One of the things I get asked the most when I say I run a screenprinting shop is where I get my ideas/how I come up with the designs. I usually just go with the short answer, “from my head,” but it’s not actually that simple most of the time. So I thought I’d sit down and actually elaborate on what goes on to come up with a new design.
Starting with a Clear Inspiration
This one is probably the easiest. Sometimes something in my own design work, or something I encounter out in the world, strikes my fancy and I tinker with it and put my own twist on it and it becomes a design. The Windborne print (mother and baby bird with wind swirls) is one example of this. It originally started as a logo concept for one of my design clients. They ended up going with a different concept I presented, but I was really in love with the lines on this particular one and wanted to still do something with it. Some editing and the addition of the baby bird, and I had a screen design. And it’s still one of my favorites. Another example is my Myst design. Many many years ago (think high school or before – I don’t remember super clearly), I read the Myst books, and the design on the cover really stuck with me. In the years since, I have doodled and embellished that design so many times, it’s become it’s own thing separate of the book, and I doubt you’d be able to find a notebook of mine where it’s not in a corner margin somewhere.
Starting with a Vague Idea
Sometimes I know the kind of thing I want to do a design of (like, a phoenix, or an elephant), but am not exactly sure how I want it to look. In cases like these, I usually scour the internet for different representations of that thing, print out the ones closest to the idea that’s begun coalescing in my head, and lay them out around me while I sketch to refer to. I may like the style of the beak on a certain phoenix design, but not the rest of it. I may like the proportions or angle of the tail or wings on one, but not the exact style. Let me clear that I am not copying anyone’s else’s ideas or designs in this process; I am simply using other designs to filter the one in my head. Looking at examples and determining what I like/don’t like about a certain design helps me narrow down on what I want to include in my design. The finished design ends up as it’s own unique entity, even though I drew inspiration from other sources.
Straight from the Subconscious
I have long been a doodler. Any notebook or sketchbook I have ever owned has margins and corners filled with whimsical little drawings. My Sun design is one that I’ve been doodling since I can remember. I have no idea where this design came from; as far as I remember, one day I was just drawing and poof! there it was. It’s been with me since. It waxes and wanes in it’s size and elaborateness, but the core remains the same. If I ever muster the guts & feel the need to get a tattoo, it will probably be this design.
The Four Elements print is also straight from my subconscious; I had a clear idea of what I wanted when I started, but didn’t use any references for it.
I’m curious what the process is like for other shop owners: how do you come up with the designs for your products (whatever those may be)?