This is a guest article contributed by Aileen Pablo.
As a web designer today, you have literally hundreds of places to help spur your creativity. Websites dedicated to providing inspiration for web design work. List posts explaining what’s hot in the industry this year. And publications that share the ideas from inside the minds of the designers themselves.
The problem with this wealth of information is that often a trend takes on a life of its own. Suddenly it’s everywhere, and what was once hot is, well, not! In fact, it’s so overdone that the site you’ve designed just blends in with the crowd or, worse, looks like a copy of someone else’s work.
Does that mean you should stop seeking inspiration from all these sources? Of course not. Staying on top of what’s current in the industry is an important part of being a professional. But it does mean that you should think twice before jumping on the bandwagon.
Instead, consider using these sources as inspiration of what not to do. Here are a few ways that you can buck the trends to find a truly unique inspiration for your next design.
Go the opposite direction.
Flat design is in right now but why not try the polar opposite and make a site as 3-dimensional as possible? Large photo backgrounds are in too – so try removing photos from your website altogether, and take an illustrative approach instead.
Put your own spin on it.
Take a type of functionality that’s becoming popular and use it in a unique way. For instance, parallax scrolling was (and maybe still is) all the rage. Many sites have employed the technique, but few have done so in a way that’s memorable, such as by telling a story like Atlantic World Fair did with their unique site.
Turn it upside down.
One new web design trend that’s being talked about is fixed header bars at the top of the page – but what if you placed it on the side or created a similar effect with vertical navigation? Sometimes simply changing the placement or perspective can make a huge difference. By taking something expected and turning it on its head, it draws attention to your design.
Combine designs with something unexpected.
Often the most unique web designs come from ideas that seem to totally clash. Combine minimalist design with grunge. Use a modern layout with very traditional design elements. One great source for inspiration is the company itself. If you can uncover the real “human” story behind an otherwise corporate brand, it can often open up a world of unexpected design possibilities.
Ditch the Idea Boards – and Rely on Your Memory
Many web designers will print out their inspiration sources and put them on a bulletin board. Or they will bookmark web pages they like in order to revisit them later. If you’re engaging in either of these practices, consider scrapping it.
Having to draw on your memory to bring back the details can help you avoid becoming a design “copycat.” The human memory isn’t perfect, and that will work to your advantage. You’ll misremember aspects of the original design (or designs) that inspired your current project, and those details can often help differentiate the two.
Not ready to toss the inspiration yet? That’s alright. Just make a rule for yourself to put it aside during crucial parts of the design process. Then when you go back to it, look for ways that you can further distance yourself from the original inspiration.
But remember this in your quest to be different: it’s okay to copy some elements from your inspiration. After all, that’s why you sought the inspiration out in the first place! The key is to take what excited you about an idea and then make it your own.
Do you have any other design inspiration tips to share?