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I should really make it a point to look at more inspiration. I wouldn’t say I’m scrambling when it’s time to brainstorm for a project, but looking at some sites with a similar mission to the one I’m building has knocked a few rocks loose on occasion.
For me, design starts with a pen and paper and a bit of research. It helps me to figure out what is feasible earlier. On personal projects I can go nuts, but client projects will always require a more focused approached. I like experimenting, but I also don’t like wasting valuable time on a potential idea only to find out it isn’t doable for that project.
When time allows, I also set up a quick style guide to inform decisions made on current and future versions. I like to concentrate on the overall look and feel of a design and harmonize that in its content, typography, and overall visual appeal until its personality emerges. And once that’s been nailed down, every version after is simply refinement of that personality.
Might be romanticizing it a little, but I love creating on the web.