Thursday, June 17, 2010

Google isn't the answer!

Many times I find myself saying, "if I had the Internet of today, back when I was in high school, I would have been very dangerous." However, I have the 'internet of today', well, today and am probably not much more dangerous today than I was back in high school. I have wondered about that attitude and have spoken both for the capabilities the Internet bring to the architecture profession and against the limitations inherently created by the Internet, but have never been able to clearly articulate what are those limitations.
This morning, ironically, I Stumble[d]Upon an article by Natalie Sklobovskaya about good illustration that spells out a valid reason as a designer to walk away from the computer. She writes,

"Go out into the world.

'Why can’t I just search online for inspiration? The Internet is much bigger than anywhere I can walk or drive!'

I know, right?? My professors are sticklers for requiring us to obtain ideas and inspiration from everywhere but the Internet, which used to perplex me. And I actually didn’t internalize the answer until my professor (and illustrator) John Hendrix laid it out.

And here’s the deal. The Internet indeed makes visual stimulus very easy to find these days. There are thousands of blogs dedicated to aggregating inspirational material from website designs to comics, and Google is available right there for your searching pleasure. But it’s not “searching” for ideas you want to be doing. You want to be happening upon them, be surprised by them, have absolutely no influence on their having found you. Anything with you more in control means they’re coming from your head one way or another.

Discovering brand new ideas online is nigh impossible for exactly this reason, since things you find on the Internet are inherently based on your somehow searching for them. You’re going to need to type some keywords into the search box, or consciously go to a blog that has material of a known type — yes, even StumbleUpon is limiting. Using the Internet, thus, means you need to have some idea in your head to search forand how can you search for things that you don’t know you’re looking for?

So. Keep your sketchbook (or even your camera phone) with you and just observe, actively. Take photographs, makes doodles, notes, visit corners of the bookstore or the library you always avoid, browse magazines from the 1930s. You’re surrounded by visual inspiration every day, most of which you usually dismiss — but all of it is out there waiting for you, it is not already in your head, and you will not find it unless you open your eyes and let it find you."

Now the irony of what she is saying is not lost upon me, I did just happen to find her blog post this morning not by searching for something specifically but truly stumbling upon the post. But to her point, how many times have we struggled find inspiration, only to end up where we are comfortable? Now there is definitely a place for 'the google', as one of my architecture professors used to refer to it, but for inspiration I believe it is a far cry from a replacement of our God given senses and abilities to inform us of our surroundings.

What is your opinion? How do you find inspiration in a digitally connected world?

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