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Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Inspiration?

The rate of exposure to digital material is not only rapidly expanding, but the means for consuming it is becoming more portable and proliferating. Small distractions added up over the day, an email pop-up or design feed update, divert our attention to less important tasks. Most employees within the industry can relate to all the distractions.

A study from the University of California, “Measuring Consumer Information” found on average, we are taking in 34 gigabytes of information everyday—approximately 100,000 words per day. Young designers are especially prone to digital overload—barraged with imagery, information, and inspiration to the point of distraction.

There is so much new design imagery available daily. Whole disciplines have been created simply for aggregating, curating, and making it so appealing an individual will be caught up in the “new”.  One image leads to another, and then another, and before I know it, my search for inspiration has derailed my focus and drive.

So I ask myself, how much information was extraneous? Did I really need to look at fifty pictures of wall panel details? What was I looking for in the first place? How do I seek inspiration without stifling my creativity?  

Research and understanding trends in planning and design are critical to our work. Being too reactive makes it easy to lose sight of the goal, and the objective is to create meaningful spaces for real people with real business issues. How do we as designers synthesize, organize, apply, and take ownership of design ideas influenced by so much virtual material?

I decipher meaningful patterns from trends, being mindful of what small architectural decisions mean in the broader context of workplace design and strategy.

Ping pong table in office = more approachable, comfortable work space

Open office layout with dedicated focus rooms = balance of flexibility and privacy, freedom of choice

More group settings = miMIcking diversity and dynamism of cities and larger communities

Muted material palette = remedy to daily OVER-STIMULATION and distraction, SENSORy reduction

Larger corridors with seating = programmed circulation, getting more value per square foot

Ultimately, it is my job to look past surface ideas and relationships and focus on the deeper connections between people and place. So for this year, I have narrowed my focus to topics which inspire me and drive me to improve:

  •  Materials which are more sustainable and better suited for commercial use and surprising, fresh applications for those materials.
  • Programming, which allows flexibility for cultural changes to be implemented, or in some cases, discovered.
  • Lastly, designers can effortlessly understand digital representation drawings. However, for outside industry personnel, digital representation should communicate a simple beautiful format that is easy to read.

Purpose is the antidote to digital overload.

P., Adrianna. “Transcontemporary: A Design Antidote to Virtual Overload.” NS Designs, 14 Oct. 2017,

Melissa Robbins


Since 2011, Melissa's experience has encompassed commercial, institutional, and high-end residential architecture coupled with LEED and low-impact development landscape projects. Her diverse background gives her a unique understanding of the design, phasing, and construction for a range of project types.