Irony of Design Freedom

There I was sitting on a rock, doodling the beautiful landscape before me, feeling the cold wind touch my skin as I concentrate on every stroke, every detail of that moment.

At the back of my mind I was thinking about the projects that I have to finish before the month comes to an end. It’s not really as relaxing as it may look in the photo below – as my brain was full of unsolicited thoughts, anxiety, and happiness all rolled in a single, unexplainable emotion.

But everyone needs inspiration. Especially if you are working in the design industry, you need to find ways to fuel yourself with much creativity and impeccable ideas to move on from one project to the next. You need to have an open mind (always) and a “breather” won’t do any harm. In fact, it does wonders.

design inspiration


“You are free to do whatever you want with the design.” A client called me while I was in the small town of Bontoc, Mountain Province. Yes, beautiful words to hear yet it pitches you into a dark corner where you don’t even know where to start or what to begin with. Color, structure, content, you name it – you have nothing (really) to execute. Unless you are gifted with self-generating flow of creative enthusiasm, then by all means, I salute you.

The Search for Inspiration

There’s boundless beauty all around us and we have the opportunity to feel, smell, channel, explore, adore, and express it in countless ways. Inspiration can be found in many things that we might have overlooked – people, places, events, nature, culture, objects, anything. And all it takes is for us to recognize it and be moved by it.

The day after that call, I tried drafting some sketches for the logo and the site mock-up, but like what I have mentioned, I was lost before I could even begin. It sucks.


balaan bukidSometimes it is very stressful to force yourself into thinking that inspiration will just throw itself to you. It never will. Believe me, expecting to be inspired is adding more weight to the problem. I say, just get out, take a walk, and clear your head. In that way, you could think clearly and maybe find something interesting to give your attention to.

So, I carry around a small notebook to jot down some stories, fragments of information, observations in the world around me, or simply to note an important thought. You will never know when or where that so-called “inspiration” will strike you but at least you are sure that you have something to capture it. And if it’s not enough for you to write something on paper, type it on your smartphone memo/note app, or bring a handy camera.

bagnen lady

As weird as it may sound, I often find inspiration through conversations. I like talking to people and when I am traveling, I love the concept of getting to know someone (kids, locals, old men and women, merchants, tricycle drivers, farmers, or even fishermen). Getting a glimpse of their lives can help me produce a more dramatic output – those filled with emotions, and colors that have depth and meaning.

Any topic that allows me to ponder and reflect on gives me perspective – on my life in general, and on my chosen career. And sometimes, a smile from a stranger is enough for me to doodle a decent icon. I guess it’s relative.

antique sunset

If people could not rescue you from a “burnout,” I’m sure the beach will. More so, if the beach could not satisfy you, probably you should wait for the sun to set and cross your fingers that a flicker of creative magic will possess your being.

Sunsets. One of the world’s best inspiration regimen. If you could pair it with meditation and color appreciation, and that weak spot will be aroused with the sheer beauty of life. It is about taking everyday scenes and observing it with one’s critical eye.

Always be open to your surroundings and just daydream.

Design Freedom

Ironic isn’t it? You are given the chance to do something cool and awesome to your client’s project and yet, instead of feeling giddy and excited about it, you find yourself in a completely different realm filled with questions left unanswered.

Even though the term “freedom” sends out a positive message, underneath it are some limitations too. It’s nothing new, though.


lang-ay bontocDesigning is not like painting something if you feel like it. Designing is creating a concrete plan and strategically executing it to achieve a specific objective. (Read: Art is not Design) It’s not like choosing a set of colors is enough to make people want to buy a specific product from a website. There’s no strategy in it, no principle, no reason behind it.

Inspiration will just supplement your design. It’s that jolt that you need to do something great. Finding it may be easy but the very core of producing an effective design lies mostly on you, the designer.


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