Gaining inspiration for your design projects, or any kind of project for that matter, can be frustrating at times. If you have no clue where to start and you’re staring at a blank page, then keep reading. This basically means gaining some inspiration from projects, photographs, music any form of art and implementing something you like into your own work.
Don’t get us wrong. We aren’t telling you to go online and copy exactly what you see because you won’t be able to fit that idea into your project without it seeming off. Plus, it’s not really a good habit to start. As a designer, architect and student, you will most likely need some sources of inspiration and you will find some through lectures, exhibitions, film, and of course; the allmighty Internet.
More specifically, websites like Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest (and others) are great for this because for future work, they can act as a portfolio or even a space to just share your work as it progresses. It creates a good habit as well as a collection of resources you can look back on and keep those inspiring images right where you need them. Over the year’s we’ve learn’t that the best students are those who take ideas and make it their own.
Of course, everyone has their own ‘style’ so to speak and each individual is different in the way they work and what kinds of work they are attracted to themselves. If you haven’t got a certain ‘style’ don’t fret, it can take some people years to develop a unique style and while you’re in education you may just want to experiment.
As a design student, it’s important to take inspiration from everything around you and you need to be able to maintain a balance and be careful not to get tunnel vision. If you think the only way good projects are created is through looking at old projects on Pinterest then you’re very wrong. Inspiration can come from many things but you need to be able to justify them too.
Some units may start off the year with an initial project or mini-project to help students have something to relate back to as well as to learn some new skills. For example, looking at the history of a site and learning things you may have never even heard of could very well inspire your project to bring back a quality from the past in a new and modern way.
Another example can be to look at films and movies to explore spaces within these mediums and analyse or explore a theme. These can range from sci-fi, comedy, horror or even stop-motion animations.
The whole purpose of a task like this is to get you going for your design project. Your brief will be packed with information and references but you won’t really be able to design a building out of thin air. If your university or unit doesn’t really implement this type of idea, set one for yourself or speak to your tutors about other interests you might want to explore if it relates back to the brief.
Even a simple site visit could be inspiring enough to get you going. Previously, we have taken part in animation-making, exploring movies, researching the history of a site and even creating models based on famous paintings.
Pinterest will be your best friend as you go. It will be a place to collect materials for renders as well as ideas for drawings, portfolio presentation etc. The search bar itself can give you plenty of suggestions and ideas. Apart from looking at architectural references, you can find design layouts that can help you with portfolio or page structuring.
Find our Pinterest page HERE for all kinds of inspiration!
It is fairly simple to use and you can make the most of Pinterest by creating your account and keeping your boards organised. Boards are great to group together similar topics and means you have specific places for your pins. Here’s a quick run through:
Search for what you need using the search bar.
Pinterest even suggests additional keywords that can help narrow down your search. Over time, it will also curate your home feed to suggest similar things to what you have already pinned.
Select the ‘Pin’.
If you’re doing this on the app, hold down the image till you get a selection of different icons and drag your finger to the pin icon. If you’re on the desktop version, you can open the pin and click on the ‘Pin’ button.
Create a new board or save to an existing board.
Now as you keep adding pins it’s going to get messy so you have two options:
– Make another board that is targeted at something different
– Make ‘sections’ within your existing board.
Once you have about 200-300 pins you might want to pin images that come under that category but are slightly different or more specialised. For this, you can add sections.
Click Organise > Select pins you want to group together – in this case we are making a separate section for only line section drawings.
Then Move > Add Section.
Once you get going, there isn’t much else to figure out. You can use this as often as you wish and pin whaever kind of content that suits you.
Tumblr is in a sense a microblogging community and the majority of posts are usually visual in the form of pictures, videos and GIFs. So, for architecture students, it can be a great way of documenting the progress of design projects and we suggest creating one in your first year.
Using Tumblr is pretty straightforward, if you have an image ready or even some text, you can add a post within seconds. You can also edit your posts, delete them and add appropriate hashtags so they can be categorised according to your topic.
A great way to use Tumblr is to share it with your tutors. This means they can keep track of your work outside of tutorial time and reply to any new work via the comments. You can even suggest this to your tutors or peers so that everyone’s work can be accessed by one another.
For architects of all kinds, designers and even graphic illustrators, Tumblr is a great place to share your work and gain inspiration. Of course, there are other websites such as Behance and Issuu that are really good for more professional work and specially for posting finished content.
Instagram. Hear us out. Make a separate account for architecture so you can keep it separate from your other interests. Instagram is a great way to share and find inspiration as you get to see raw work and work in progress. You’re free to leave comments and people are more than happy to help.
You don’t always need to post finished and amazingly curated content on your own feed unless you want it to also act as a portfolio of some sort. As far an gaining inspiration goes, there may be student work or university-related content that you wouldn’t really find on Pinterest or Tumblr. You can essentially use Instagram as a filtered copy of the Internet so rather than searching for something, you could try find it on Instagram first.
Most architectural firms as well as architects themselves are on Instagram so it can be a great way to network in the future and also see what other universities are up to. You can gain inspiration from current projects or even find out about exhibitions and events going on locally by following accounts for the RIBA or the AA.
Instagrams collection feature is also a great way to keep your likes and saved posts organised similar to Pinterest boards.
Search for what you want or go to the Explore page then Select > Add to Collection by clicking on the ribbon icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the image.
It’s a great way of keeping track of your work throughout your studies too and perhaps even getting some recognition for it. Getting featured on architectural accounts that could be linked to popular magazines such as Dezeen or the Architect’s Journal, or it could be specifically student-related features that celebrate your work.
Finding competitions will also be made easier and can be a great way of getting involved in something outside of university. Overall, Instagram brings a great collection of resources. You should definitely follow us there too – @to.scale.
We aim to connect architecture students, architects and designers and take part in featuring amazing projects as well as directing people towards the best resources they may need.
Exhibitions and lectures are an obvious thought for finding inspiration and even learning new things. but knowing how to keep track of these references is important. There is no point in taking countless photographs and storing them somewhere where you won’t look at them again. Here’s something we like to do to keep our references organised for those moments we need inspiration.
Make a folder called ‘reference’, ‘inspo’ whatever you want. But make sure you save the folder in your documents or somewhere accessible and not your most recent sub-folder. Pin this folder to the quick access bar so you can now get to it with ease. (Note: this is for PC users)
Next, make sub folders with your interests for example, windows, roof, section, atmosphere etc. Now you can organise the photos you take into these separate sections. There’s nothing stopping you from copying the same image into two folders. Take photos of sketches you make and put them in the associated folder.
This way, your files will also be organised and separate from your other work. If you’re having trouble finding inspiration from the other ways mentioned, go through your own folder and see if anything jumps out.
Lastly, we want to say don’t worry if once in a while you have no ideas. That’s what these websites or apps are there for and we can assure you that everyone has been in that situation before too so don’t panic and lean towards designing something you aren’t interested in. Make sure the passion comes from within and try and find inspiration in the things around you.
Notable mentions : Issuu and Behance. Great sites to go through portfolio and work. We will be discussing the best portfolio platforms in another post so keep an eye out for that.
Comment down below if you have any other great methods of finding inspiration.