Its natural, it happens to the best of us. And it is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. We see a design that not only makes us stop in our tracks, but it makes us feel the creeping reach of that green eyed monster, envy. Though jealousy of this nature can have a hugely positive impact on your creative drive if you manage the monster correctly.
This kind of design envy can usually lead you in one of either two completely different directions, and it is up to you to decide exactly where you let it lead you. Just like the poles have opposites and every yang has its darker yin, these two paths that are enviously presented take you on either the path of light, or its darker twin. The lighter leading you towards the lap of inspired luxury, while the darker taking you towards design destruction. It essentially breaks down like this
Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood…
While experiencing the effects of the green eye, you can either let your envy stir your passion to create a design on par with that which has brought about the monsters presence. Or you can let it take you the more uninspired route towards essentially copying the design to call it your own. Make no mistake about it, there is a big difference between letting a design inspire you and trying to rise to the occasion, and letting the envy take you down the darker path towards duplicating a major portion of the design into yours.
Inspiration is not a creative force to be taken lightly, so when you find a design that moves you into that arena, it is fine to honor and pay homage to the piece, but overall you still want to have your own voice and style represented in the work. And there are ways to do that without falling victim to the lazy minded trap of borrowing from the design you are inspired by. Below are a few of those ways that will help keep you on course on the lighter path and keep your work seen as inspired works from a similar vein, not as uninspired rip-offs.
Read Between the Lines
You want to find out what the piece is saying, or at least conveying to you, and that is what you want to try and make your own. You want to read between the lines, and find that underlying message that is being transferred and find your own unique way to say that same thing. This way you are being true to the design that inspired you, but you are not stealing from the work, just trying to say the same thing with your voice.
Homage Your Favorite Elements
Another way you can emulate without copying the work that has inspired you is to find the elements that pop in the design and speak to you, and pay homage to those elements by working them into your design in creative and newly inspired ways. This way your design it still your own and is saying whatever you intended, you simply have honored the design that inspired you with some highlights on certain similarly styled elements.
Method to the Madness
Another way that you can easily take that inspiration in your own directions is to look at the methods behind the design, the building blocks that allowed this design be wrought into fruition. Incorporate these methods and tactics into your design process to help find your foundation for your project. Even though it may not be a recognizable homage to the piece that you were originally inspired by, it will still have similar roots while maintaining more of a unique presentation and feel.
Youre Doing it Wrong!
Below are a few things that you may think qualifies as mere inspiration, but it is actually not a case of design envy, as much as it is just design theft. So make sure as you set out to pay homage, you are not crossing over the line and entering reputationally marring design areas. Besides the means we discussed above that lead you to greener pastures, avoid the following list of faux-pas we finish up with and your inspired designs will be just that.
- Color Variances – Simply altering the colors does not make this a re-imagined creation of your very own. While hue does play a huge role in design, it is not what makes it original.
- Inspired Rotation – Taking a popular design you like and simply rotating it, also does not earn you a triumph. Still a fail. 180 degrees does not change that much.
- Design Shemping – Just because the Three Stooges thought they could simply replace Curly with Shemp and recycle the rest of the elements doesnt make it a model for success.
- Buried 6ft Under – Taking a design and Myspacing the crap out of it, burying the original work you borrowed beneath miles of superfluous unnecessary elements is not a way to win.
Enviable Designs: An inspired showcase
Below are some designs that stir up a little design envy for me and Angie, my partner in freelancing and life. We have decided to showcase them in order to get you thinking about your online design interactions and which ones have left you with that inspired envy.
Burton Board Finder UI
When it comes to user interface design, there is an element of limitation as there must be some inherent control and navigation for the users, but the interface design for Burtons online snowboard shop is both creatively and magnificently plotted and executed.
The Readies by Jihad Linham
The Readies an amazing type rich design by Jihad Linham comes in to complete this inspired envious look. Struggling with typographical design, makes Angie an avid typophile studying anything typography related she can get her hands on.
Signalnoise Art Gallery UI
James White is the amazingly talented artist and designer behind Signalnoise and if his gallery werent enough to inspire a little design envy, then the gallery interface on the site just might. The UI is intoxicatingly fluid and interactive.
Heart of a Dragon by Videa
Videa, on Deviant Art, is another skilled graphic artist whose rich, vibrant work does tend to bring in the green eye. Heart of a Dragon is one such piece. Studying fantastic photomanipulations to learn new ways of combining images and working out composition is a fav skill building activity of Angies.
Microbot Website UI
Another well crafted and imaginatively constructed website UI comes from graphic artist and designer David Fuhrer, aka Microbot. The sites latest incarnation is another in a string of well devised and implemented interfaces.
Custom Toys by Julie Hill
Julie Hill is an extremely talented artist with an enviable skill for creating whimsical and intricate designs, like she has done with her Custom Toys collection. Angie has always been a huge fan of toy design and have found many munnys that pique her jealousy. And a handful of them are right here.
That is All For Now
So that does it for this end of the design envy discussion, but there is a comment section below just waiting for you to continue the discussion, either through addressing some of the points brought up in the post, or by leaving a link to the designs that make you jealous with a few words as to why,