352 Inc. / Digital Marketing / July 5th, 2007

Inspiration: Tearing a Page from Print

As a web designer, you would think that I find most of my design inspiration from a “favorites” folder that contains all the web sites I thought were cool or some other collection of online eye candy.  For me however, it comes from print. 

Actually, to be more specific, it comes from a desk drawer that is packed with an eclectic mix of magazine ads, covers, photos and various other clippings that I’ve ripped out from the magazines in the restroom or the other publications that clog my mailbox at home. (I would like to take this moment to apologize to any of my co-workers who have read magazine articles just to have them abruptly end at a torn or missing page.)  

I don’t know how I started this odd obsession, but whenever I’m reading a magazine I tend to spend more time looking at the layout or staring at the design of the ads than actually reading the articles. Usually something will catch my eye: an interesting color gradient in the background, creative use of typography, a photo treatment, or just the general layout of a page.  Before I know it, I’m quietly ripping it from the magazine and stuffing it into my pocket so I can later add it to the rest of the horded print scraps in my drawer.  

I think the reason that I like to pull design inspiration from what I see in print is that it’s a completely different medium from web design, and thus forces you think more creatively in its implementation.   

In the past, I’ve created designs in which I was inspired from other websites that I thought were really cool.  It could be the way the header was shaped, how they set up the top navigation, or the way the menus looked.  

The problem though was that sometimes I inadvertently pulled “too much” inspiration from these web sites, and would have to scrap the entire design because I ended up simply re-creating some of the design elements I liked.  

With print (or any other un-related medium), however, it’s virtually impossible.  How do you take a largely graphical layout for a magazine page and port it to a web site that has to have navigation, text, scalability and other various features? 
By using print as an inspirational medium, I think it forces you to pull feelings and concepts that made you like the design, (the vintage or overall modern style, the way the colors worked together, the use of the white space, the impression you got from the photography), but not the design itself.  

In the end it helps you develop a design using the creative stimulation you got from something, as opposed to creating the design that stimulated you.