Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Design Elements: looking for design inspiration


When I attended FIDM in the fashion design program I learned to draft patterns using two different methods (draping and flat pattern), I learned how to make a color wheel in color theory class, I learned to sketch design ideas on an anorexic croquis, I learned about different fabrics (weaves, fiber, construction, use), and theoretically I learned how to grade patterns (but didn't because back then I couldn't do math worth a damn and it's quite mathematical). But one thing they didn't teach me in design school was how to find inspiration for new designs. Perhaps they assumed that if I was in fashion school I was already full of inspiration and ideas. That was true, of course, but judging by the general lack of ingenuity in fashion design out there I would like to make the argument that classes on where to find inspiration and how to translate that into design would churn out some designers with a lot more fresh ideas to give. A lot of design out there is derivative of other design rather than from influences outside the general flow of fashion trends.

The cool thing about doing custom design work for people is that there is often a more interesting conversation about inspiration and ideas and lots of opportunity to step over the sludge of mediocrity to arrive at something truly different and beautiful. Carla Gonazalez was inspired to have a corset made with elements of a tea set she saw in a photograph. That inspiration was translated by the Dark Garden team into a beautiful combination of color and embroidery work that reflected elements of the tea set but unless she told you what her inspiration originally was, you'd never guess.

Design is a combination of many elements: texture, color, drape, fit, shape, sound (yes), function, and emotion.



Inspiration can effect any of these elements and it's all around you. The following is a list of places to look for design elements:

Music - music is very emotional and can be evocative of images and these emotions can be drawn out into design. Think of how one of your favorite songs makes you feel, what visuals does it bring to you? Sometimes music creates a theatre in your head that's rich with personal details that the singer/songwriter/band didn't have in their own heads, this is all your own and no two people will see exactly the same thing in music.

Nature
- nature is a classic and rich source for design. Nasturtium flowers were a great inspiration for design in the Art Nuveau period. Flowers are easy and always have something to offer but look further and you'll find an endless design muse in nature. Twigs, bark, leaves, trees, whole landscapes, pistils and pollen, clusters of fruit, verdant stretches, cabbage roses in a vase, summer honeysuckles curling against faded old fences. Nature is full of sex and death. I would love to see someone design a wedding dress based on bare winter branches.

Food
- cherries are iconic in fashion. Apples can either be sinful or wholesome, depending on who's eating them. Food represents abundance and starvation. It's elemental to life which may explain why we are constantly using it in art, music, books, and design. It can be hedonistic or spartan. Look at trends in food and consider how the taste of the foods you love makes you feel (much like with music) and try to see what images it brings to your mind, because if you're paying attention it will almost certainly bring connective ideas to you.

Insects - I'm not a fan of insects in my house, on my skin, or in my shoes. However, I am constantly fascinated by them when I see them outside (where I can easily run from them if I need to). Insects are examples of nature's incredible capacity to blend form and function. There is nothing sexier on earth than form and function combining to create something both beautiful and useful. Insects are often a breathtaking example of this: lemon yellow crab spiders that blend perfectly with the yellow flowers they set up house on. Did they become yellow for the flower or did they go looking for a flower to match them? Beetles come in irridescent colors and were a huge inspiration for Egyptians three thousand years ago.

Animals - Their skins, their forms (egrets are achingly elegant for example), their speed (cheetas are the fastest mammal on earth), and their characteristics. Whole schools of martial arts are based on animals they take inspiration from (Preying mantis, monkey, etc). Peacocks have been the inspiration for a great deal of design throughout history (they have also been directly used to augment fashion literally with their feathers). Look for patterns on hides and feathers, look for characteristics animals you love have that you'd like to bring to your design.

Objects - everyday objects or unusual ones. Things you use everyday like silverware, china, books, scissors, furniture, lamps, or jewelry. Good design inspires more good design. I have a handmade walnut wood soup spoon I am smitten with. I want to use it all the time because the handle is perfectly shaped and the bowl is gorgeous and deep like a ladle and perfectly round - I'm not sure how I might translate that but it's been on my mind since I got the spoon. Machines, chains (of all stripes), ropes (thick and rough or fine and smooth), and nails and screws. You might think it worth looking to these kinds of things for ideas for beautiful design but if you open your mind and appreciate their details and function there's no telling what ideas will come to you.

Pop culture
- this is a valid place to look for inspiration but you have to be careful not to let it replace unique ideas for copies of other people's ideas. You may love Lady Gaga and that's cool, maybe you love her style, so figure out what you love about it and then go look elsewhere to find similar elements that can become your own.

History/literature - books and history. I can't separate them out though they aren't twins. When you read a favorite book, or poem, or piece of historical fact, it puts you in a certain place and evokes a mood just like music does. The author's images will become your own as you imagine them because there's no way, no matter how good with words an author is, that you can replicate exactly the same image in your head that the author was describing from his/hers. Reading Madame Bovary made me angry, it brought a very mean small kind of Victorian to my mind and I don't think I'd like to translate Emma Bovary into design but if I did it would be dark, tight, scornful, thin, full of sexual tension, and death. Those, my friends, are design elements you can use and draw from.

There are many other places to look for design inspiration but I think these examples give a broad selection of places to look for it. Are you a clothing or costume designer looking for your next idea? Are you a bride looking for a custom design for a gown? Are you a fetishest wanting to create something completely different than what you've seen out there already? Are you a design student needing some creative direction? Look all around you. Make sketches or write down what's inspiring you and see what shapes, colors, sounds, and textures are drawing you in.

What's drawing you in?



Written by Angelina Williamson for Dark Garden
All photos in this post by Angelina Williamson and may not be reproduced without permission.

