Episode 96

Searching For Inspiration

This week on Overtime—a designer invents a new product that makes eating burritos easier and more pleasant than ever. Plus, what the heck is an Ortholinear 40% Keyboard and why is everybody talking about it on Twitter? And, are you feeling completely uninspired lately? Let’s talk about how to reinspire yourself in the face of 2020’s many obstacles.

Think back to the past and ask yourself, what were you inspired by when you were younger that you’re still inspired by today?

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Meg: Hello and welcome back to Overtime, it’s me, your loving, nurturing, kind, sort of, host Meg “[Sings ‘In the Mood’] I Could Go on Forever” Lewis, and hi, buddy. Welcome back to Overtime! As you and I both know, needless to say, this is Dribbble’s very much weekly podcast where I’m going to give you design news plus some tips to create your very best work. This week on Overtime, pop your burrito into a cool plastic tube and twist it right on up into your mouth hole with a new product created by designer. Plus, let’s take a moment to nerd out over ortholinear 40% keyboards, which actually I’m not really sure if I understand. Oh, and are you feeling completely inspiration tired? Are you having a hard time being inspired lately? Because I am, but I’ve recently had an epiphany and I’m excited to tell you about it. So, let’s go.

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[Singing] Hey, burrito pop. Hey, burrito pop pop pop pop. Did you notice the new Kickstarter that launched a few days ago called Burrito Pop? Because I sure did, and I bagged it immediately. This is a very silly product that I’m very excited to tell you about because it’s a very niche product that I am niche-ly interested in. So, the Burrito Pop was created by a designer/engineer/entrepreneur who’s sort of in my network. I don’t really know her particularly but she’s a fellow designer, so I like to support my other designers in the industry. [She’s] Madelin Woods, and Madelin used to work at Square and at IDEO and Facebook. So, a designer that gets hired by large companies, so I don’t know if you need to take that more seriously? No, probably not. What does this even matter? I’m going to graze past those names. Anyway, Madelin also owns Walden, which is a tool for building a coaching practice and Madelin’s also a coach.

So, Madelin does a lot of stuff, but the cool thing about the Burrito Pop story is, I will get to what a Burrito Pop is, but I first want to talk about the story behind it so that you understand the context here, because otherwise you’re sort of like, “What is the point of this product?” So, I guess Madelin was out and about going to a food truck and getting a burrito from a food truck. And Madelin had a cup of coffee, like a mug of coffee I guess, in her hand, and also something else in her other hand and was like, “I don’t have enough hands to also hold this burrito.” So, she popped the burrito into the empty mug of coffee and realized that holding on to a mug of coffee with a burrito inside made it a lot easier to handle the burrito and it was less messy. So then, Madelin got that epiphany that I’m always personally looking for where you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I just came up with an idea for a thing that nobody else has made before. And people love burritos, people want this probably, people want this, and they want it right now, and if I don’t do it right now, somebody else will do it before me.” So, I’m assuming Madelin had that kind of epiphany that I’m always looking for. And so, Madelin spent the last very long time, years, developing this product that’s basically a burrito holder. And there were many prototypes, things that didn’t go right. Madelin had to make a bunch of revisions to the product and now it’s finally complete and there’s a Kickstarter, and there’s like a huge team of designers and producers behind it. So, it’s pretty legit.

Now, the Burrito Pop: so, I’m going to explain what it looks like to you and how it functions. Imagine kind of a burrito shaped thermos. It’s larger than a burrito, of course, because you have to fit your whole burrito inside of the burrito shaped thermos. It has a lid, it closes completely, it has a little wrist strap on it. And what happens is you pop your burrito in there with the foil on, with the foil on is fine, you can also unwrap it, I think that would work too. So, you pop your burrito in the burrito holder thingamabob, and then there’s a little twisty doodad at the bottom of the thermos, the Burrito Pop, that twists and then it sends your burrito up an elevator – in what they call an elevator – and so, as you start eating your burrito, you can keep twisting it and it’ll push the burrito up further and further, kind of like a Push Pop, right? Maybe that’s why it’s called a Burrito Pop. Maybe.

So, you’re twisting and it’s pushing the burrito up and you’re probably unwrapping the foil as you go. And then eventually you get to the top and then it’s less messy, especially you know, I always struggle [with] the last 10% of the burrito, it just becomes out of control, I can no longer control the burrito’s contents, and it just spills everywhere. And then I’m just munching around, scraping my mouth and my tongue against the foil, ahh.

