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Above: The Music Room stand at the London Acoustic Guitar Show 2013

Where do you get your creative inspiration from? One of the things I always tell my graphic design learners is: “don’t just explore other graphic design for inspiration!” That blinkered view can make you narrow and unoriginal.

Instead, keep an open mind and get inspiration from all kinds of curiosity and looking around. Fashion, art, film, music are all creative areas where inspiration can easily be found and quite easily transferred. But other places too are full of possibilities – woodlands, urban environments, beaches in winter, stories, animals, paper, food….the list of possibilities is almost endless. The Graphic Design Project colours, for example, were inspired by garden flowers.

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Above: Rozawood stand with rose brochures and banners visible

So it was with an open mind that I went a few weeks ago, as “roadie” with Sean de Burca, to the London Acoustic Guitar Show at Olympia where he was performing.

I knew there’d be plenty of well-produced banners, leaflets, posters and brochures for direct inspiration as expensive products usually generate lavish promotional material. The brochures did not disappoint and I was delighted by Yamaha’s one for THR Series amps, which uses a historical Americana motif on matt paper stock (horror posters, road-trips, radios) reminiscent of that old Levis un-datable mish-mash of coolness. Or the sheer glossy elegance of the Rozawood brochure with its still life rose theme.

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Above: Striking carbon fibre guitars

I managed to make a big collection for use in my teaching of guitar leaflets, postcards and brochures that demonstrate in a lively and non-boring manner the concept of “entropy”. This is the visual communication idea that some messages/designs communicate really detailed technical (for instance) messages that most people would find boring or not understandable. Yes, most of the technical details go way over my head! You can see images of brochures at the end of the post.

And you’ll notice that everything I’m talking about is visual whereas the show for the aficionados was all about the audio aspect! (Though mentions of playing skill must go to Sean de Burca – of course – and Dan Walsh, amazing banjo player).

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 Above: Mini digital tuner given to Sean by D’Addario

What I was just as delighted by was the show’s overall ambience of beauty, creativity, craftsmanship and respect.  As I Tweeted at the time, the making of musical instruments seems to be a magical intersection between art and product design – exquisite objects made for a practical and quite robust purpose. That many of the guitars that I saw were either one-offs or customisable means that they are “originals” in the genuine sense of them being one-of-a-kind artefacts like fine art objects. But even the more, ahem, “mass-produced” guitars are hand-made objects of craftsmanship, skill and personalisation. What a wonderful and satisfying job being a luthier must be – talented people making beautiful things for other talented people to take to the heights!

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Above: The much admired guitar with red slash and shaped body

Texture and surface really inspired me – just seeing the displays of guitars, comparing their subtle details, colours, woods was a beautiful sight. I loved the contrast of the grey carbon fibre guitars with the warm wood shades of more traditional ones.

Colour and detail melded with this. We admired guitars with red edges like some kind of jewellery and those with Irish patterns around the sound hole. Many of these “decorations” actually make a difference to the sound, so they are not just empty visual gestures.

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Above: Stand of the Avalon Guitars from Ireland – note beautiful sound holes

Differences in the shapes of the guitar bodies, where players could reach their hands, the details of the head stocks, the ones with transparent tuners, were all fascinating to a layperson like me.

The cacophony of people demonstrating and testing the instruments was also like a loud riot of creativity – every other person lovingly bent over a guitar! And the respect and admiration exchanged made a heady atmosphere rich in creative possibilities.

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Above: Stand of Taylor Guitars – typical scene of multi guitar playing!

That’s the word that keeps cropping up; “Possibilities”. That’s what inspiration is – the chance to be plunged into a realm of new possibilities. My guitar show experience hasn’t yet synthesised into a concrete practical idea. But it is gelling and I feel that thrill of possibility. For me these inspirations flow out when I least expect it. I guess it is linked to “aesthetic experience” or the excitement of being straightforwardly delighted, with no side agenda, by something beautiful or thrilling.

IMG_0160 Above: Taylor Guitars remove back of guitar to reveal interior workings

What inspires or delights you? What unusual inspiration has gone into your design or creative project? Had an aesthetic experience lately? Let us know.

By the way, you may like to celebrate your own inspirations with our The Inspiration Project which you can find along with our other projects, such as our music project, The Visible Sounds Project at http://www.thegraphicdesignproject.com/projects/

Below top: collection of brochures, posters, leaflets and postcards from various stands at LAGS

Below centre: Rozawood’s  sumptuous rose-motif literature

Below last two: Yamaha’s great brochure for THR Series amps

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All photos of LAGS by Sean de Burca