Creating Inspiration in Design Education

DS 69: Proceedings of E&PDE 2011, the 13th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, London, UK, 08.-09.09.2011

Year: 2011
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Sonneveld, Marina Henrieke
Series: E&PDE
Section: Creativity in Design Education
Page(s): 166-171


To become a designer is to develop oneself as a creative person: an authentic personality with a strong drive to explore new paths and to create new possibilities. This development needs to be supported and nurtured by inspiration from different sources: people, projects, environments, role models and so on. Design education focuses on the development of design thinking and design making, offering tools, techniques and methods supporting this development. Yet it seems that these approaches take the process of ‘being inspired’ for granted, focusing on the creative part of design thinking. In our course ‘Reflection on Designing’, students write an essay about themselves as designers, reflecting on different issues such as methods, values, ambitions, and inspiration. From the previous years, it became clear that the topic of inspiration is difficult to address. Students use clichés such as ‘inspiration is everywhere’, without deepening their insights in what inspiration actually is. To develop awareness for the fact that inspiration is a driving force in design and in personal development, ‘Inspiration’ was explicitly addressed during the course, and explored with the students. What inspires design students? What insights can we get from these explorations about the process of being inspired? And how can we support ‘being inspired’ in design education? To start, a series of 50 interviews with artists, in which they describe which artist inspired them most, was analysed. They show that to be inspired is not just something that happens to you. To be inspired by somebody may start with a spark, but most of all the process asks for an open-minded engagement: one needs to invest time and effort to become inspired. Next, being inspired by somebody combines the experience of recognition, of being soul mates AND of experiencing new perspectives and new possibilities to explore. Being only a soul mate is a mere ‘feel good’ experience. Vice versa, seeing new perspectives without feeling connected is alienating. It is the combination of recognition AND of opening new perspectives that triggers inspiration. Finally, all artists are experienced as sources of strength and encouragement in the process of personal development, of doing the things your own way, of leaving behind the safety of conventions and of well-known paths. These findings were taken as a starting point for students to explore WHO inspired them in their development as a creative person and to write an essay about it. Next, each student developed a mind map to describe WHAT other sources of inspiration play an important role in their development as designers. Both essays and mind maps show the importance of personal involvement and of an engaging attitude. Moreover, most students reported that reflecting on who inspired them as a person was experienced as an eye-opener and an inspiring activity in itself. Students are not always aware of what actually inspires them, with the risk of neglecting what feeds them most. This paper will present the results of these three studies on experiencing inspiration and will conclude on the implications for design education.

Keywords: Inspiration, Engagement, design education


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