1 comment:

  1. Great site!!! this information really helped me , I really appreciate it

    ReplyDelete

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Design Elements: looking for design inspiration


When I attended FIDM in the fashion design program I learned to draft patterns using two different methods (draping and flat pattern), I learned how to make a color wheel in color theory class, I learned to sketch design ideas on an anorexic croquis, I learned about different fabrics (weaves, fiber, construction, use), and theoretically I learned how to grade patterns (but didn't because back then I couldn't do math worth a damn and it's quite mathematical). But one thing they didn't teach me in design school was how to find inspiration for new designs. Perhaps they assumed that if I was in fashion school I was already full of inspiration and ideas. That was true, of course, but judging by the general lack of ingenuity in fashion design out there I would like to make the argument that classes on where to find inspiration and how to translate that into design would churn out some designers with a lot more fresh ideas to give. A lot of design out there is derivative of other design rather than from influences outside the general flow of fashion trends.

The cool thing about doing custom design work for people is that there is often a more interesting conversation about inspiration and ideas and lots of opportunity to step over the sludge of mediocrity to arrive at something truly different and beautiful. Carla Gonazalez was inspired to have a corset made with elements of a tea set she saw in a photograph. That inspiration was translated by the Dark Garden team into a beautiful combination of color and embroidery work that reflected elements of the tea set but unless she told you what her inspiration originally was, you'd never guess.

Design is a combination of many elements: texture, color, drape, fit, shape, sound (yes), function, and emotion.



Inspiration can effect any of these elements and it's all around you. The following is a list of places to look for design elements:

Music - music is very emotional and can be evocative of images and these emotions can be drawn out into design. Think of how one of your favorite songs makes you feel, what visuals does it bring to you? Sometimes music creates a theatre in your head that's rich with personal details that the singer/songwriter/band didn't have in their own heads, this is all your own and no two people will see exactly the same thing in music.

Nature
- nature is a classic and rich source for design. Nasturtium flowers were a great inspiration for design in the Art Nuveau period. Flowers are easy and always have something to offer but look further and you'll find an endless design muse in nature. Twigs, bark, leaves, trees, whole landscapes, pistils and pollen, clusters of fruit, verdant stretches, cabbage roses in a vase, summer honeysuckles curling against faded old fences. Nature is full of sex and death. I would love to see someone design a wedding dress based on bare winter branches.

Food
- cherries are iconic in fashion. Apples can either be sinful or wholesome, depending on who's eating them. Food represents abundance and starvation. It's elemental to life which may explain why we are constantly using it in art, music, books, and design. It can be hedonistic or spartan. Look at trends in food and consider how the taste of the foods you love makes you feel (much like with music) and try to see what images it brings to your mind, because if you're paying attention it will almost certainly bring connective ideas to you.

Insects - I'm not a fan of insects in my house, on my skin, or in my shoes. However, I am constantly fascinated by them when I see them outside (where I can easily run from them if I need to). Insects are examples of nature's incredible capacity to blend form and function. There is nothing sexier on earth than form and function combining to create something both beautiful and useful. Insects are often a breathtaking example of this: lemon yellow crab spiders that blend perfectly with the yellow flowers they set up house on. Did they become yellow for the flower or did they go looking for a flower to match them? Beetles come in irridescent colors and were a huge inspiration for Egyptians three thousand years ago.

Animals - Their skins, their forms (egrets are achingly elegant for example), their speed (cheetas are the fastest mammal on earth), and their characteristics. Whole schools of martial arts are based on animals they take inspiration from (Preying mantis, monkey, etc). Peacocks have been the inspiration for a great deal of design throughout history (they have also been directly used to augment fashion literally with their feathers). Look for patterns on hides and feathers, look for characteristics animals you love have that you'd like to bring to your design.

Objects - everyday objects or unusual ones. Things you use everyday like silverware, china, books, scissors, furniture, lamps, or jewelry. Good design inspires more good design. I have a handmade walnut wood soup spoon I am smitten with. I want to use it all the time because the handle is perfectly shaped and the bowl is gorgeous and deep like a ladle and perfectly round - I'm not sure how I might translate that but it's been on my mind since I got the spoon. Machines, chains (of all stripes), ropes (thick and rough or fine and smooth), and nails and screws. You might think it worth looking to these kinds of things for ideas for beautiful design but if you open your mind and appreciate their details and function there's no telling what ideas will come to you.

Pop culture
- this is a valid place to look for inspiration but you have to be careful not to let it replace unique ideas for copies of other people's ideas. You may love Lady Gaga and that's cool, maybe you love her style, so figure out what you love about it and then go look elsewhere to find similar elements that can become your own.

History/literature - books and history. I can't separate them out though they aren't twins. When you read a favorite book, or poem, or piece of historical fact, it puts you in a certain place and evokes a mood just like music does. The author's images will become your own as you imagine them because there's no way, no matter how good with words an author is, that you can replicate exactly the same image in your head that the author was describing from his/hers. Reading Madame Bovary made me angry, it brought a very mean small kind of Victorian to my mind and I don't think I'd like to translate Emma Bovary into design but if I did it would be dark, tight, scornful, thin, full of sexual tension, and death. Those, my friends, are design elements you can use and draw from.

There are many other places to look for design inspiration but I think these examples give a broad selection of places to look for it. Are you a clothing or costume designer looking for your next idea? Are you a bride looking for a custom design for a gown? Are you a fetishest wanting to create something completely different than what you've seen out there already? Are you a design student needing some creative direction? Look all around you. Make sketches or write down what's inspiring you and see what shapes, colors, sounds, and textures are drawing you in.

What's drawing you in?



Written by Angelina Williamson for Dark Garden
All photos in this post by Angelina Williamson and may not be reproduced without permission.

1 comment:

  1. Great site!!! this information really helped me , I really appreciate it

    ReplyDelete