Capturing inspiration when it hits.

When I was in Denver last month, I took in a session at the HOW Design Conference. The speaker, Cameron Moll, talked about good vs. great design and shared some of his techniques for achieving greatness. For me, one the best parts of the talk was when he talked about the difference between “inspiration” and “influence.”

Influence is something you can find. For example, if you were creating a logo, you might look at another designer’s work or visit a site like By looking at other examples, you may get ideas for the logo you’re going to create. This is influence.

Inspiration, on the other hand, seems to come and go when it pleases. Inspiration is earned. For me, it’s earned by not working too hard and finding outlets that give me time to process and think. Cycling is one of the ways I earn inspiration. I know for sure that my mind works non-stop when I’m riding and that some of my best ideas come to me when I’m on the bike.

The tricky part about inspiration is capturing it when it happens. More than once, I’ve had ideas flash across my brain only to lose them. I have two methods now that I use to capture inspiration before it vanishes.

First, is a trusty Moleskine sketchbook. I carry mine just about everywhere and I always sketch or jot ideas as they come.

My second and favorite new method for recording inspiration is a brilliant application called EverNote. I have the app installed on my computer, iPhone and iPad. It also works online. The best feature of EverNote is that it syncs whenever any of my devices connect to the Internet. I love love love EverNote. I’m using it now for all sorts of things.

Ultimately, you have to find the system that works for you. But I believe that the more time we spend doing things we love and taking time to rest and exercise, the more inspired we will be. Just don’t forget to jot it down before it’s gone.

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