Inspire [Motivate, Invent, Create]

It is common to hear that the primary motivation for completing a project is ‘the deadline’ or simply ‘getting it done’ and that what is being labored over is x’s (insert instructor) project. This just may be loose language and not borne of meaningful reflection, but even if it is, it still hangs in the air as something that influences how we conceive of our design endeavors—who initiates them, assigns value to them, and holds sway over why we move forward to completion.

This begs greater discussion on what and/or who inspires and motivates so that one can, um, invent, create, and truly define purpose for themselves. Design is a positive endeavor. We spend far too little time affirming this fact and concerning ourselves with matters of INVENTION. To get to invention, many designers ponder what inspires them. Palm-sized books about what gets one in the ‘design mood’ come to mind. These sorts of things contain carnivalesque quips that never seem to come full circle—they don't lend value nor affirmation beyond the sound bite that gets one off the sofa and has them jog around the house in early January.

In ANY field of study and practice, those taking part must believe it is a social and cultural force for good. In the case of graphic design, how well have we positioned the field and assigned value to it’s practice? Professional organizations espouse good design as essential to business. The rhetoric goes beyond the surface of mere window dressing, but the goal generally resides in increased sales. On the other hand, if one is to counter this pro business mindset they have few places to go. The other side generally is the Adbusters approach where one is inspired to perform random acts of insular protest without knowing how to engage in meaningful social change.

Where does one go then to find meaning in the practice of graphic design. In many cases, one’s motivation begins and ends in the same place. We like to draw. It is therapeutic and brings us joy. It is the very act of massaging the surface that connects our hand and heart and mind. We like to make things—our things, our style, our engineered worlds which are beautiful and healthy. This is how we got here.

Now what?

What synonym(s) are valuable in seeking inspiration—Design/Art, Design/Communication, Design/Education, Design/Therapy, Design/Community, Design/... ?

posted by Tony Brock on August 29, 2006 | comments: 9 | post a comment

Palm-sized book stuffs that may or may not have to do with inspiration: Live such a divergent, searching, inspired life that you can seemingly "procrastinate" all you want and the ideas will drop in your lap well before deadline. Have at least a three-track mind. Read: The Craft of Research. Seek discomfort. Study Stoicism. Travel as much as possible with an open mind and heart. Be a hippy with impeccable organization when you need it. Do the other thing. Ya, that. Really listen to everyone as though you must find their secrets. Empathize. Learn to collaborate with the right person and your world will expand exponentially. Write a commencement address even if you don't deliver it. Better yet, find someone to deliver it to. Smile at angry folk. Wave and smile at angry, nosy folk. Carry paper and pen with you at all times. If in doubt, go. And...

Posted by tb on August 29, 2006 09:21 AM


The proper interpretation of Aristotle's position is disputed:
"He presents the argument that if it is either true or false now that there will be a sea battle tomorrow (and let us suppose for the sake of argument that it is false), then our present deliberation about whether we should go out and fight tomorrow is pointless for it is already true now, whatever we decide, that we won't fight. Perhaps there are causal factors at work which will determine this, e.g. we may decide to fight but today's high temperatures will cause the wind to be against us tomorrow. On one reading, Aristotle's response to this is to deny the principle of bivalence for future contingent statements: it is NOW neither true nor false that there will be a sea battle tomorrow."

Posted by AW on September 1, 2006 01:03 PM

I didn't know exactly where to post this, but I found today very inspirational so I wanted to share. The Vandercook. My inspiration for collaboration. I just wanted to share with everyone that for me today was an inspirational day. So thank you to Jaime for bringing up letterpress, thanks to everyone for being interested and thank you Tony for encouraging our enthusiasm. Honestly, I cannot say that I have ever been in a room with that great of a feeling. Everyone was working together and enjoying themselves, everyone was taking part, everyone was smiling, and everyone was loving the Vandercook. Not only the collaboration and sharing of the press to make some fabulous prints but the want to clean up the space, to get it back in shape. It really was amazing. Really that was the best day of studio I have ever had, I've never seen so many happy people working together well and so enthusiastically. Especially because there wasn't a deadline, just a love for typography, some good paper and ink and working with our hands. YAY VANDERCOOK! thanks studio for being my inspiration :) haha not to be too cheesy...

Posted by Chrissie on September 1, 2006 11:15 PM

Thanks Chrissie for bringing up about the VANDERCOOK, because I was feeling exactly the same way!!! Friday class was very inspirational... and it was inspirational because all of you were there. I say Friday was not all about the letterpress. Honestly, I think it was more about us. As Chrissie says, being in a room with people who care about same thing was amazing. Watching everyone enjoying themselves and working together at the same time was very inspirational. I mean, who could rip his shirt just to clean a letterpress machine for a class? I think its pretty significant how we care about each other as a design student, and I think its beautiful. Right now, I'm just glad that I'm spending time here with rest of my studio.
This is what I call priceless! haha.
Thanks Studio, Thanks Tony, and Thanks Studio!

Posted by MaSaTaNaKa on September 4, 2006 09:37 AM

as it seems you have all recently experienced, inspiration often comes from your peers. there is nothing more enlightening than another person with an honest passion for design. sometimes your peers are the breath of fresh air that you've been craving. enjoy it while you still can!

Posted by mia on September 8, 2006 01:08 AM

I would have to dittoX3 the inspiration from studio mates.
Over the past few days I have been taking mental notes of inspiration sources. I gave up when I realized it would be easier to list the things that don’t contribute to inspiration. But then that didn’t work either.


…observation? I think that’s the closest I can come to the nutshell of my inspiration.

Posted by becca on September 11, 2006 05:16 PM

i have always found inspiration in other people's sketchbooks. just that quick glimse into someone else's mind inspires me to see new ways of thinking, and observing the world we live in. to me, it is not the finished, composed pieces that are of the greatest importance; it is the small, quick thoughts and visual expressions that occur on a day to day basis. i find great interest in why people do what they do. just seeing work that other people create keeps me motivated in that it reminds me of the limitless possibilities of design. that is the continuous push i need in order to force myself to look at things in another way.

Posted by selwyn on September 13, 2006 01:08 AM

I spend time thinking about what was my primary motivation to get into a design school. and i remembered that it was music.

... music

music was always in my life.
i played piano and violin for myself and music was something that always made me happy.
but playing just for fun didn't take me to where i want it to go, and i knew i had a limit in myself as a musician.
but then, i met with art when i was in junior year in high school.
unitl then, drawing and sketching meant nothing to me.
but after realizing that i lost myself as a musician, drawing and expressing something on a sheet of paper meant something to me.
it was a new way of expressing my feelings.
and i found a similar joy in design as i did in music.

i'm studying graphic design because i want to become a designer.
i'm studying graphic design because i want to become a musician.
i'm studying graphic design because i want to express myself in the way i want.

and i think that is good reason enough for what i'm doing right now.

Posted by MaSaTaNaKa on September 29, 2006 04:12 AM

new places inspire.

(this was carved into a table in a restaurant in P R A G U E)

Posted by jaime van dubs on February 15, 2007 09:54 AM