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When someone asks what inspires me, I have no idea what to say.  It depends on what day of the week it is, who is asking the question, what I had for breakfast, what the current weather conditions are or if  I wake up in a good mood or not.  I struggle with my response because I feel like my answer has to be profound and life altering for the person asking the question.  After all they may be a client whose livelihood depends on me providing them with a logo and they probably don’t want to hear I am inspired by Hello Kitty and Pokemon … not that there is anything wrong with that.

For other people the question doesn’t seem so tumultuous, so why is it for me? What inspired artists like Picasso, Dali and Da Vinci to push the envelope?  They weren’t able to Google inspiration, but I can.  The definition of inspiration came back as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.  It also means, the drawing in of breath.  Well that is interesting.  So then by default does it mean that if you do not do what inspires you then you are devoid of life?  Maybe that question is to philosophical.

What causes someone to do more to push the boundaries of what is considered the status quo?  I find it incredibly aggravating to hear someone comment on an individuals overnight success.  In many cases an overnight success was years in the making.  What drove or inspired them to forge ahead? It is said that failure is how we learn, but failing is painful, sometimes it is physical, sometimes emotional and sometimes both.  Former coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi once said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”  I understand what the coach is saying, I played sports and have been on the short end of some big games, losing is incredibly disappointing.  However, with practice and more playing time you can get better.  In sports there is a definite barometer of how good you are, you either win or you lose or at the very least you move up in the standings.

Art I find is a different creature. Whether we are talking about music, theatre or the visual arts, it is all subjective.  The viewer is influenced by colour, shape, style, “professional” opinions and other members of the audience. How do we or how should we measure success?  By how much money we make, our longevity.  What is success?  So what inspires the creatives and how do we subdue the worst critic of all, ourselves? Do we even want to keep that internal critic quiet?   It ultimately lies within.  We either push ourselves to excel or we push ourselves over the edge.  I suppose in either case we get a result.

I certainly can’t and won’t speak for others, but for me inspiration takes on many forms. In recent weeks it has certainly been my classmates.  It is also inventors, painters and sculptors particularly those who have redefined the new status quo.  History is a fantastic source of inspiration for me, both the history of time periods but also the history of individuals and of course the cornucopia that nature has to offer.  Admittedly I do have to make a conscious effort to notice these things but I am certainly much better at it today than I have been in the past.

As graphic designers, whatever it is that inspires us, does impact the lives of the rest of society.  I recently read an article titled Designing the Future by Robert L. Peters where he stated, “designers play an increasingly vital role in empowering better decision-making, creating economic success, shaping communities and forming culture.”  This is an incredibly huge responsibility so in order to be effective we first have to take the time to draw a breath.

So what inspires you?

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