Where do design ideas come from?

coat design from Prada 2020
Beautiful Coat Design – Fern Motif
Prada Collection 2020

Have you ever thought about what an idea is and where one comes from? I have a propensity towards intellectualizing weird stuff like this, which probably dates back to my art history days critiquing works of art. Designing is often described as some unique skill of “naturally” creative individuals, of which there are few. People talk about “inspiration” as necessary to designing anything. I am guilty of overusing the word inspiration, however, it should be spoken with some reservation. Inspiration often connotes as ideas that simply fall from the sky, as if you are suddenly struck by lightening. But I think inspiration means an observation that leads to an idea.

An idea is a feeling, thought or a suggestion as to what you might do with this observation. This feeling is really the first step in the process of making. A quote I read recently by an artist “is that inspiration is really for amateurs, and the rest of us just show up and work”. We all have ideas, it’s what you do with them that matters. An idea is just an idea, but in skilled hands sees the light of day.

Where do ideas from?

All the creative arts are inspired by some sort of stimuli, and often times these are visual. Here are some thoughts by artists on where ideas come from:


you can always find something to elicit an idea

ideas are everything

chance encounter or small moment

outside of your head – nature, movies, a blog, dumpster

random stuff where ideas make an entrance

you mimic other work which leads to originality

a waking up to showcase wonder

for me it’s opening your mind to the world around you

In the context of designing knits, I often find ideas from garments featured in fashion magazines like the Prada design in the image above. Sometimes these are knits that I want to make in my own unique way by tweaking the design. Mimicking or replicating garments is not a practice to discourage, and beginners learn by knitting the work of others. Over time, with experience and skill, mimicking leads to originality, because of the desire to make an idea your own.

So if you are under a misconception that ideas are some mystical occurrence or they just happen, they don’t. Ideas follow from a curiosity and observation about the world around you; an itch that needs to be scratched. And it doesn’t matter what you are designing, an idea is simply the first step in the process of making, and in skilled hands becomes a glorious thing.