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Opening the Scope of Influences

It's easy to get lost online. You can look up nearly anything and find tons of inspiration to get things done. For creative types, I think the Internet is a blessing and a curse.

Sure, you can instantly find (debatable) answers for any questions, and you can look up reference material for any subject. But like most media, the 'net is susceptible to trends and collective hysteria. Search engines, site loyalty/familiarity, marketing tactics, and relevance based on everyone's syndication of their thoughts... all of these encourage users to trod the well-worn path and hinder aimless surfing--probably the best way to find true inspiration when online.

Most of my work these days is web-based. Successful developers must be able to balance keeping neck-in-neck with contemporaries and innovation. How do you do this without just copying others?

First, disconnect. If you spend a lot of time online, so much of what you see has infiltrated your subconscious. Let it stew there without adding more web input.

Check out other media. Seeing a conceptual film (or obnoxious visual effects-heavy blockbuster) can spark new ideas, as can flipping through interior design, bridal, or craft magazines. Curse of the Golden Flower on Blu-Ray remains a color inspiration since I first watched it, and Real Simple and ReadyMade are ongoing sources of clever solutions.

Connect with bright people. Good conversation with creative thinkers can give you new perspectives on solving design and development challenges. "Creative thinkers" doesn't necessarily mean artists; scientists, historians, musicians, engineers, and writers can be great sources of new information. My friend Julie is not only a designer, but also a cosmology fiend; her interest in physics drove her to create Particle Zoo.

Get in touch with nature. It is possible to get burned out on techie-dom. The colors and shapes encountered on a hike, trip to the beach, or scenic drive can provide an arsenal of ideas. I realized while traveling through New Mexico around dusk that the term "Southwest colors" is derived from a natural thing.

Make something... else. Take time to create things outside your main focus. Take some photos, paint something, take on a woodworking project, or cook. One of my favorite color combinations--cream, pale yellow, salmon, and periwinkle--was taken from a favorite recipe.