You can’t be in complete awe
I think you’ve always got to be critical and try to imagine things that aren’t there, as well, and not be satisfied with what is currently there. If you’re in complete awe of something, it doesn’t push you to try and imagine things around it. It’s about elements that are already out there, but imagining how they could be further distilled, concentrated, intensified.
I used to absolutely be in awe of certain designers. Brent Jackson for sure, & a number of others. When I would go to make my own thing, I’d pull up some of their sites & try to—though I wouldn’t admit it then—essentially remake their work. But I’m not them, & lack all their creative inspirations & context. Whatever I would make had an implicit creative maximum of another designer’s one work, which for a new project means it remains continually disappointing.
I got into design by copying others until I was comfortable enough to design it on my own.
My critical realization was not only that the designers I looked up to weren’t infallible, but that the aesthetic my projects needed simply didn’t exist yet. There was nowhere I could go to follow, I had to make it. My designs are of course still filled with inspiration from the thousands of things I’ve seen & certain designers in particular, but they no longer have a creative maximum defined by one other person’s work. You can & should admire other creative people in your field—but it’s when you’re no longer in complete awe that you’re able to make truly new things.
Read next: Monsters and Thieves by Nate Kontny