As someone who works in the visual arts both as a profession and as an “artist” (I use quotes because I’m not fully there yet), finding inspiration is mostly a challenge. Very rarely do new ideas flow freely or in excess, so I’m always looking to the world around me for a good kick in the creative pants.
Sometimes I find inspiration on a bikeride (getting out and being alone in my thoughts). Other times it happens in conversation (thank goodness the world is full of people lightyears smarter than me) or in a museum (seeing something that blows me away.) But probably most often it comes from books I find at the Library, like this one: Inspirability: 40 Top Designers Speak Out About What Inspires by Matthew Pashkow, the creative director and principal of Digital Soup, an award-winning graphic design firm in Los Angeles.
The idea for this book began in the months following the trauma of 9/11. He says, “As a designer, I was having a hard time being productive…I lacked the general drive I felt was required of me to be creative.” In the grand scheme of things, in light of such horror, Pashkow was really questioning the role of graphic design itself.
He started looking to see how other creatives were responding to such overwhelming tragedy, in particular Milton Glaser, the man behind the now iconic, 1975 “I <3 NY” poster design. Within a week of the attack, Glaser had reinterpreted the design—an incredibly unifying image for New Yorkers anyway—by adding a simple, but powerful sentiment shared by nearly everyone across the city (see image.) That’s when things clicked for Pashkow.
“I marveled at just how incredibly inspiring Milton’s piece was to me, and the more I thought about it, the idea of inspiring people really seemed to sum up what we as designers do,” writes Pashkow.
So Pashkow wrote a book about it. He got 40 of the world’s top designers to answer a variety of questions about where they get their inspiration. Stefan Sagmeister finds inspiration in honesty, smoking, and science. Margo Chase finds it in jazz and architecture. Chip Kidd enjoys problems and their solutions.
This book is touching, funny, and irreverent at the same time. I was inspired. I still am.