Finding Design Inspiration When It’s All Working Against You

You may have noticed that for a designer I talk very little about designing on this blog. I think that’s because I’m so consumed with learning about all the other aspects of running a business that I think of designing as the easy part. I already KNOW how to do that.

Yet lately I’ve been feeling like I haven’t been giving designing enough attention. For the last few years, it has been something that I’ve just dashed off when I’ve had time. Need to design the Spring collection? There are a few hours for me to do that next Friday. That’s designing multiple items. In an afternoon. I’m joking somewhat but it’s sadly not too far from the truth.

A few weeks ago I went to a Creative Mornings and heard local fashion designer Maria Pinto speak. She told us that as creative types, we have this great gift to create new and beautiful things, and that’s a gift that a lot of people yearn to have. I realized that I have this gift and I’ve been kind of squandering it, focusing instead on learning how to be the marketer, accountant, logistics guy. All those things are important, but it’s like I’m dwelling on all the things I don’t know instead of exercising the muscle that I already have.

The problem is, it’s hard to get into a creative flow when you’re being pulled in so many directions. I’ll be happily sketching new bags and get a phone call from a lender about an upcoming loan repayment that I don’t have the money for, and that stresses me out. Or the dock door stops working and we all have to load boxes onto the truck by hand. Or a magazine editor calls and wants assets ASAP to be included in a new story, which of course I drop everything to do. Before I know it, a few days have passed and I’ll look at my page of sketches and barely be able to remember what I was thinking, or imagining.

Feeling like I owed the designer in me more, I took advantage of a cheap flight to Mexico City and spent five days there to escape my normal life. I pictured myself sitting in one of the city’s beautiful parks and sketching, or going to museums or galleries and getting inspired. Instead, I spent most of my days at my computer responding to email (how does that take up so much time?!?!) or researching keywords for our website refresh. Even so, I could feel the richness of the city seeping into me. Every time I went to a new cafe, I’d snap a few pictures of something new and enchanting, knowing that it would resurface later.

Creadores De Bicis, Po Campo’s Mexican distributor.
The “La Vuelta a la Bici” (Return to Bike) exhibit, about the history of the bicycle and its continued relevancy. I would have died of happiness if a Po Campo bag was included in the exhibit, but the bit about women suffragists and World Bicycle Relief were enough to make me feel included.
The cafe next door with cheap and good coffee and strong WiFi
Coyoacan, whose tidy backstreets are seriously enchanting.
Love love love Mexican tilework.
Woven goodness

Then, on the airplane on the way home, I pulled out my paper and came up with some new ideas.

Airplane Sketches
Airplane Sketches

What do you do to get inspired, or to escape the madness of the everyday?

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