I will say, this product doesn’t necessarily accomplish solving the problem I deal with [in] burritos, which I’m a little bit embarrassed to say, but I have cut my mouth on the foil many times. I have eaten the foil many times. It happens to me all the time. There was one time when I was eating, I think it was a Chipotle burrito, and I cut my lip and the foil sliced my lip open. And then I kept eating the burrito and the spiciness of the burrito was just searing my mouth and my open wound. I’m sorry if this kind of stuff bothers you, I will move on. Let’s do that. Because Meg Lewis just keeps eating the foil is the moral of this story, and the burrito pop does not help with that. That is a me problem that I don’t think a product will solve for me.

So, are single use products harmful? Yes. Do we need single use products in our lives? No, we don’t. I mean, no, of course not. Do we deserve nice things that make us happy? Yes, we do. And like everything, this is a nuanced discussion we’re having about why this product is harmful, [and] also, why it’s positive and why it can be a good thing. Because both things exist at the same time, and that’s okay. Everything that’s good is also a little bit harmful in some ways, right? That’s the world we live in.

So, I like this product, because I think it’s fun. I think it’s fun, and a conversation starter, and I can’t wait until I get mine and the stars align because I have my Burrito Pop on hand, and I also have a burrito in the other hand, and I just pop it right in and then send that burrito up the elevator it deserves: right into my mouth. But also, I kind of wonder, am I just supposed to carry this baby around? Because sometimes I have a burrito that I wasn’t expecting to have on a given day. You know, I just get the burrito on a whim, a whim burrito, and so that means I probably should keep the Burrito Pop on me. Or maybe in my car, or maybe just in my bag. Maybe I’ll have a special Burrito Pop carrying case. Lots of options here. I don’t know, but it’s fun. It’s fun. So, if you’re interested in backing the Kickstarter, it’s still going, and we will link to that Kickstarter in the show notes, but the product’s called Burrito Pop, so just do a little Google, do a little search-y-search and you’ll find it.

Okay, so for the next news story, I’m excited to talk about it but I’m a little confused, I don’t exactly know what I’m talking about, which is exactly I’m sure what you want to hear from a host leading a conversation. But recently, I heard some chatter on Twitter about you know, if you’re on Twitter, you’ll know this problem, when people are sort of talking about something that happened on Twitter, but you missed the thing that happened on Twitter, and so then you kind of have to look for it and then you can’t find it. Well, this is what happened to me. And I found it eventually, this thing that everybody’s like, “Did you see that? What the heck?” They were doing that on Twitter, so I had to find it and I found it.

So, here’s the deal: designer Eric Hu, who is like, if I were to imagine my subjective view of what a cool designer is, it would be Eric. Eric was the global design director for Nike, very important job titles, very impressive job titles, also just a cool dude. Just a cool sweet dude with beautiful taste in style, just excellent, impeccable taste. Again, all subjective, but like a kind of a cool that I’m not. I think we’re all cool, first of all, but Eric is a kind of cool that I view sort of at a different caliber to my own cool. Anyway, this doesn’t matter, let’s get let’s get into the meat of the subject here.

So, Eric was tweeting about his keyboard, which is an ortholinear 40% keyboard. And I have a hunch that most people don’t know what this means, because I sure as heck didn’t, and it seemed like most of the people following and talking about this thread knew nothing about this. And this is such a niche product. Again, this is a niche thing that people really, I think, nerd out over and get really into. And there’s really no point to it other than just getting into something because you want to. Anyway, so ortholinear keyboards mean that the keys are sort of laid out in a very perfect grid, one next to each other rather than regular standard keyboards, [which] are usually the keys are staggered out. A 40% keyboard means that it only has 40%, the number of keys of a regular board. And again, I don’t know what I’m talking about, so I could be butchering this. But this is the information that came from Eric’s thread.

So, the interesting thing is that all of the keys are completely customizable, so you can choose what each key does, what it presses, and you can also choose what happens when you tap a key versus what happens when you press it all the way down, which I think is interesting. And that is how it allows you to have less keys. Because for example, if you have one key, when you tap it, it’s a tab, but whenever you press it all the way down, it becomes a control key. So, get that? That’s why there are less keys. And I would assume, Eric did mention this, but I would assume much like a stenographer’s keyboard, you know, like court stenographers or people who do closed captioning use these stenographs, stenographer keyboards, I don’t know what they’re called, they use those keyboards that have far fewer keys, and it allows them to type very quickly. So, I would imagine with this type of keyboard, you can type a lot faster.

But Eric mentions that that’s not really the point. So, what is the point? I don’t know. Eric’s keyboard doesn’t have any letters or numbers on the keys telling you what they are, which I think is interesting. And Eric said it’s so that he doesn’t crane his neck looking down at the keyboard constantly, which I think is nice. That makes sense to me, that’s a positive. To save your little neck some pain, I like that. And the fact that you can program each button to where you can choose which sound it makes when you press on it, I think that’s cool. But you can also sort of control the field of resistance feel of each key and how it feels when you press down on it, which I also think is cool.

