Wandering around London (or Manchester, or Liverpool, or any city for that matter) with a camera and a notebook…
That’s something every designer needs. Without it you can’t be a designer. It’s our lifeline. Where we get our ideas. Our new thoughts. Our ‘lightbulb moments…’. For our clients. And for ourselves.
Inspiration is everywhere. All around us. I get mine in lots of ways. I’ll tell you one of them.
I like to put on a favourite pair of trainers, jump on a train with a small backpack, a notebook (paper and pen, not a small laptop!) and my camera. I plug in my Apple Airpods, play the Spotify playlist that I’ve prepared for the day, then go wherever the train takes me. I like to get my ‘city fix’ – it’s something I need, I don’t miss London but I need city air once in a while.
I did just this a couple of weeks ago. Got on a train, decided to go to Manchester. Got off the train at Manchester Picadilly. Then I walked for about 5 hours, must have covered about 12 miles I think. Starting off ‘on-piste’, covering the main streets, looking at some high street stuff that I like; then venturing ‘off-piste’, discovering some cool galleries, eateries, bars (no alcohol, obviously). Even wandering into some, er, dodgy areas where a short bald man with ‘designer’ specs and an expensive camera is, ahem, ‘not welcome’. But it was all exciting, inspiring stuff.
What’s inspiring about this? Well, I get to see stuff that I like. Graffiti. Cool window displays. People wearing the latest fashions (good and bad!). I pick up flyers and leaflets. Visit bookshops. Search for typographic prints in small galleries. Check out places that I’ve seen on Instagram or Pinterest. Visit some old haunts. Look at cool, new packaging design. It’s all there and it all inspires me.
The temptation for some designers these days is to just stare at a computer looking for inspiration (I know it’s true because some people have told me that they do just that!). Pinterest. Instagram. Online magazines. Websites. That’s all fine. But nothing beats getting out there and just looking, watching and seeing.
As well as being a source of inspiration, it’s good for the soul.
Try it some time. You might even enjoy it. And if you see me wandering around, headphones on, you’ll know what I’m doing.
Carl Jones is Lead Designer & Creative Director at Carl Jones Design Ltd, a brand design, graphic design and digital design agency. Based near Shrewsbury in Shropshire, working with clients locally and around around the UK.