Trends come and go, and new, innovative ideas are constantly emerging. For designers staying up-to-date on—or even ahead of— trends is an important way to strengthen brand and build business. But what steps are they taking to learn about new trends, industry changes, and design options, and where do they go to find inspiration? Here, eight designers share their personal go-to strategies for keeping their creative edge, from the obvious to the not-so-obvious.
Social media, of course, is the source of much inspiration for designers and others through sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and others.
Instagram and Pinterest
Instagram is a very visually appealing social media site, making it a great source of inspiration for amateur and professional designers, alike! Liz Morgan, creative director at an interiors firm out of Portland, Oregon, JHL design inc., says: “I like to use Instagram as a way to see where other designers are finding inspiration—books, museum exhibits, travels—but then go directly to the source.” Great design, she says, “can be inspired by not only great designers, but anthropology, psychology, history—inspiration is everywhere.”
Sarah Cousins, with Sarah Cousins Interior Design also points to social media—specifically Pinterest—as a source of inspiration. Her own board generates 5,400+ monthly views. “I use boards broken down by room type and then spend a few minutes a day—normally during my commute—pinning new things I haven’t seen before,” she says.
Morgan likes going beyond what she finds on Instagram, or Pinterest, to get to the original source of inspiration, where she might uncover additional insights. “Too much time on Pinterest can lead to an information silo and create a print-and-repeat of current trends,” she says. Casting a wider net can yield new insights and inspiration.
Buildings, Restaurants and More
Cousins lives in New York where inspiration isn’t far away. “The D&D building is the mecca for all custom design manufacturers and showrooms” she says. “On days I go up there, I end up spending hours flicking through samples and taking photos of how companies are envisioning their products styled,” she says.
She also draws inspiration from other places she frequents, like restaurants. “You don’t just have to use interior design to inspire you,” she says. “I tend to get a lot of ideas from how restaurants in my area are using space and lighting, or even color schemes during fashion week,” Cousins says.
All Things Vintage
“The stories and histories contained in vintage pieces are always a huge source of inspiration for my design work,” says Annabel Joy, with Trim Design Co., a boutique eDesign firm and online vintage shop. “My co-founder Jen and I are both former English teachers, so storytelling is close to our hearts, and there’s nothing like the patina of a vintage piece to evoke emotion and bring a sense of history and gravitas to a space,” she says.
Similarly, Joy also looks to vintage pieces for inspiration frequently stopping by estate sales. “I love to find an old piece and give it new life by re-contextualizing it, creating an unexpected pairing that feels fresh and timeless at once.”
Mark Cutler is an interior designer based in Los Angeles who has a long list of celebrity clients and projects around the world. Naturally, he draws inspirations from the big screen. Movies, he says, “can set my creative juices flowing, especially ones where the production design is special.” Black Panther has been a recent inspiration, he says. “I watched Black Panther with a notebook—there were so many things to see from costumes to makeup to architecture; all of it was inspiring.”
“Living in the beautiful state of Colorado, we find inspiration in nature,” says Lindi Bolinger who, along with Cynthia Stafford is an owner and principal designer with TruDesign”. From the changing hues of the sunset to the natural geometry of the mountains, inspiration is abundant.”
Diane Reid, an interior designer with San Francisco Design agrees. “In our community I think designers find inspiration in the ever-changing palette of color around us in nature,” she says. “In Park City we are very tied to the outdoors and the full seasonal changes that occur. Color combinations that we may never have thought of are literally exposed on a hiking path.”
Traveling abroad can also be a source of inspiration, says Bolinger; it’s a key component of design. “Visiting local handicrafts, seeing how the food is plated, and how they mix their colors. Inspiration can be found anywhere if you have an eye for detail and design,” she says.
“My go-to spot for inspiration is the runway, says Angie Lane with A. Lane Architecture in Tecumseh, Michigan. “There is a spring and fall season, so the colors, textures, and patterns are constantly changing,” she says. “The runway world is also full of fantastic and imaginative things that may not ever translate to real life. I begin almost every mood board and color palette for an interiors project with an outfit or fashion moment. The fashion world is a great way to keep up to date on trends and/or be trendsetting without blatantly following interior trends.”
From a Myriad of Sources
In truth, inspiration is all around us as great designers know. As TruDesign’s Cynthia Stafford says: “The design industry is constantly evolving, so we stay in touch with what clients are seeing on TV and in local magazines. Resources like the Denver Design Center, going to market to see new items, and following design influencers from Carson Kressly to Dering Hall help us stay up-to-date on trends in this ever-changing industry. “
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