Ideas for design. Where and how to look for them properly?

Learn how to find ideas so you don’t waste time and energy

Rick Mess       |       March 19, 2021

Putting the hand like a visor to our eyes, we look out for the Idea on the horizon. And can’t see it.

Because it’s under our very noses.

Web designers are searching for ideas by looking at projects on Dribbble or Behance, reading articles on motivating sites. This is all good and useful — for the overall development.

If you need an idea for a project, forget about all these resources. This advice may sound wild. But when you find out why, you’ll be thankful for that.

Learn how to look for ideas properly so you don’t waste time and energy in the future.

How ideas come

Ideas don’t come as if by magic, insights aren’t spun out of thin air. They are generated by your mind. A breakthrough, a sudden decision, is the result of your brain processing the information you’ve gathered. Data is accumulated, logical and associative bonds are built. When the processing is finished, the brain sends a signal: “Complete!” You joyfully jump about and shout: “I thought it up!”

The designer, let’s name him John, thinks differently.

“That’s why I want to see works on Dribbble!” — says the designer stubbornly. — I have a new project, I need a push for inspiration!”

Take away all his devices and tie the designer to the chair so that he’ll be held down.

Need an idea?

Look at the goal of the project

Brilliant ideas appear only as a result of understanding the essence of the task. When we know and understand the end goal, the brain is actively looking for ways to achieve it. If the goal is vague, the brain doesn’t generate any ideas, or worse, it generates a false idea. One that doesn’t solve the problem or interferes with its solution.

Make sure you understand the end goal clearly. This is what the company for which you are making the project strives for. This is what your client strives for. This is what your users strive for. The end goal is not a design!

We just rescued our designer from generating false ideas, but he’s still staring longingly at the Behance bookmark. Close it to get out of harm’s way.

Tell John he has a new position. Now he’s an analyst and marketer. He doesn’t want to? Is making big eyes? Tell that it won’t hurt. Give him a tie for solidity.

You need to be an analyst and marketer for as long as it takes to clearly understand the goals and objectives of the project. Even if your company has a marketing department and they hand you information on a plate.

Look at your task

“I’ve already looked!” the designer yells. Don’t give in. Put a sticker on his monitor:

There is no such task on Dribbble, Behance, or any other site. The designer has it in the folder. The idea of ​​a future project lies in the task itself, like a wheat germ. Of course, everyone starts by studying the task. However, how does this happen? After a cursory look at the requirements, designers switch to mental visualization. Their brains are tirelessly drawing visual options. They add work to it by looking at different designs. The head is overwhelmed, but there is no good idea yet! An experienced designer sees a finished project on his mental screen, where everything is already arranged in orderly pigeonholes. Their brain generates a ready-made visual solution. This is a valuable skill, but it’s the enemy of creativity when a non-standard solution or an innovative idea is required. You won’t find a new way by following past practices.

Don’t think about the visual until you’ll gather all the information about the task. Imagine that someone else will make a design for your project, and you are collecting material to explain the task to them in detail.

How’s our designer doing? Quieted down, it seems.

Untie the poor thing from the chair and give him the confiscated devices back (but paste over the Dribbble icon). Now you can deal with him.

Look at your problem

An unsolved problem is an idea blocker.

Look at the task you are currently working on or are going to work on. What don’t you like about it? Is there a piece of work that doesn’t inspire you? Is there a problem you don’t know how to solve yet?

Focus on the problem.

Do you know what it is?

This is your chance. This is a challenge. This is a tough call for you! The worse the task, the better. The tougher the call, the more interesting the fight. Damn it, realize that you are being challenged. To realize is to feel how the fervor is flaring up in you — to find a solution, to make something special, non-trivial. Solve difficulties, explode predictability and boredom!

It works not only in design. The reason for many failures is the desire to avoid problems, bypass them, put off the decision till another time, hoping that everything will be somehow resolved later.

Designers, are you ready to learn Zen?

Bypassing the obstacle means losing the chance to come up with an idea. So let’s rejoice in the difficulties.

How is our designer-marketer doing? Has he already forgotten what design is?

Look at the users

Sometimes we forget what design is. We forget for whom and why we are working. We are driven by false motivation. To become a cool designer, fill the portfolio, outperform those at the top, and wipe everyone’s eye in general.

False motivation has never made anyone a good designer.

Not to a designer’s one. To user’s. But you can’t solve the problems of someone you don’t know. To find answers to questions, you need to get to know and understand people, make their pain your pain — and find a cure. A functional, efficient, and aesthetic design is caring for people, expressed with the help of talent, skill, experience, and knowledge.

To find out the real desire of users, their problem, a need that may not lie on the surface means opening a magic door, behind which there are a lot of ideas.

It’s not a design yet, but we’re already close!

Look at the product

Product, service, deal, or another thing you’re offering to users. Whatever it is, you should know EVERYTHING about it. You cannot interest a person in something you have a vague idea about. It’s impossible to achieve the goals of the company without understanding what it offers.

And the product is a real Klondike. Why?

Seeds of inspiration are hidden here too. The better you get to know it, the more seeds you find, the more ideas will grow from them.

If you have done everything that needs to be done and studied everything possible — by this moment your head should explode with an excess of ideas!

Take the designer’s tie off. He’s free! See how his eyes burn. He’s obviously up to something.

Now John can be sent on either Behance or Mars. He knows what he’s looking for. And he will find it very quickly.

In summary

Of course, you can look for ideas and inspiration for creativity at any time and any place. You don’t need to block motivating websites and restrain yourself from looking at designs, this is a joke. But it’s important to understand that ideas are born from your head and from the task itself, and not from somewhere else. When you know exactly what you are looking for, an inspiring example on Dribbble will magically appear in front of you. Because your eyes are looking in the right direction. If you don’t have search criteria, then the work of other designers will only lead you away from the decision. Therefore it’s important tо:

- give your brain as much information as possible;

- focus on the task;

- look for solutions first inside, and only then outside.

These simple things work miracles. Which are not actually miracles, but a natural result of focused efforts аnd that mental energy which was saved by wise searching for ideas without distraction.