Collage of my recent inspirations—neon lights, wooden installations, murals.
Collage of inspiring things from my recent stay in San Diego—a neon sign, a wooden light installation, and a mural.

Want better ideas? Get better inspiration.

Emma Linh

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Great ideas are rarely ever 100% truly original. All ideas are an evolution of something existing from before. Everything is a remix. And to craft a quality remix, you need good material. In other words, tasteful inspiration. If you want to generate great ideas and create exceptional design, you must constantly gather and curate your inspiration.

These days, inspiration tends to start with Pinterest, Instagram, or Behance. But it shouldn’t stop there. Because everybody and their mother is looking in those same places. That’s how we end up with homogenous tech illustrations and “Eames” chairs in every coffee shop. Everyone remixing the same ideas. No, the best inspiration is your life. Ideas can be inspired by your favorite childhood toy, a walk in the park, or a conversation with a stranger. They can come from major milestones like having your first child. But they also show up in the little things you do every day like watching a movie or washing the dishes.

The key is to be aware and receptive to inspiration. Instead of being a passive consumer of life, be an active observer of the world. Be curious and ask questions. How did the creator achieve this look? Where did this style come from? What is the purpose of this piece of work? Channel your inner 5-year-old and say, “I wonder…” at least once every day. That’s how you harvest unique material.

But don’t just take in everything that comes your way. Be intentional and curate your information diet. They say you are what you eat. For makers, you create what you consume. So seek out extraordinary experiences like wandering around Meow Wolf, camping in a national park, or getting lost at a music festival. Follow inspiring people like interior designer Kelly Wearstler, stage designer Es Devlin, or Spanx founder Sara Blakely. Surround yourself with friends from different backgrounds. Learn from people in different industries. Read the news. See the city. The more diverse your inspiration, the more distinct your creation.

Most importantly, pull all your inspiring material into a library that you can reference. Gathering and curating inspiration is useless if you can’t access them. Organize it in a way that makes sense to you–by place, medium, subject, whatever. Then when you’re starting a new project or hit a creative block, reference this personal library of inspiration. And that’s how you’ll create a remix that’s one of a kind.

Conversation Questions

  1. Where do you get your inspiration?
  2. What’s something that’s been inspiring you lately?
  3. What do you do to get better ideas or get unstuck?

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Emma Linh

Branding & Design — Portfolio: emmalinh.com — Blog: thedesignloupe.com — Social: @emmalinhstark