If you work in a creative industry, you know inspiration is a vital source for developing our work. Creative people can’t be “on” all the time. We need to do things that keep us inspired to think and create in new ways. Finding creative inspiration can help trigger a new idea or enhance the growth of a project.  

When looking through our hospitality design gallery, it’s not uncommon for a new client to ask, “What was your inspiration for this design?” If I’m honest, there’s never a short answer to that question. I can point to obvious things, like nature, architecture, or the history of the location, but the best creativity requires an ongoing commitment to finding new inspiration every day.

I’m breaking down the practical steps I take to overcome moments where my team and I feel uninspired, hoping it will give other designers and creative professionals new ideas for how to find inspiration to keep growing and pushing your limits. But before we jump into how and where to find inspiration, it’s essential to look at two obstacles that can stifle creativity. These obstacles present opportunities to challenge the way we think about our work.

Two Obstacles That Can StiFle Creativity

#1: An InFlexible Schedule

Creativity is not something we can turn on and off with a switch. Every person approaches creativity and inspiration differently. As the leader of my design team, I can’t say, “You must be creative from 8-5 every day.” Creativity doesn’t work like that.

To get the best work from my designers, I offer them flexibility. My design team can set their schedule. If a designer is not an early morning person, I will not get the most out of her creativity at 7 am; however, if she starts at 10 am, and she’s ready to rock, everyone receives a benefit—including our clients. The early birds who start at 7- 8 am run out of creative fuel as their day goes on, so they are welcome to leave earlier in the day.

When is your creative energy the highest?

I am most creative in the morning. By late afternoon, I am visually overstimulated by all I have seen that day, and I need to recharge. 

#2: Critical Feedback

One of the most significant challenges we have as designers is when we think we have designed an incredible concept or solution for our clients, and they reject it. No creative person enjoys when the design process gets stuck in the revision phase—where the design isn’t meeting project goals, and the revision process is more cumbersome than it needs to be.

Maybe the client wasn’t specific enough about what they wanted in the first place, or perhaps someone on the review team “just doesn’t like it.” Regardless of the reasoning behind negative feedback, any designer in this situation must find a way to address it head-on, move forward, and learn from it. It is not something designers can take personally. Every designer will receive negative feedback at some point in their career.

The ironic thing about critical feedback?

Once we step back, reboot, and switch gears, we often produce a final result that is even better than where we started.

Five Ways To Find Creative Inspiration

#1: Find Content That Inspires You

Creativity requires flexibility, but running a business requires discipline and routine. I am intentional about making time to consume content related to hospitality and the design industry. I subscribe to many interior design emails, follow relevant social channels, and listen to inspiring podcasts so that I can receive the latest news on products, installations, and design trends. I look at our competitors and question what we can do differently, and I glean from past experiences to build a unique perspective.

A secret to being inspired is not allowing your mind to grow dull or settled on “good enough.”

I regularly schedule vendor presentations for the JAI designers, so we are introduced to new selections and learn about the latest product advancements. Also, we attend design tradeshows and conferences where we spend concentrated days surrounded by visual stimulation. It’s our job to know the latest trends and learn from other professionals in our industry—and as it turns out, it’s also very inspiring!

#2: Use Your Surrounding

There are so many inspiring podcasts, publications, and social accounts out there. Still, none compare to taking out my AirPods, turning my phone on silent, and getting outside to experience the world around me. Whether it’s going for a walk, heading to the beach, or exploring a downtown destination, I find getting outside and engaging with my surroundings is one of the best ways to breed new ideas.

How we perceive something is unique to our past or current relationship with it. I could walk by the same thing every day, and then one afternoon stop and feel like I’m seeing it for the first time. When we pay attention to our environment, we are often surprised at what will inspire us.

Maybe inspiration doesn’t originate from an external source at all, but perhaps it is something that comes from within us. (And, there is your inspirational quote of the day.)

#3: Draw from What You Know

The digital world is changing every month, and it’s hard to keep up some days. It’s important to gather inspiration from what is happening right now on leading design experiences, but also we can’t forget about what we’ve done well in the past. Trends should complement the classics. Gathering inspiration from what’s being done right now is only part of the puzzle for us. Simple, classic, and clean are still go-to design muses.

#4: Create Mental Space

I crave quiet. When I am over-connected, oversaturated, and overstimulated, I need to step away. Exercise and time for meditation and prayer do wonders for me. When I take the time to quiet my spirit, fresh and creative ideas stream into my mind. I feel more productive. How many creative people have said, “I got that idea when I was in the shower?” That’s because this simple act is a moment when we are isolated and allow silence. It’s a 10-minute opportunity to open your mind.

#5: Find Your Tribe

I am also inspired by mentors and industry leaders who have walked in my path. I get inspired by conversations with people who are working to solve the same kind of problems I’m trying to solve. Whether it’s joining a network of similar-minded businesswomen or reaching out to trusted mentors I’ve had over the years, inspiration comes from trusted relationships with people who can challenge the way I think.

If you’ve been around me for even a minute, you know I draw a lot of inspiration from my dear friend Stacy Garcia. She is an internationally renowned designer, forward-thinking product designer, and an industry trendsetter. I love that she is a forecasting expert of color and design trends, and by following her product design, travel, and fashion posts is a sure way to get a very early glimpse into what is coming. But nothing is better than a conversation between two friends who share a passion for Design that Makes a Difference.  

What Inspires You? 

Where do you go to stay fresh and relevant as a designer or artist? Feel free to drop me a message and let me know your tips. You never know, they may get featured in an upcoming blog or social tip.