Designers help teams make better decisions by developing concepts, using questions to identify opportunities and understand the user context. They face tough problems every day – problems that require them to find innovative solutions. The problem in question is web design and it deals with technical and business constraints while also including the user's needs.
We all face the urge to find the solution quickly, but that definitely shouldn’t stop designers from understanding the core of the problem.
Good design is something that all designers hate because there is no good or bad design. There is a design that is adapted to its purpose or not.
So it is crucial to make a design that has a meaning and it is adapted to its purpose.
The process of concept design is one of the most important steps in any design project. Also, it’s a skill that few people take the time to actually understand. So, let’s go through the creation and inspiration process until we have a successful concept to start our web design project.
Start with a Mind Map
The simplest way to build a Mind Map is to extract all keywords that are associated with the client’s needs as well as the design. Write down some keywords on how that design should make people feel about this website… solid, young, uplifted etc.
After that, just take the keyword and simply put it in Google Images. You will get a lot of results that you can choose from to build your mind map.
For example, if we’re making a website for a building company, we want something that will represent solid, precise and trust.
By knowing that the client wants a design that will represent strength, precision, solidness, through mind mapping, I would understand that:
- I should mostly go for sharp and rectangular shapes
- Darker “solid” color shades are preferable
- Use of “building” style and solid color components.
- Have a minimal but powerful design
Involve more designers
I realized this when I was younger, at a design workshop. We were around 20 people, playing a storytelling card game (I think it was called: Once Upon a Time). We were sitting in a circle and everyone got a card and started a story on what comes first to their minds when they saw the card. It was interesting how almost all 20 people had a different story for one card.
Similarly, the ideation phase can be executed perfectly if you involve other designers/artists in the project. It helps to bounce off different ideas around each other. Just ask each one to do a mind map and search for images for a few minutes, then get together and brainstorm by discussing what your ideas are. It’s quite surprising how other people see things differently, and by that, you open up to totally new concepts and ideas.
It's also important to talk during this stage in the design process! The word "solid" means different things to different people - so don't rely mainly on the initial image search results or your own interpretation to be the definitive source of inspiration.
Inspiration for concepts
A great source of inspiration is to stay away from your screen. Most of the time, designers visit inspirational sites or go through the daily top designs. This might help in other phases but probably won't help much when you’re trying to come up with your own core concept.
Try to look at other off-screen inspiration sources like Magazines, Billboards, Posters and TV Commercials. They are very good sources if you have the time, especially if we bear in mind that the rules included in web design differ greatly from print design or TV Ads. They can give you a unique new perspective that will help you invent original ideas that you can work on later into your design concept.
Architectural designs also can be good and unique sources of inspiration:
Here’s a quick example:
It depends on your client and the goal you’re trying to achieve, the above building can give you new concepts and ideas to use for your “container shell” web design.
Steal ideas, don't copy them
In the movie Paranoia, actor Gary Oldman walks up to Liam Hemsworth and as they look at a painting on the wall Gary tells the young man:
“You know what Picasso said? A good artist copies, a great artist steals. There’s nothing original left in the world (Adam), we’re all stealing from someone. You might want to remember that”
So how you can actually “Steal like an artist”?
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn.” — T.S Eliot
That quote probably looks stolen, right? If not stolen oddly similar to the Picasso's one. But, because both of them lived in the same period of time, there is no certain way to prove if it is stolen and who stole it from whom. That leads us to the first point.
“You don’t want to steal the style, you want to steal the thinking behind the style, you don’t want to like your heroes you want to see like your heroes”
A good way to reverse engineer styles that you can steal from is to take a look at what specifically you like about that piece of art. Why do those words specifically talk to you? What parts make you feel good? What is it about it that moves you?
And once you reverse one engineer thing and you include it in your art, you move on to the next one, which leads us to point our next point.
Steal from everywhere. Steal from many designers.
A good example for this is that the origin of a writer's inspiration isn’t limited to only books. They can steal from music, movies, get inspired by the beautiful architecture around them, the stars, the ground beneath their feet and pretty much everything else.
“If you have one person you are influenced by, everyone will say you’re the next whoever. But if you rip off a hundred people, everyone will say you’re so original!”
— Gary Panter
“Nothing is original anymore. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration and fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.”
— Jim Jarmusch
Always keep in mind how you want your audience to feel. By choosing the direction of your design you set the mood, then enforce this by choosing the correct content layout and image selection.
When it comes to shapes and text-based web design, understanding your visitors will greatly increase the usability of your work and how you will design the website.