Stuff and Nonsense

Malarkey is Andy Clarke, a UK based designer, author and speaker who has a passion for design, CSS and web accessibility.

Andy has been working on the web for almost ten years. He is a visual web designer and author and he founded Stuff and Nonsense in 1998. Andy regularly writes about creating beautiful, accessible web sites and he speaks at events worldwide. Andy is the author of Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design, published by New Riders in 2006.

Creating Inspired Design Part 1: I Am The Walrus

Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye

I had thought that months of solid writing Transcending CSS would have left my ink a little dried out. But an offer to write a series of articles for Informit on Creating Inspired Design was one that was too good to pass up.

This series of articles is about merging ideas and inspiration in different and unexpected ways. Inspired by the pop artists of the 50's and 60's, I will take an inspirational item and transform it for the web, starting with what inspired me, working through the various design stages, and creating the final result.

The first article, Part One: I am The Walrus, was published on January 19th and sets the stage for the series and looks at some of the ways that you can find new inspiration. Here is a short extract:

Solve A Different Problem

Whereas it can be tempting to try to solve a web design problem by first looking at how others have already solved the same problem, the next time you're faced with a design challenge for a web page layout or an interface design, try looking at how others have solved a different problem. Can studying the navigation solution for a DVD menu help you design navigation that's easily understood and utilized by both mouse and keyboard users on your web sites? Can the heating or air-conditioning controls in your car suggest how simple iconography might help visitors move through the checkout stages of an online store?

In How To Get Ideas (Berrett-Koehler, 1996), Jack Foster points to several examples of how combining can help to solve a design problem.

Something is going on right now in some other field that could help to solve your problem, that could give you fresh insight, that could turn your thinking in a new direction, that you could combine with something you already know, that you could use to unlock your mystery. Keep your eye and ear out for it.

For the series, I have also created a Flickr group that I hope will be used for storing examples of found inspiration. I will be uploading items from my scrapbook and other interesting sources as I find them. I hope that you will do the same.

Part One: I am The Walrus is over at Informit now, I hope you like it.

Replies

  1. #1 On January 28, 2007 09:55 PM Mathew Patterson said:

    I enjoyed the article Andy, and I agree that there are a lot of very similar designs around. I don't know if it is a big problem though; many people in all areas start off by copying what they like, and develop their own style through that process.

    Can studying the navigation solution for a DVD menu help you design navigation that�s easily understood and utilized by both mouse and keyboard users on your web sites?

    DVD menus are very often an excellent example of how to annoy the hell out of people! I just want to watch the damn movie!

  2. #2 On January 29, 2007 04:32 AM Ricky Onsman said:

    Very good article, Andy. Looking forward to Sympathy for the Devil.

    Top idea about the Found Inspiration group too.

    Oh, and Transcending CSS is changing me.

    Cheers

  3. #3 On January 29, 2007 06:10 AM Billy said:

    Just finished reading Part 1 and it was great. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

    I browsed around Informit but couldn't find any feeds to subscribe to. I hope you'll keep mentioning the articles here so we know when a new article comes out.

  4. #4 On January 29, 2007 02:13 PM Sam H said:

    Not had a chance to read the full article just yet but will be doing when I get another 10 minutes : D

    I'm currently working on a simple version of my new site (not live yet) and the other night I came up with a design idea that has made me push the live date back another two weeks. I was sat in my local starting at the optics lining the bar, more importantly staring at the Jack Daniels label. I love Jack Daniels and the thought of incorporating that design would be a great idea. It's not very creative since most of the design cues are right there on the bottle but it shows how inspiration can hit you anywhere. Go down the pub and it could hit you too : D

    RE: #3 Billy
    Hope this helps

    PS - I got my copy of Transcending CSS last week and I'm just about half way through section two. Excellent so far and can't wait to get onto the other sections - Job well done Mr. Clarke!!

  5. #5 On January 29, 2007 03:00 PM Bill said:

    When are we going to new some new site designs from you? There haven't been any for ages!!!

  6. #6 On January 29, 2007 03:59 PM Malarkey said:

    @Bill: Oh don't worry Bill, there has been plenty going on with me and Stuff & Nonsense - we certainly haven't been short of things to do! ;)

  7. #7 On January 29, 2007 04:26 PM Brian Artka said:

    Very inspirational article Andy. I plan to follow the rest of them now. I personally find my inspiration in EVERYTHING around me. I have not created anything ground breaking by any means (yet), but the whole process of gathering your thoughts from every type of media out there plus nature, the city, etc. is such a personal thing its hard to explain "how" to do it. I love when others express their process. It only inspires even more. One of my favorite past time books on a designers process is Hillman Curtis' book "MTIV: Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer". I look forward to your process.

    Brian

  8. #8 On January 29, 2007 06:49 PM Steve said:

    Great article Andy... the link from the article to the Flickr group doesn't work though.
    Steve

  9. #9 On January 30, 2007 01:48 PM matthew Smith said:

    Great Article, and great book. I've been reading through Transcending CSS while I give my boy a bath every night. Its been pure anadulterated geek out, art-it-up heaven. I was glad to feel affirmed about having created my own flickr set "inspiration", and realize others were doing that as well. Looking forward to article two.

  10. #10 On January 31, 2007 05:42 PM CW Petersen said:

    While I too have not produced anything groundbreaking, I especially liked the article, as it reminded me of an example. Designing a 60 foot sailboat, I found inspiration in a 120 foot sailboat. Modifying that to work, got inspiration for my new home.

    I just starting Transcending CSS and am enjoying it immensely.

  11. #11 On February 1, 2007 12:46 PM Matt said:

    James Webb Young's A Technique for Producing Ideas is well worth a read. He's talking about advertising copywriting but the principles about how ideas are born are universal.

  12. #12 On February 6, 2007 04:35 PM K Bidwell said:

    I too have fell in the trap of doing stuff because it's safe and you feel that's what the clients wants and it I agree that it's time to create something new.I feel like I get inspired by so much and then end up sitting at the screen doing the same stuff.

    I'm loving Transcending CSS by the way

This article was originally published by Andy Clarke on his personal web site And All That Malarkey and is reproduced here for archive purposes. This article is published under a Creative Commons By Attribution License 2.0.

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