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How to find inspiration for your 3D printed designs

by Aviva Fort

From Eleanor: Aviva Fort is a Shapeways Crew member and designer who runs the SKAZMdesign shop on Shapeways.

Every maker knows how it goes. The creative well runs dry. Nary a drip of inspiration leaks into your parched skull. Try as you may, you just can’t think of anything to help you make that “wow” product; something you’ll love to see made into 3D printed reality. You’re just plain stuck. 

From my perspective as a maker and designer, I’m going to give you a few doorways in your life and mind that you can open up to find inspiration. Hopefully they will serve as the first steps towards designing and producing an awesome item that you’ll love to build and boast about. Three ways that help me create new designs are: looking into nature, finding a small detail on an architectural or cultural piece, and listening to good old heavy metal music.

Nature is quintessential design. Most of it is actually based on a mathematical concept called the Golden Ratio – for example, plants and other life forms grow new cells in spirals which happen naturally because each new cell is formed after a turn. I’m not much of a mathematician, so there’s no way I can get into it, but the connection is there. In any case, when you look at the perfection of a blooming rose, or a twisted tree trunk, or a gorgeous sea shell, there are patterns you can base amazing designs on.
Architecture is full of flourishes and tiny details, which when cut out of the larger picture, stand beautifully on their own. Say you’re at a museum and you’re looking at a gothic diptych relief sculpture from medieval times. Chances are there are tiny designs within that sculpture, such as a flower, geometric pattern or even something in the face or garb of one of the statues that can be visually extracted into a great sketch to start a design from.
And hey, regarding music, everyone has their tastes, but nothing gives me more of a creative jolt than listening to some powerful, many-layered heavy metal. I actually listen to bands like Dark Tranquillity, Moonspell, and my ever-favorite, Iron Maiden. These bands are rife with lush sounds such as harmonic guitar work and haunting melodies. I try to channel the dark beauty and intensity of the music and focus it into my designs. 
There are a ton of other ways to come up with some inspiration when you’re down in the creative dumps. This is what works for me. I hope you’re able to use some of these ideas in your own work. Feel free to share some examples of any work you’ve done starting with these techniques below!


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