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02.08.2021

How to get inspired to come up with innovative design ideas

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As a designer, I know that amazing design ideas don’t just appear out of thin air. Instead, they spark when I am most inspired. Despite that, it isn’t easy to control inspiration. We cannot feel inspired whenever we want to. Forcing inspiration on yourself rarely works. Finding it is, however, a more fruitful option. Now the big question is – So from where do I find inspiration?

Finding Inspiration

finding inspiration

Inspiration varies for everyone, and so do its sources. You can be inspired by anything – a memory, an experience, or your most favorite things. Some of these things can be grouped into common categories mentioned below.

Passions

These are the things you enjoy doing in your spare time. Passion is an excellent source of inspiration and motivation. There are countless things one can be passionate about. For example, if you are a tech geek, you could be passionate about computers and their evolution. That would serve as a great starting point for your next project idea.

Favorites

We all have our favorites: favorite food, song, movie, personalities, and such. Now think about why are they your favorite? Maybe you like a particular style of music, or you like a specific cuisine the most. When we introspect like this, we can break our favorite things down to their core characteristics. The item itself can inspire our project, and the characteristics can set its look and feel. Since these things are our favorite, we are naturally interested in them. This makes it easier to light the spark.

You Yourself

You might be surprised, but you are more interesting than you think! The fact is that the places and situations we all live in are quite different. We may be of different religions, from different regions, have different beliefs, speak different languages, and gather different experiences. All of these have their beauty. For example, if you’re living in the Indian state of Maharashtra, you can be inspired by the rich energy of the Ganesh Festival, which has found its way to the hearts all around the world. Or maybe you have a particular tradition that has been passed down in your family for generations that you love a lot. As you look closely at yourself, your experiences, and your surroundings, you might find a piece of your life worth sharing with the world through your projects.

Major Events

There is generally a sense of huge excitement and change around major events. Is the last movie of your favorite franchise finally being released? Or is there an ongoing movement for a social cause that has inspired you? Major events can be a great source of inspiration. You can share your voice and contribute your part through your projects that root from the happenings in these events. Since these events already have a lot of attention, you automatically get an audience that would take interest in your creation.

Saved Posts

Have you been stocking up on those design inspiration ideas on Instagram and Pinterest? Well, it is time to put them to good use. We are all guilty of not returning to our saved pins or posts, even though we saved them in the first place because they inspired us. There are talented people putting out some super awesome work. Revisiting them can get your creative juices flowing and might as well trigger a superb idea. You can also turn your saved bookmarks into a moodboard, which is another good way of seeking inspiration.

 

Here’s a good blog about creating moodboards –

How to make a mood board for your brand - 99designs

Techniques to use inspiration to come up with innovative ideas

Now that we have talked about where to find inspiration from let’s learn how to turn that inspiration into innovation.
The dictionary meaning of innovation is –

To make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.
Innovation involves modifying what exists by combining new methods or ideas to improve on it. As such, many techniques can lead to innovation. You can easily find them by simply typing “innovation techniques” in the Google search. But for the sake of this blog, I will talk about four techniques I use to come up with innovative design ideas and a bonus tool recommendation.
Techniques to use inspiration to come up with innovative ideas

X + Y

X + Y
This technique is what I call “takes two to innovate.” You take two things and then combine them into a single idea. For example, with soccer and fashion, you can create a shop-the-look recommender app. The app recommends clothes like those worn by soccer stars to their fans at affordable costs. For my graphic design specialization project, the brief was to make a heartbeat monitor app. It was up to me to decide for whom to make it. So, I combined two things - heartbeat and meditation. In the end, I came up with an app that allowed people to meditate to plant heartbeats. This is a good way to spark some great out-of-the-box ideas.

Finding Gaps

There are so many instances in our own life where we wish that something was better. It could be a product, a service, or even an experience. Maybe ordinary mortals think about their pain points and forget about them later in the day. But not us design wizards! Think carefully. Have you ever thought that something could be easier or improved? If yes, then designing a solution for it could be an excellent project idea. Take Amazon as an example. The platform made it big by filling the logistics gap between consumers and products. The gap was huge, and that’s why Amazon was so disruptive. Hence, keep an eye out for market gaps. They can be a great opportunity to innovate.
Finding Gaps

Love makes a Good World

Love makes a Good World
Image Credit - TheFutur

Don’t get too hung up on the name of this technique. It is just a mnemonic I came up with to remember the three parts in Chris Do’s IKIGAI technique. In this technique, you have three columns, namely what you love, what you are good at, and what our world needs right now. Follow along with these steps -

  1. Write down the things you love doing in the first column, something you know you are good at in the second one, and things you feel the world needs in the third.
  2. Then shuffle up these entries to come up with one entry from each column.
  3. Lastly, think about a good solution that connects all the three things you have selected.

Like in Chris’s video, as an example, the entries you select could be working out (you love), community building (good at), and affordable, high-quality education (world needs). So, the project idea could be an app that teaches people to work out in social groups.

Chris’s main objective of this technique was to help others find what they love and then make a living out of it. But I found it to be extremely helpful in brainstorming innovative ideas as well.

If you would like to explore this technique more, Chris has made a whole video about it. You can find the link below:

The Futur: Ikigai Workshop– Build A Business That Combines What You’re Good At, Love, & The World Needs

A Different Angle

A Different Angle

This is very famous advice for when we are stuck, and that is “to look at things from a different angle.” No matter how hard we deny it, but we do have preconceived notions about things. Looking from a different angle allows us to eliminate those assumptions and get more creative in our approach. It is kind of basic principle used in a lot of miniature art made today. To get an idea, have a look at the work of miniature artist Tatsuya Tanaka. The innovativeness in his creations is genuinely inspiring.

We can use this different angle perspective to think about our projects as well. It allows us to come up with fresh, innovative ideas that we might have otherwise overlooked.

Prompt Generator

Prompt Generator
Image Credit – Sharpen Design

The above techniques, though the most useful, do require you to invest some hours in them. However, if you need a quick prompt to get you going with your daily practice, you can try one of the online prompt generator tools. Sharpen Design is one such prompt generator. It is customizable according to categories like branding, marketing, and UX. However, it is not customizable to a specific industry.

Here is a good blog on Dribble about more such prompt generators.

You can achieve the same result by having two bowls filled with post-it notes – one for the product type and the other for the industry. Then choose one note from each bowl, and you have your prompt. This gives you more control over the combinations you might come up with. It is similar to the first technique where we combine two things to generate an innovative idea.

Conclusion

And that’s it! Five useful techniques to come up with innovative ideas for your next project. No need to get overwhelmed by all the techniques. We all are different, and so is how we get inspired. Just observe what gets you in the zone. It could be one of the techniques mentioned above or something altogether different. If you have your unique way of ideating innovative ideas, we would love to hear about them. You can share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

AUTHORED AND GRAPHICS DESIGNED BY
sanika sanaye
Creative Design Director
peer reviewed By
JAsjit Chopra
chief executive officer
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