Bonnie Siegler | Dear Bonnie

Dear Bonnie

Dear Bonnie,

Where do you return again and again for inspiration?

Questioning in Queens

Dear Q.,

Since inspiration is such a subjective thing, I thought your question would benefit from multiple perspectives. So, this week, in addition to answering your question myself, I’ve deferred to some other super talented designers as well. The diversity of their answers is, well, inspiring.

"Time and time again, I return to the Tao Te Ching. Not really for 'design inspiration,' but more for mindset inspiration, which then makes me better oriented toward problem-solving and creativity.”
—Randy Hunt, Etsy

“I find inspiration everywhere: books, blogs, museums, galleries, and on the street. I love to talk with children and old people; one is on the way in and the other is on the way out, we can learn from each of them. Today designers have access to a giant treasure chest of inspiration. With each project, no matter how obscure or unusual, we can find things that will spark an idea. Today we see so much work that is simply derivative and repetitive; how many hipster logos look and feel exactly the same? However, I find that books are still the place I return to over and over. The work of designers of the past often offers us insight and inspiration that is still fresh, exciting and relevant. What inspired Picasso is far more interesting to me than the latest, ‘coolest’ trend. Trends come and go, but as Keats said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.'”
—Eric Baker, Eric Baker Design

“In my own experience, inspiration hits when you’re away from the thing you’re supposed to be doing. Ergo, not staring at that screen begging you to make sense of a typographic dilemma, but in the garden, on a walk, in the shower or the car, or on your way somewhere else—simply put, far from the studio. Reading The New Yorker helps too. So does drawing. Drawing always helps.”
—Jessica Helfand, Design Observer

“An afternoon 'junking' will do it for me. Sure, the old typography and dead logos are the gold to be mined, but there’s something about faded colors and creepy spaces and old ways of showing things that always gets me excited, and, feverishly documenting it. The new stuff out there? I can’t predict it, but it always feels deflated for some reason. Always trying a little too hard. Looking back in time? There’s something so refreshing there for me. Be it an antique mall, junk drawer, or estate sale filled with ghosts. That’s where I go for surprises and little cues to act on.”
—Aaron Draplin, Aaron Draplin Design Co.

"There are many sources of inspiration, from museums and galleries to student work. But the primary sources of inspiration are our clients and other designers. Whenever we begin an identity project, the best ideas come from—and even during— interviews with key people on the client side. We like to keep these conversations quite informal so that people are at ease and the culture, attitude, and personality of the company or organization come to light. Looking at my notebook, there are sketches all around (and sometimes instead of) my interview notes. What propels us the most—other than our own design standards and the desire to make our clients happy— is our fellow designers and the terrific work that we see them produce.”
—Sagi Haviv, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv 

CHiPs. Yes, the TV show.”
—Sean Adams, Burning Settlers Cabin 

And, for me, I must say that poring over books, entirely unrelated to the problem at hand, feels like exercise for my brain. It always expands the way I’m thinking. Sitting at my computer, I unintentionally drift towards the way a given problem should be solved, but looking at art, photography, design, and even history books allows my mind to flow towards many more interesting possibilities. A long walk has similar transformative powers for me. Even if it’s just around the block. And I like CHiPS too.

We want to hear from you! Send your questions for Bonnie to [email protected]     

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