The first website I ever designed from scratch was based on the website of a well-known luxury goods company. It was a complicated design, with lots of Flash-based accordians and sliders—quite a challenge for someone who knew only the most basic HTML and almost no CSS. Too impatient to learn what I needed to in Flash, I turned to JavaScript, rollover effects, and simple animated GIFs. I still cringe at the thought of it, even though it probably wasn’t as bad as I remember.

Even though the user interface of that first design was almost identical to the inspiration site, I put my own twist on it with a different layout for the sliders and my own color scheme. I’ve never been one of those designers who can look at a design problem and come up with an idea for how to approach it out of thin air. I need to look at other designs and my surroundings to come up with ideas.

When I got started with design, there weren’t as many sources of inspiration directed at designers as there are today (or if there were, I had yet to find them). So I taught myself how to look for inspiration in everything around me. I’d turn to magazine layouts if I needed a new approach to a website layout. I’d look for color schemes in photographs. I’d find UI ideas in electronics. I was constantly on the lookout for sources of ideas to incorporate into my designs. It became a bit of an obsession, and I used to have folders of images tucked away for later reference and inspiration.

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