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Ask a creative person where they get their ideas from, and they may struggle to give you a straight answer. Some might work forwards – or backwards – with word maps and concepts that resemble a linear path, but articulating the substance or process behind an idea is usually difficult.

An article by Isabel Lloyd in Intelligent Life captures the lines of creative descent for 13 leading designers, by asking them to choose an object that inspires them.

Edward Barber, one half of industrial design studio Barber & Osgerby, spoke of “the perfect balance between proportion and shape and purpose” of his inspiration piece, a wooden oar. Designer Benjamin Hubert speaks to the link between form and function: “the most beautiful objects are the most appropriate. The visual is deeply connected to the functional, and the whole thing has to work in harmony.”

Objects that were reminiscent of childhood were also common, with many designers recalling an object of inspiration from their younger years. Fashion designer Patrick Grant speaks of a Victorian oak trunk, which traveled with two of his ancestors and sat in his bedroom as a teenager. It tells a story, but it’s also an object that works.

Many of the designers seemed to find beauty in an object where others might not, seeing something a little deeper than its practical use or form. Designer Giles Miller is fascinated by the ‘genius’ of the cogs in his grandmother’s carriage clock. Co-founders of the Rug Company in London Christopher and Suzanne Sharp chose a spinning globe, but much more than that, a representation of “a lot of exotica in a small, accessible package.”

Whatever the object may be, the relationship between form and function is a common theme – ‘the most inspiring objects do what they are supposed to do, beautifully.’

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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