So, I don’t know. I don’t know if this is a product I’m necessarily recommending to you. Will I get one? No, probably not. But I will say that this year, during this time when I’m not going out in public very often, I’ve been really searching for some hobbies to acquire or things to get really into, and if you’re also interested in that, this kind of keyboard could be something that takes up a lot of your time. So, if you’re looking for things to just kind of mindlessly do or to get really into and to take up your time with, maybe this is it: an ortholinear 40% keyboard. They also make 60% keyboards, I guess other percent keyboards. Check it out, look it up, see if you’re into it. I don’t know. I don’t know if I am, but maybe you will be.

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Speaking of this absolutely horrible time in history, which is the present time, I want to talk about something that I’ve been struggling with lately and the process that I’m going through, which is feeling inspired to the point of [not] knowing what to make as a designer. Oh my gosh, I’m feeling very dumpy this year. I’m not feeling great. I’m feeling very unsexy, very uninspired, very under-stimulated. Especially all of the things that really get me rejuvenated usually involves traveling or getting out and about, being in public, being around other people’s energy. I can’t do any of that. So, my usual forms of stimulation are gone or inapplicable, for sure, and I also don’t really feel safe doing them.

So, I’m feeling very uninspired. And when I’m stuck inside all the time, or in my own little world by myself, in order to get inspired, whenever I’m designing something, and I’m like, “Oh, shoot, what do I do? How do I get inspired to make something new when my normal forms of stimulation are not available?” I think what happens is you and I, and everybody else is just going on Pinterest, and then we’re looking at the same stuff, which is trend based information that everybody’s looking at, we’re all looking at the same thing, and then the worry is that we end up making work that looks the same because of that. I mean, that’s the problem with trends in general, but extra now because we’re just at a loss as to what to do. You and I know this, it’s so true. And everybody’s going through this right now. We must be, we would have to be.

So, something interesting happened to me recently. I talk a lot about inspiration and where to find it, and how to find inspiration that’s unique to you a lot through my personal style stuff and on this podcast, for sure. My usual method is thinking back to the past and asking yourself, what were you inspired by when you were younger that you’re still inspired by today? And that’s usually where I go for inspiration: looking back to the past, thinking about what my lifelong thru line points of inspiration [have] always been, and how can I utilize those in my work. But even I forget my own advice sometimes, and I’m just like, “Doo doo doo, Pinterest, doo doo doo,” and then I accidentally look at my work that I made and I’m like, “Oh, wait a minute. This doesn’t look anything like me. This doesn’t look anything like my lifelong points of inspiration. This doesn’t look anything like the qualities of what makes me unique and different and amazing compared to everybody else. This just looks like what I saw on Pinterest, which looks like everybody else’s work.” So, no, no, no, no, let’s not do that.

So, if you look at my Instagram now, I’m @yourbuddymeg, and stay tuned to that, this is not my ploy to get you to follow me, you do not have to follow me, just check back because you’ll see that I recently had an epiphany. And it was all about, again, just saying “Meg, Meg, Meg, Meg, Meg, remind yourself what you have to offer the world, as far as design and illustration and creative style goes, depends largely on what’s made you who you are today.” Which means my personality traits that make me unique and different for most people, those points of inspiration I’ve had my whole life that are unique to me, I have to remind myself of that. And then what I’ve been doing lately is diving deeper into that.

So, a huge part of my inspiration my whole life has been clowns and mimes and circus arts and balloon animals and that kind of stuff in that realm. And so, if I made work that looked 100% the way that you would imagine balloon animals and circus and clowns would look, I’d look like I was designing a children’s birthday party all the time with everything I make. So, if I inject only that into my work, it’s not going to look holistically like Meg, because Meg is a bunch of different things smushed together, a bunch of things that nobody normally puts together smushed together, which makes me who I am. So, I can’t just use balloons and clowns and shiny stuff. I have to grab everything, all of the things that inspired me throughout my life, whether it’s comedy actors, whether it’s high contrast, whether it’s extremely emotive people, whether it’s highly thematic environments, whether it’s chain dining restaurants, that kind of thing, smoosh it all together and that’s what makes work that looks unique to me, right? And the same goes for you too, for sure. We’re all capable of figuring this out for ourselves.

So, what the epiphany was for me lately, is I just took more time, I sat down and carved out some time in my day to really dive into these lifelong points of inspiration and say, “Okay, Meg, you love balloon animals, you love clowns, you like circus arts, look into that. Go into Google Images, do research on what traditional design has always looked like in those spaces, and figure out what speaks to [you] the most.” So, rather than looking at Pinterest and just looking at current trends, I went way back in the past and said, “What did circus art posters normally do? What were some of the practices they put in place? And how can I get inspired by what those things are? What about balloon animals do I like?” So, I did that. I looked at a lot of design motifs and themes throughout circus posters and was like, “Okay, this does resonate with me, this does not resonate with me,” and I picked the things that I felt like really felt like me and resonated with me from those circus posters. And I decided to bring them into my work more and more and more.

