Nodes of design inspiration
~ 26 April 2004 ~
After hours of mouse movement, sweat, and loss of blood while working on a client layout last week, I painfully discovered a link between two important design concepts: 1) design inspiration and 2) design nodes. Although recovering in a hospital bed somewhere in Northern Utah, I’ll attempt to explain this link as coherently as I can.
For those of you with only minutes to spare, allow the Authentic Boredom Node ’O Matic™ to present a brief summary of the information that follows:
For the sake of not repeating information contained in this article, suffice it to say I recommend designers allow themselves to be inspired by other creations as often as necessary. Although controversial since the day it was first published, the article isn’t an advocate for plagiarism (copying the outcome) but rather for emulation (copying the inspiration).
A node is typically defined as point of intersection (in a non-medical setting, might I add). Varying examples include the point at which two orbits cross, or the point at which a computer connects to a network. And so on.
In a design sense, I use the term ‘node’ to loosely define intersecting points in a layout. The logo inside the masthead. The masthead resting above two columns. The placement of phone and web address just beneath body copy in a magazine ad. And the like.
Nodes of Inspiration
By combining the concept of design inspiration with that of design nodes, we discover something I call “nodes of inspiration” or “node of inspiration” for short (*snicker). Simply put, these are points of intersection in a layout in which a designer uses another source as reference for inspiration.
I’ve been doing this for quite some time now—probably years—but didn’t notice it until last week, after stepping back from a layout to see where some of the inspiration originated from. Shown in the Node ’O Matic diagram above, I count five sources that helped produce a refined layout: Xango.net, ShaunInman.com, SkyWorksInc.com, CNET.com, and JustWatchTheSky.com. (You may view a full-size screenshot of the layout, but note that elements have been changed or blurred to protect the identity of the client.)
In the end, each of the inspired elements were reproduced with Authentic Boredom flavor and are unique in their own right. Further, by utilizing nodes of inspiration in a commercial setting such as this, overall thinking time is reduced, saving both time and money without harm to the client.
The Floor is Now Yours
So there you have it. I expect this article to be as controversial as the one that first inspired it. Feedback? Rebuttal? The floor is now yours.
NOTEAlthough I recommend using nodes of inspiration as often as needed, there are times to be inspired and there are times to be original. The Node ’O Matic diagram, for example, was created without any nodes of inspiration whatsoever. You’ll need to use wise judgement as to when nodes of inspiration should be used and when they should not.
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Authentic Boredom is the platitudinous web home of Cameron Moll, freelance new media designer, author, and speaker. More…
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