It all starts with a blank page. A white rectangle staring back at you. It wants to be something more – something brilliant and inspired. Only you just have 2 hours to make it happen. And time starts right about now. Where do you start? Where does this inspiration on command come from?

Design blogs and books are the usual starting points. There are limitless sources of information for designers online now – a sea of visual stimulation that both overwhelms and inspires. You can hear what designers from across the globe are talking about, look at their work, analyze each piece. There’s an army of us out there, broadcasting, displaying, critiquing, showcasing and sharing our work. Too many to keep up with, quite frankly. Luckily there are places like Pinterest, Wookmark and The Matboard that let you collect your inspirations and bookmark ideas into your why-didn’t-I-think-of-that folder. Clickable and storable inspiration that is both accessible AND tangible. But that is just a starting point, my friends. You gotta keep going.

If all you do is look at and read design blogs featuring the newest trend or fancy trick, then all you are adding to your visual library is information that appeals to designers. All your work inspiration will be designer-oriented and you’ll end up churning out work that looks like everyone else’s.

Sorry, but that is not my job.

Sure, it’s nice when other designers appreciate the work we do, but our job as communicators is to engage a larger audience. To captivate mass attention and stir up conversations. And for that, we gotta dig deeper.

Imagine a songwriter who only writes about music. A song about songs might be cool, but it won’t tug on you like a great song can. The best songs are the ones that connect with people at a deeper level. The ones that draw you in, give you chills and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The ones that will later become part of the soundtrack of your life.

So back to inspiration – where does inspiration come from? I think inspiration comes from outside your bubble, whatever your bubble may be. Step away from the computer and get a life. Go to the movies. Watch some bands play. Go for a drive and get lost. Open your eyes to the world around you, because that is where life happens. Have conversations about something that is not work-related. Talk to a stranger and do things that make you uncomfortable. If we are to communicate with people from all walks of life through our work, we have to know something about those walks. Create and store your own stories. Your own personal Pinterest gallery made of real moments. Remember these moments and let them be your work’s main guide.