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Unlikely Inspiration – Board & Vellum

Other Tangents

Unlikely Inspiration: The Strange Journeys of the Creative Process

A lot of times, unlikely inspiration solves your problems. To non-designers, it may seem a little crazy, but just as any odd thing can remind you of something else entirely, for designers, that experience often triggers their brains about a project they are working on, taking them on a mental journey towards a design solution.

April 30, 2018

Designing something is such a strange process. I imagine people in a field like accounting having nice clean steps to get to the finish line. One plus one equals two, and you’re done! With architecture and design, you’re just never really done.

Wake up at three in the morning with a dream that reminded you of a house you’re designing?
Yup, done that.

Start furiously sketching when you’re in a park because a tree looks really interesting next to the other tree behind it and it might be a good idea for a restaurant?
Also, yup.

Paused an episode of a show you’re binging on Netflix and took a photo because you liked the cabinet detail around the drawers?

The reality of my life is that my profession absolutely never turns off. I’m always thinking, observing, and taking note of what is around me to file away in a catalog of random ideas rattling around in my head (or my notebook). Inspiration isn’t something that can necessarily be planned for, and so I’m always ”on.”

If you ever see an architect or designer suddenly look like they’ve tuned out everything you’re saying and they’re looking into their head, they probably have started ignoring you, but they didn’t mean to be rude. When you mentioned that your Aunt Mildred has a lake cabin with a weird yellow laminate countertop in the laundry room, that probably made that designer remember that his neighbor had a similar countertop, which is next to a room with a big metal framed picture window that looks out into a courtyard that has some weird stone stairs and a strange little light next to it, and wouldn’t you know, that the weird little light might be the perfect solution for that guest cottage they’re designing.

It’s like that. Every. Damn. Day.

So, if you are a person who isn’t as crazy as an architect or designer, how do you collect your ideas and look out for those moments of unlikely inspiration? Pinterest and Houzz are fantastic spots to collect your ideas and leave comments on what you like or dislike. Not everything will always apply to the project you’re thinking of, but you never quite know when an idea that you see (or a strange little light in someone’s weird courtyard) will become the perfect solution for a problem you’re facing!

Plus, a side bonus of using applications like Pinterest and Houzz, is they also help any designer or architect you’re working with understand the things that you are drawn to, what delights you, and figure out the sort of things you may want to see in your project design.

And most importantly, remember that it isn’t your job to wake up at 3am and furiously sketch an idea from a dream before it goes away, that’s our crazy job!

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series originally spearheaded by Bob Borson of Life of an Architect. Historically, he has selected a theme and a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s posts. This year, the themes have been selected by a variety of contributors. This month’s theme was selected by Eric Faulkner of the Wishing Rock Studio and is: "Unlikely Inspiration." To read how others interpreted the theme, please explore the links below.

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
unlikely inspiration was there all along

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Inspire -- A Clover

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Unlikely Inspiration

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Barndoors are for People Too

Tim Ung - Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
Inspired by Leather Working

Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Unlikely Inspiration - Herbert Simms

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