Finding inspiration sitting on the can


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The featured image for this blog post.

When starting on a new project, designers often go on the hunt for inspiration.

Sites like Dribble and Behance are popular places to find some incredible examples of well-executed design and can spark the idea that drives your project. After all, what better way to find great ideas for the website or app you’re designing than looking at other great examples of well-designed websites and app?

Too often, though, we spend too much time taking inspiration from screens and forget about the world around us. Design is universal and exists in everything we interact with, not just pixels on a screen. If we take the time to look, we can find a ton of inspiration from the design of things we interact with every day, in the least expected places.

Pay attention to things you take for granted

How often do you go to the bathroom? If you don’t have health issues and are being honest, your answer is probably every day. When you interact with something that often, it can be difficult to notice brilliant design when you see it, but that’s exactly where I found a bit of great design the other day.

Changing the roll of toilet paper as always been kind of tricky. You have to take that spring-loaded bar out, fish it through the roll and carefully fit it back into place while trying not to launch the roll across the bathroom and leave yourself stranded. And for my entire life, I’ve accepted this as the only way changing a toilet paper roll went.

The other day, however, I began to change the toilet paper at a friend’s house and was blown away with the system I interacted with. Instead of the tricky spring-loaded system, I found a bar that simply lifted on a hinge. Lift it up, switch the rolls, push it down again. It was so simple.

Why hadn’t I thought of that? Why had it taken so long for someone else to think of that? Why weren’t toilet paper holders always designed this way?

It seems like a strange thing to be excited about, and it probably is, but it’s also a great reminder that great design is all around you, you just have to look for it. Start really paying attention to how things you use every day are designed and you’ll begin to find much more inspiration.

It’s not just random bathroom objects where you can find great design. Take a closer look at things you take for granted every day. That pen you love? The subway map you walk by every day? Your car’s dashboard? Someone spent time, thought and energy making complex design decisions about all of those things. And many of those decisions are based on the same principles used when designing an interface.