So, for me, that’s a lot of marquee signage, a lot of three dimensional looking type, but still it’s Meg Lewis, so it’s going to be in a specific color palette, it’s going to be very flat and very high contrast, there’s going to be a lot of black. So, it’s not going to look like, I’m not trying to recreate a 1960’s circus poster. No, no, no. And then I thought, “Okay, balloon animals, let’s look at a lot of images of balloon animals,” which I highly recommend. It might make you a little a little happier, and might help you to forget your problems for just a sec. So, I did that, and I realized that a lot of my infatuation with balloon animals and balloons in general is the how shiny they are. Oh, it’s so shiny, I love the reflective qualities. So, I decided that it would be great to bring in some of that shininess into the work. Mmm, whether it’s literally through balloons, or if it’s through just making things look balloon-y, making things look shiny. So, I started to do that. So, [it’s] just picking apart all of the things that have inspired me consistently throughout my life and learning about those things, diving into one thing at a time and letting that thing inject itself deeply into my work.

So, now what I’m doing is I’m pulling apart each of these points of inspiration, each of these personality traits of me, and I’m really learning about what they mean, and what resonates within me about each of those things. And now I’m injecting those, I’m thinking more about it, I’m taking the time to think about it, and that way, every single thing that gets made has so much meaning within it. And think about that, whenever you have so much meaning in it, nobody could ever copy your work. Because say somebody looked at my work and they’re like, “Hmm, this illustration is really shiny, it features black a lot, it has the color palette, orange, pink, blue, green, yellow, purple, Meg Lewis, there she goes.” Nobody knows. Like, the reason why shiny is because of my love for balloons. The reason why I use faces is because I’ve always been attracted to faces and emotion in faces my whole life. And so, now everything that I do has meaning and it’s all tied to inspiration directly related to me, into what has always inspired me.

And maybe you’re thinking, “Well, a lot of us are inspired by the same things if we grew up around the same time.” And that’s sort of true, but not exactly. Because each of us, when we were kids, got really into some stuff, and we were kind of obsessed with some stuff that not really many other kids were. And those kinds of things really stuck around with us our whole lives. So, yes, I was really into balloon animals when I was a kid, I got the balloon animal making kit, I was really into making them, which a lot of kids were, but those kids aren’t obsessed with balloons anymore. No, they grew out of it. I didn’t. So, we’re thinking here about lifelong points of inspiration, the things that you were inspired by when you were a kid, all the way up until now.

So, I hope this helps you. If you’re feeling uninspired, much like I am, I want you to think back into your brain of what’s been so unique to you your whole life, and use those sources of inspiration as a way to sort of inspire your work going forward. But also remember that you don’t have to recreate what has ever existed before. So, the notion of smashing things together that nobody else puts together, all these things you’re interested in, all the parts of your personality that make you and all of your interests, whenever you smoosh them all together, it makes a style that you can have that’s unlike anybody else’s right? Of course, yeah, that’s great. But also remember, whenever you’re creating new things, you can create entire new worlds. You know, we can’t go out into the real world, we can’t travel right now, we shouldn’t be going out in public, we need to be safe and taking precautions, so use your actual imagination, create new worlds inside of your head, which means that whenever you’re designing or illustrating, you can, heck yes, you can break the rules of this real world. I was just making an illustration the other day of a glass of water, just a beverage with ice in it. And I was drawing a standard cup-shaped cup and I put some ice cubes in it, and then it made me realize, “Wait a minute, I’m in charge of this world I’m creating with this illustration. Why is my glass the shape of an average glass we all have in this world? Why can’t it be a fun shape that I want to make a glass the shape of? And why do [my ice cubes] have to be cube shaped?

So, just asking yourself those questions as you’re creating things: why am I following these rules? Can I just create a new set of rules for my world inside of my head? Use your brain as your point of inspiration. You’re here all the time, you’re stuck with it, you might as well use it for good. Mmm yes. So, there are really great positive ways to use your brain rather than spiraling into a deep hole of anxiety, like we’re all doing all the time. So yes, there is inspiration and it lies within your heart and soul, my beautiful angel.

And that’s it for this episode of Overtime. I love you. Thank you so much for listening to me. If you have the chance to go on Apple Podcasts and leave us a review, it makes me really happy, it makes my day, I read them all individually and I cherish them. If I had a printer, I’d print them out and physically hug them all because they really mean that much to me. But anyway, if you’d like to take this conversation onto the internet, use #DribbbleOvertime, or, of course, tweet or tag me or whatever. My handle is @yourbuddymeg. Okay, bye buddy. Hear me next week.