I get asked this question a lot. I also ask myself this question every day. Designers are inspired in many different ways. I think that is just part of being (dare I say it...) a "creative." I am inspired by my surroundings, by where I am at in life and who I consider to be the great designers of our time. The great thing about it is, your brain gets to run wild until you reach a point where you have to gather your thoughts into something that you can represent visually. Bringing your lifestyle into your work offers something that nobody can really replicate. Tonight, I was watching these two robins out my window on the fence. They looked as if they were having a deep conversation, so I rolled with it. Why not?
The internet has so much to offer. An afternoon spent browsing beautiful print design on the web will only do you good. Follow design blogs, read magazines. Soak up design work that you find attractive. Stop using the same two typefaces over and over, and experiment. Your style will be reflected even if you are current (hopefully...). Nobody wants to pay for design work that was trendy 10 years ago. Keep up.
I've been fortunate to have had a lot of creative freedom in my career so far – working alongside others who valued the creative process enough to acknowledge that the best work doesn't always come between 9 am and 5 pm. This is one work value that I hold very high.
Think of Mad Men's Don Draper. Would he be as brilliant creatively if he was restrained? Imagine the quality of his work if he was asked to pump out creative copy 8 hours a day from a cubicle. Not good.
Some of my best ideas will come on a day when I'm not supposed to be working. The idea could have been triggered by finally getting out of the office and sitting at the beach. Answering emails, writing quotes and having client conversations aren't overly inspirational, even though they are part of the job. You need to move from your desk. Even if this means taking a stroll at lunch or walking to a cafe to finish those last few quotes. Go places, soak up culture, eat different food and experience the great things around you. This will be reflected in your work.
Back to the robins. What do you get when you kiss a diseased bird?