We've all been there before. You've just been approached by a new client that has a different vibe and style than your normal customer and they want something specific, from you, and want to hear your thoughts and ideas. You want to be the go-to designer for all of their needs but don't even know where to begin on something in this genre of design. You willingly but somewhat reluctantly take on the task and hope that you're able to find your way through to make sure they are happy with your final result. So the question is - Where do you begin?
I've been in this situation MANY times before - I can tell you that there isn't one clear answer for inspiration for all designers and projects. You need to find what works for you. However, there are a few methods we can all practice to approach new situations and tasks that will keep our brains sharp enough to piece together what your client is asking for regardless if it's "your style" or not.
As trivial as it may seem - reading has been a huge source of inspiration for me recently. It requires your full imagination to really see the story that you're interpreting. You'll often come across new words, phrasing, dialogue, metaphors, similes, and analogies that will open up how you see other elements in your everyday life. Applying this imagination approach when reading the requirements from a client will give you a decent head start as you already have a sharpened ability to visualize someone else's dialogue. With this, things in your everyday life will start to tie into the situations you recall in your previous read which may lead you to things you've never though about before, or you may be able to connect your client's phrasing/description of what they'd like to see with something more familiar in YOUR life. Connecting these pieces of information from your client to something that you can relate to will automatically give you the upper hand in these types of situations.
2. THINK GLOBAL
Whenever you're stressed, out of patience, though about every possible approach to a certain project and you just can't seem to make it work, take a step back and look at it for what it is. You are being hired to do something that you most likely started out doing for fun. Why stress about coming up with "the new best thing" in a genre of design you're unfamiliar with? If you're in an industry anything similar to Enlighten - your clients come to you because they like what you do and trust your judgment. Keeping a light hearted approach when talking with clients who don't have the same ideology as you or perhaps are insanely picky, will help both parties in the long run. If you can't come up with an idea right off the bat - that's totally okay. Stand up from your desk and walk outside. Look around and take note of what you see. My personal approach is to remind myself what I am and where I'm at, physically as a person and as a human being. When you look at a photograph of the earth, you see water, land, clouds, etc. Come closer to earth and you start to see cities established on land, ships in the ocean, Airplanes in the sky. Come closer and you start to see everything that inhibits the earth like people, animals, trees, etc. This goes all the way down to microscopic examination where you can literally observe cells, viruses, and anything else. Use this same "sight" to look at a project. In order to grind a new style of design, you might need to "zoom out" and simplify your approach to the design and only worry about the "clouds and water", where in other projects you might need to do the exact opposite and show the fine detail of the trees, and how the colors integrate with the rest of the scene, etc. It 100% depends on what your clients message is to their fans/market and how they want it to be seen. Some want to show the whole world, others want to highlight how the waves move. It is all about interpretation and how you represent the message.
3. STAY CURRENT - BUT DON'T FORGET THE HISTORY OF THE ART
In my daily routine, i dedicate the first 45 minutes of my day strictly to research and observation. I don't take phone calls, my email is closed, and I focus on absorbing. Some mornings I'll look into the newest cameras and software coming out, and others will be spent looking back at old school design when things were really starting to boom. Hand lettering, cutting out images and scanning them for composites, all of that. Imagine living in a day before the internet, getting phone calls for artwork requests instead of emails, and you basically got the run down though verbal communication. Visual references weren't possible over the phone, and you had to go strictly off of someone else imagination. Honestly, that's badass, and I will always have respect for designers who were able to do what we do back in the day. How did they do it? Simple - they were able to assess the project for what it was and approach it in their own creative way instead of worrying about the hundred possibilities they could throw into it and they took pride in creating something unique to them. It wasn't as easy back then to hop on Instagram and see all of the thousand possibilities on how to draw the earth. They heard the description, used their imagination, and went from there. Applying this approach where you disregard all of the competition and do what you set out to do will 9/10 get you a killer result if you trust yourself.
Ultimately – you need to figure out a way to disconnect from what you find is holding you back and push through the barrier of doubt when approaching a new style/task. Just because you haven't done it before doesn't mean you can be great at it – but how would you know unless you put your full heart and mind to it to see what an end result looks like from you.