Mackenzie Paschke, August 07, 2023

As a designer, I never stop looking. I never know where I’ll find inspiration. Award books and trade magazines are obvious sources. But often I’ll see something in the wild and think, “Ooh, that’d be a really good solution.”

Getting inspired is just the first step, though. The next step in creating something truly inspirational is to “break normal.” To get out of the box. To give the idea a twist. Anyone can do a simple layout, but the key to really making an impact is to look at the challenge upside down. It’s not necessarily about a particular style or a certain look. It’s about finding an effective solution to the problem.

An excellent example is the award book that McDill designed for the 2023 edition of “The 99,” the United Adworkers Award Show. The brief was to create a theme that embraced family and community, so we called it “A Common Thread.”

The common thread that connects us all in the advertising industry is our passion for doing great work, and the word “thread” led our team to the idea of embroidery hoops and cross stitch. This is what inspired the book’s blanket visual theme, “grandma’s basement.”

Various team members had different design ideas. Someone wanted to do something with clocks. Someone else wanted to do something with fish. Another person suggested robots. Using “grandma’s basement” as an organizing principle brought coherence to the diverse ideas that adorned the award book’s cover and its dozen or so section spreads.

It also allowed us to embrace the weird. To break normal. We thought about who grandma was and what she would do. Has grandma taken her meds lately? Is grandma a hoarder? It all made sense in the weirdest way possible.

The result, if I may speak for the team, was a fun, engaging award book. My biggest takeaway from the experience is that sometimes the weird ideas are the best ideas. It’s inside all designers. And, while there’s a time and place for everything, if you get the opportunity to put your heart into it and just have fun with it, let it happen. Let those opportunities fuel your passion. The result will be well worth it.

So, never stop looking. Never stop being open to different ideas. You never know where you’ll find inspiration.