projects can be long and drawn out but the process/journey is beautiful. You can learn so much along the way, especially if you work closely with all the other people and departments on the journey with you. Don’t rush the process and don’t put it off.
9. AIM TO STAND OUT
A zebra and his cow friends — Somewhere along Highway 1, CA
Treat the work you look at for inspiration as just that; don’t ever create carbon copies of existing designs with different content. Aim to create something better than the designs you love, like a zebra in a field of cows.
10. BUILD BRIDGES
Bridge in Venice — Los Angeles, CA
Make connections. The people you work with will move around from agency to agency, and some of those people could provide future opportunities or be there for you if you ever need a favor.
11. KNOW WHAT’S ESSENTIAL
What happens in Vegas… — Las Vegas, Nevada
Learn to edit. Some things don’t have a place. If it’s a really great design element but it confuses the overall purpose, it’s not worth it. An eye for editing doesn’t just benefit design, all departments and many other industries can benefit from knowing when to take stuff out.
Corona del Mar State Beach — Newport Beach, CA
Seeing what other people create can be really inspiring. When I was in school, we would have a final review of our work at the end of each year. At this review someone would always ask you what contemporary designers were your favorite. We’re surrounded by design everywhere we go, most of which isn’t very good so it’s very important to make sure you’re looking at good design as well. Explore the world of design (and tide pools). You never know what you’ll find.
13. BE OPEN
Sailboat on the open ocean — Newport Beach, CA
Be accepting of new ideas, new ways of doing things, new technologies, and especially to the opinions of others. That is how you learn and grow.
[Photo credit: Jenny Shaddach]