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Generating Design Ideas

Have you ever felt a lack of inspiration and found yourself stuck while creating a design? Or perhaps, despite pouring all your thoughts onto paper or a computer screen, you still couldn't grasp any ideas? I believe every architect, designer, and other creative professionals have experienced such moments, and I am no exception.


Ideas can stem from various sources; what we need to do is find ways to extract them. From books, YouTube, to browsing articles on the internet, here, I summarize several methods to help you break free from creative blocks and generate design ideas.

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Photo by CJ Dayrit on Unsplash.

Broadening Your Perspective


Avoid fixating on one aspect of the problem at hand; try to view it from a broader perspective. For instance, if you're tasked with designing a child's bed, focusing solely on one side might result in a wooden bed with four legs. However, considering it from another angle opens up numerous possibilities.


Begin by asking questions: What is a bed? What age group will use it? How many children will share it? If there are two children, should the bed be wider or in a bunk style? What activities does the child engage in before bedtime? If they often read books, can we incorporate a small bookshelf? Should the second child have a toy box since they bring toys to bed? Can we add a bedside lamp that also functions as a reading light? Does the child's room have air conditioning? Perhaps they need a drawer for blankets and sleepwear.


After answering these questions, you may end up with a "bunk bed with a bookshelf, complete with a reading lamp, toy storage, and a drawer for blankets." Notice the difference? By examining the problem from a broader perspective, you arrive at a different solution. Such an approach might lead to a unique creation.

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Example of a unique design, combining a urinal and sink into one. Source: https://www.toxel.com/
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Bookshelf and bookmark at the same time. Source: Product Daily IG.

Breaking Habits and Contrasting Actions


Initiate small changes. If you're accustomed to writing with your right hand, try using your left. If you follow the same route to work or school every day, experiment with a different path. Establish new morning routines, such as showering before breakfast or engaging in light exercise before bathing. Introduce variety into your daily activities. Over time, this trains the brain to think beyond routine. Eventually, you'll become accustomed to seeking alternative approaches to problem-solving.


Strolling or Traveling


As mentioned in a previous post, traveling is a method to broaden perspectives and gain knowledge. Through travel, you can witness, feel, and experience new things. The more you know, the more you can experiment in your creative endeavors. If time doesn't permit travel, explore your city or visit intriguing places like coffee shops or museums. Pay attention to various elements during your journey, such as shapes, textures, colors, shadows, people's interactions, and more. Dedicate 2-3 hours to exploring. This is far more beneficial than sitting in front of a computer, waiting for inspiration.

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Light, texture, color, shadows, and other interesting things that I encounter when strolling around. Image by Adityuwana.

Become a Collector


While browsing the internet, save interesting images or articles in a designated folder on your computer. During walks or reading, if you come across something captivating, take a photo and store it in the same folder. Carry a small, portable notebook. If an idea strikes while you're somewhere or doing something, jot it down immediately to avoid forgetting. Revisit the folder and notebook when you're stuck. Among the many collected items, some may serve as inspiration.


Steal (Like An Artist)


According to Austin Kleon in his book, when asked where he gets his ideas, an artist replied, "I steal them." Nothing in this world is entirely new. All new ideas are essentially combinations of various pre-existing ideas.

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Good vs Bad Theft. Image by Austin Kleon.

When someone claims their idea is original, they merely don't know who came up with it before them. There's no harm in imitating existing ideas. Be discerning about which ideas are worth emulating and which are not. However, exercise caution as this is related to plagiarism.


Writer Wilson Mizner stated, "If you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research." Borrow ideas from different works, choose those that can solve your problem, blend them together, and add your creativity. This process will result in a creation distinct from what existed before.




Start Working


If you've exhausted all options and still find yourself stuck, start working. That's it. In his book "99 untuk Arsitek," Raul Renanda suggests creating a conducive working environment and simply beginning the work. Don't expect immediate results. If the outcome is unsatisfactory, learn from it and make improvements. If it's not good enough, refine it further. Repeat this process, and over time, you'll achieve better results than before. Don't worry; this repetitive process is the design process.


A supplementary suggestion is to "start with your hands." It's crucial to initiate with hand sketches rather than using a computer. Starting with a computer may lead to distractions and the allure of embellishments that computers offer. You may struggle to visualize your ideas effectively for solving design problems.

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A desk that contains digital equipment. Image by Adityuwana.

If your room allows, set up two workstations: a digital work desk and an analog work desk. Place your computer on the digital work desk and keep all electronic devices away from your analog work desk. Fill your work desk with various manual tools like paper, pencils, erasers, markers, and more, and begin creating from there.

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Work table specifically for manual tools. Image by Adityuwana.

So, those were some methods to break free from creative blocks and generate design ideas. I hope this post proves beneficial, especially for those feeling uninspired and stuck. Stay creative, and see you in the next post. Bye!

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