Design Inspiration Practice: Patterns in Daily Life

Design Inspiration Practice: Patterns in Daily Life

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Carolyn Purnell
Dec 1, 2014
(Image credit: Carolyn Purnell)

As a way to get my body moving during the day, I pick a far-flung coffee shop, and I walk there to work. It's all too easy to zone out on the walk, ignoring the world around me, or to fixate on the many things I have to do, so in an effort to stay conscious of the present moment, I've started a daily practice that has been beneficial in several key ways:

I've started using my camera to document patterns that I find interesting, no matter how small, banal, or understated. I've got pictures of walls, sidewalks, bricks, stonework—you name it.

This exercise has been good for me in several ways. For one, it forces me to slow down and really take in my surroundings. If I focus on details, it keeps me continually aware of the novelty in the world. A single building could yield dozens of potentially intriguing visual moments, and I see something new every time I walk through the neighborhood, even if I've taken that path hundreds of times.

This practice has also made me more appreciative of the small elements of design. Sure, that ornate Victorian on the corner might inspire a great deal of house-envy, and my own house doesn't ever quite seem to measure up. But if I can zoom in on one aspect of it I love, it's easier to see that a lot of small touches can make all the difference. I've gotten ideas about stair brackets, paint colors, and all kinds of other small, often overlooked touches that have contributed to making my home a personal, unique place.

And finally, in a season that has been immensely full of stress, it has really helped me stay mindful of the present, to breathe easy in the fullness of the moment instead of letting my mind overflow with a growing list of must-dos and should-bes. When I'm focusing on the tiny things that please me, I'm not focusing on all the small things that don't, and I've found that this small practice has given my spare moments a more positive bent.

Sometimes even the simplest of exercises can have large effects. Do you have any similar practices that help you appreciate the world?

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