In the design world, imitation is a big problem. With a quick peek at another designer’s portfolio and a few short hours on Photoshop, an average-at-best designer can duplicate just about anything. Both intentional and unintentional imitation has become the current state of the web. More and more designs are starting to look the same.
Innovation, not imitation, is critical for the success of your design
Many new designers get their start in the crowd sourcing community. Many designers feel pressured to put out the coolest, flashiest, and most “stand-outish” designs in hope that a buyer will like it and pay them. In an attempt to gain more business, designers will copy a high-ranking design from a competing designer.
Some tech-illiterate buyers will even purchase the copy of an established website without even realizing it. Despite all the problems that go along with that, the designer responsible still gets paid. Many designers have come to the conclusion that they can call a design “their own” just by manipulating one or two features from another person’s design. Not only is it unprofessional, but it’s also inherently bad for the intended audience.
It’s critical that up-and-coming designers make a name for themselves. If a new designer gets started by pirating a website, they run the risk of damaging their reputation before they’ve even established one.
How to get inspired
If you type in “how to get inspired” into Google, you’ll get anything from “meditate outside barefoot at sunrise” to “join support groups to discuss your feelings.” You can sharpen the line between imitation and inspiration without jumping through any hurdles. Here’s how:
1). Determine what you need: What are your website’s requirements? Your main job, above all else, is to guide your users through the content. Content comes first. All of the elements that you implement into your designs need to address the content issue first. A user can’t effectively navigate through a flashy, over-stylized, aimless website that simply “looks cool.”
2). Define what you want to create: Ask yourself a few questions. What am I trying to design? What will the user need? What will the user want? Why am I even looking for inspiration in the first place? Once you can answer those questions, go and look at things. Check out blogs. Take a walk. Read magazines. Once you have a general idea of what you want, go visit Awwards.com, Behance.com, and Dribbble.com to finalize your vision.
3). Dissect the designs: After you’ve finished observing designs, figure out what made those particular designs so successful. Figure out what worked and why something didn’t work. “Inspiration” isn’t duplicating something from Awwards.com. “Inspiration” is realizing something is awesome and appreciating that awesomeness. That’s it.
Observe and appreciate certain design elements. Understand how whitespace influenced the feel of a particular design. It’s hard to innovate when you’re stuck on something that has already been done. If you look at certain designs as the only way to accomplish something, then you’ve hit a roadblock.
While you scroll through numerous designs, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re just trends. Who cares if it’s the most beautiful assortment of pixels that you’ve ever seen—if it won’t work on your design, there’s no point in obsessing over it. Ask yourself, “Is that flat hot-pink parallax design with the horizontal scrolling really what my website needs?
Imitating another designer’s work dilutes your credibility and results in a sub-par design. Find the best solution for your user and you’ll have the best design you could ever create. You can appreciate and absorb fantastic design—but once you boot up Photoshop you should do your own thing.