How to Find Design Inspiration

How to find design inspiration in the real world

Need help finding real world design inspiration? 4 steps to get inspired

So your business has an empty shop window to fill, a banner ad to create, a trade show exhibit to build, Instagram Post to get out or a product launch party to plan…how do you create a physical environment or digital imagery that gets your customers attention?  With solid set design skills, of course.

Set Design:  How to Get Inspired

Designing sets for theater productions requires a lot of creativity and thought.  Each project starts with an inspiration session that can last weeks before the actual set is drawn and construction begins.  Many of the techniques used in set design can be applied to making a business space stand out.  Whether you are designing a storefront window, planning an over the top party, creating a trade show must-see booth, or simply creating a unique space for your customers to enjoy your products, these tips can help you and your business stand out.

Step 1:  Go see a movie. 

Hollywood has provided us with a lifetime of visual inspiration.  Watch a period piece to see how fabric and knickknacks have changed over the years.  Use the brilliance of CGI to imagine color and size combinations that will make your design memorable.  Immerse yourself in the story to understand what elements are expected.  For example, sitting through a horror movie even if it is not your preferred genre in preparation for a haunted house design helps with details like lighting, staging and props.  

Step 2:  Break out the crayons and coloring books. 

The simplicity of coloring books focuses on lines, angles and curves and are a great jumping off point for big picture design.  Besides, spending a few minutes coloring has been shown to relax adults, allowing their minds to open and think tangentially about a situation, problem or design.  Comic books and cartoons also offer clean, efficient images. 

Step 3:  Take a hike.  Look for Art and Architecture. 

Take a walk around a city.  Look at the statues including their bases. Examine fences, bridges, walls and buildings.  Look at details like trim and windows to see layers of pattern.  Walk in nature.  Note the way water changes color.  Compare the texture of different bark, leaves and stones.   

Step 4:  Grab your passport. 

Ok, not literally.  Go to Netflix, Amazon Prime, a library, thrift store or bookstore and find travel films, books and DVDs.  Seeing somewhere far away can open your eyes to create a mind blowing space.  Try House Hunters International, Better Late than Never, the Rick Steves videos, and anything in the Visions travel series.  These companies take a lot of time to get lighting and composition just right.

First, compile a stack of drawings, notes or a Pinterest board. Next, sit down with the director, event planner or building team and discuss the limitations of the stage, set pieces and whatever other parameters will control the design.   

Take the time to fill your mind and sketch book with ideas to design with depth and an attention to detail.

After all, the goal is to surprise and delight with a scene that not only enhances the performance or product, but transports the audience/customer to a whole, new world.

Bring this level of excitement to your business to make the most of your Brands.

Be inspired!  A little extra thought and research can lead to a truly unforgettable experience for your customers.

Heather H. Bennett is a marketing strategist, personal brand coach, and author of Fun and Fulfilling Careers One Question at a Time. Heather lives and works in Chicago, Illinois and is passionate about helping businesses and professionals build strong brands to connect with their target market and reach their personal and professional goals.  

Find Heather via Twitter @creativebrandch &


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