When I was in college, I remember watching Project Runway with Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum like it was my JOB.
I always wondered how the contestants came up with an original design, created the pattern, and constructed their looks all within 24 hours. In all honesty, I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around it! How did they come up with their ideas so quickly? Where do their ideas come from? Thin air? Was this some kind of creative magic juju? And if so, how could I get some of that??
The actual answer is that their ideas started from inspiration. Lots and lots of it.
Creative ideas result from multiple inspirations gathered over time and can be sparked by an event, from observing something, or by someone around you. In fact, inspiration is the basic building block behind all great ideas and innovations. Inspiration can be found anywhere and can hit at any time. It can come quickly and easily…or it can be a struggle to translate daily life into some new insight. We all experience potentially inspiring things but what makes them the source of new ideas is how we choose to harness these inspirations and put them to work.
Here are some ways I find helpful to be inspired and to generate new ideas.
1. Immerse myself in the flow state
I notice my inspiration is highest when I get into a state of flow. Being in "flow" is a fully immersive level of focus when time feels like it's standing still. I'm energized, excited by my work, and completely lose track of time. I am relieved of my daily worries and struggles. It is almost a meditative state. My mind is entirely on whatever project brought me to this magical place of flow and focus. The new ideas start popping up without even trying. It's important that I capture these ideas as they hit, or I may forget them later. Of course, I can't always reach a flow state, and I need other sources for inspiration.
2. Experiment with new things
My favorite way to find inspiration is to experiment with another creative medium. I love the challenge of trying a completely different type of creative project. I've explored crochet, macramé, various forms of embroidery, weaving, and even woodworking! I also love to paint with watercolor and doodling on ProCreate on my new iPad. I never know what artistic mediums could inspire or influence my next apparel design project!
3. Be one with nature
Nature is a beautiful source of inspiration, and it has the added benefit of relaxation. When I immerse myself in nature, I feel calm, time slows, and I can center myself. I may take a walk along the neighborhood walking trail, the park, or just spend some time in my own backyard. Another favorite outdoor activity is playing with my dog and watching bunnies eat our clover. I always return with a new perspective and a fresh take on what I'm working on.
4. Change it up
Shaking up my routine is a powerful way to inspire new ideas. It takes me outside my comfort zone and sparks new ideas and insights. Habits create stability, efficiency, and induce action, but they can also put you in a rut. So I love trying a new coffee shop for my morning tea or taking that road trip I've been dreaming about. It may be just the thing I need to generate some great new design solutions.
5. Spend time doodling
One of the best ways to generate new design ideas is to doodle and draw without the real intention of finishing. Regular focus time capturing whatever comes through my mind to my hand without telling myself I need it to be perfect or even complete at all. No matter how small, or big, or even stupid the ideas may seem in the moment, write them down and draw what you're thinking. I like to walk away for a day or two to let my subconscious do its magic. Then, when I come back to this work, I usually see some new possibilities.
Our devices are indeed frenemies. I'm afraid of how addicted we've all become to our phones, and honestly, I am one to talk. This is going to be hard at first, but you can do it. When I finally put my phone down, and I'm not being inundated with lots of stimuli, my brain has a chance to percolate and combine inspirations into new ideas.
Inspiration can be fickle, but taking the time to figure out what inspires you and recharging your creative battery is the key. Don't settle for grinding through your next project…make it a journey, have fun, notice what's around you, capture new insights, and you'll enjoy every step of the way.