5 Things I do when I need Inspiration

Last week, Dave talked about a few strategies for beating design slumps. I thought I’d build on that and chime in with a few specifics—namely some of my favorite places to go for inspiration when I’m stuck.

Go to IKEA

I just walk around. Touch. Take pictures. And think. (Ok, and buy)
A visit to IKEA opens up possibilities. Every product comes from a unique angle of design—something I normally don’t see at the mall or in my grocery store. It’s easy to get in a rut and think of a couch as a couch, a shelf as a shelf, and a meatball as a meatball. But at IKEA the world opens up to me. Couches have unique shapes, colors, and fabric. Shelves are interesting, and the meatballs just don’t compare. I find my mind stretching as I wind around the 350,000 square-foot maze facility. Ending up at the checkout with the comforting waft of cinnamon rolls in the oven just plain makes me happy to be there—my feet are tired, but I leave the store energized.

Back at my desk, I start to see things differently—envision a new angle to an old problem—and try something new as I create relevant content for learners.

“Design has allowed us to stand out; to look different and show that difference boldly.” Joe Mansueto

Google Doodles

What are Google Doodles? Fire up the Google Chrome browser and you’ll see something that interrupts your thoughts, brings a smile to your face, and surprisingly, even educates you!

Playing with Google Doodles gets me involved with eLearning principles. Google Doodles work: there are color choices, animation, interactivity, sound, progression, engagement, clarity, and achievement of purpose. Google Doodles are short and sweet design examples. It’s refreshing.

Back at my desk, I consider ways to engage learners with simple design elements that contribute to the intended message. I narrow down the clutter and get to the main idea. One of my favorite Google Doodles is one they made for the 4th of July in 2013.

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Steve Jobs

Play with a free Web Tool

One of my favorite finds is Canva. Sometimes just playing around in this free tool inspires me to see new designs and avenues for the message I want to convey. In it, you’ll find workspaces for presentations, blog graphics, letters, email headers, infographics, and everything else you might need to publish digitally. It’s easy to use relevant designs already created or make your own. It’s a fun place to work, play, and imagine the course content in a new way.

Recently I came back to my desk after a long meeting and couldn’t muster the energy to think creatively. I opened Canva and looked through the templates and designs. I glanced at my meeting notes and saw a phrase the VP had used that I thought was meaningful. I plugged that phrase into a presentation slide design and emailed it to her – suggesting she use it in the future as she presented to others on a relevant topic. Her “thank-you” reminded me that sharing ideas, even simple serendipitous ones, can make a difference.

“Great people do things before they’re ready.” Amy Poehler

Veg on Twitter

Thinning the chaff out of my Twitter feed has given me a place to briefly disengage, while still finding valuable information. Now when I open my feed I see instructional designers (IDs), creative thinkers, and digital influencers who have inspiring messages. Sometimes it’s encouragement, other times it’s a new strategy, but always something that gets me out of a blank space.

Back at my desk, I decide that my process of working with subject matter experts works pretty well. Lots of other ID’s talk about some of the same strategies. I’m inspired to keep working at it and share what I’m doing with others (like we do here on our blog).

“Inspiration is finding something that excites you.” Connie Smith

Search Pinterest

Pinterest has changed over the past few years. It’s grown from a haven for craft projects and impossibly perfect recipes to a fantastic resource for just about anything and a starting place for new ideas. Even if I never make a crate sofa table or dry the herbs from my summer garden (maybe next year), searching around in Pinterest gives me a sense of possibilities and opportunities I’ve never thought to explore before. The value of seeing common-every-day-things, and imagining them transformed for new purposes inspires me to stretch and break out of my usual routine.

Back at my desk, I begin to see the course introduction video differently—rather than the usual outline. I imagine a different approach that will get my student’s attention and inspire them to think about the course content in a fresh way.

“The power of imagination makes us infinite.” John Muir

Inspiration is something we all need and we all find in different places. Where do you find inspiration when you’re stuck? We want to hear your story.

Hersha, Gwen

Author: Gwen Hersha, Assistant Professor & Instructional Designer

Gwen is fascinated with teaching and learning and loves designing ways of "doing it better." She finds joy in the everyday practicality of life: writing, teaching, gardening, and trying new things.

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