How do you turn inspiration into skill?

27 Jun

by Ryan from

Over the last few months I’ve noticed a ton of inspiring websites., Art Lebedev, n+1, Show of Force, and on and on. And everytime I look at one of these sites, I think to myself “Oh I’m so inspired. Look at how they did this. Look at that paragraph style. Look at that header. I feel so full of ideas.”

Then it’s time to work on a new project, and did all the inspiration make a difference? Actually, no. Most of the work I do is looking like all the other work I’ve done for months and months and years. Apparently looking at cool stuff isn’t enough to increase your skill. It’s easy to look at some stuff and say “oh that’s inspiring, that gives me ideas” without moving an inch.

So I got thinking. How did I develop the basic skills I have right now? Mostly by copying heroes. When you’re fresh starting out, you have no fear of diving in and copying something directly. It’s like playing guitar. When you start playing guitar all you want to do is play the first verse of your favorite song. Big success! You don’t need to write the next great guitar symphony or a hit single. It’s totally satisfying to learn to play something somebody else can already play. And you get better by doing it.

And it was the same way with design. I was totally psyched to copy a Müller-Brockmann poster, a Designgraphik composition, or an Apple UI. Merely executing the copy was a thrill. But now every design is supposed to be the next great thing. And as days and weeks and months go by, the design level stays the same while the aspiration goes higher and higher.

So maybe it’s time to take one of these Fridays off and just copy something.

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