How to get infinite inspiration as a graphic designer

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If you’re struggling to come up with self contained projects as an artist or designer, you might be interested in this technique I’ve been using. For the past two years me and my community built a fictional storyworld through a technique called “Worldbuilding”. With this fictional world come infinite creative prompts. Using the worldbuilding method, I never run out of content to put on fake flyers, I can sketch different characters and I can create vistas using 3D software. It even helped me come up with a streetwear brand! 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

If you’re a designer or visual artist you probably know what it’s like to get a creative block if you tend to do a lot of free work. The solution we came up with is called worldbuilding. Worldbuilding is a technique that we use to create fictional worlds. We’re not writing a story or coming up with a world that the story takes place in. We’re just writing about a world and we’re coming up with the flora and fauna, a demographic, activities, cultures, etcetera. A good example is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You probably already know what we’re talking about, but for those not in the know, it’s a hidden world within our actual normal world. This hidden world is inhabited by wizards, the children are educated at a wizarding school called Hogwarts and if you’re a bad wizard you go to a prison called Azkaban which is guarded by creatures called Dementors. Now, a lot of stuff happens at Hogwarts but the stuff described above is a level above writing a story set in the Wizarding World. You basically write down the rules of a world.

Building the Dreadlabs universe

Well, what does this have to do with graphic design or visual arts? A couple of years ago, we did a live stream with the community based around worldbuilding. We came up with the Dreadlabs universe. Here are the main points:

Mankind has set for the stars. The Earth isn’t inhabitable anymore. People live on a planet called Contra which is located in the Andromeda galaxy. Contra is covered in deserts and toxic gases. People on Contra live in giant cities called citadels and their pastime is mostly spent going to underground rave parties. Their main drug of choice is called Cloud Tears, which is a byproduct of the toxic gas that surrounds the deserts of Contra.

Knowing the story world we can make up things as we go and use them as creative prompts. This rave flyer was made using the Dreadlabs universe. Also, for the Creatober challenge we host every year Tom uses the Dreadlabs universe to come up with hit own artwork. For example, last year there was a prompt called “Driver” and Tom came up with a Japanese drift magazine based on an illegal Andromeda racing community.

Another example is Dread Universe, which is our clothing brand. The themes of the drops are and will all be based on the Dreadlabs universe. The first drop is based on the CSU or Cybernetic Sound Unit. The CSU is a robot built to play at rave parties on Contra.

Make your own story world

Now that we now the basic principles of worldbuilding and we have talked about how we put it into practice, let’s see how you can create your own story world. First of all, working with multiple people really works. We were lucky enough to do a worldbuilding session on a livestream, but a couple of friends with a sense of imagination can also do the trick.

Make sure you have paper and pens so you can write and sketch whatever you come up with. Here are a couple of questions to get your worldbuilding session started:

  • In which time or zeitgeist is the world based?
  • What climate does the world or country have?
  • What animals and plants are in the world?
  • Are there people living in the world? If so, what do they mainly do?
  • What kind of jobs do the inhabitants have?
  • What is something they do to enjoy themselves?
  • Who runs the world?
  • How does one get into ruling the world?
  • Is there order in the world? If so, how is it maintained?
  • What is a common food or drink in the world?
  • Do the inhabitants have vehicles? What do they look like and how do they work?

Use these questions to get your worldbuilding session started. But don’t stop there! Think about the looks of the cities, what the motivation of the people is, are there any power struggles, etcetera. If you’re stuck, feel free to read the Dreadlabs story to get some inspiration for your own worldbuilding.

We hope we’ve given you an idea of the usefulness of worldbuilding and we hope you have fun creating your own story world!

Feel like listening over reading?

Watch the video below.