Where’d does inspiration come from? What drives creativity? Invention? How are you inspired? On of my favourite sections from Douglas Adams‘. He is famous for writing the High-hicker through the galaxy trilogy (obviously, in 5 parts), but he also wrote two wonderful books featuring the holistic detective ‘Dirk Gently’. In the first part, ‘Dirk Genlty’s holistic detective agency‘, Dirk expresses his admiration for pure creative invention, citing Sir. Isaac Newton’s invention of the cat-flap (page 96):
`St Cedd’s,’ he pronounced, `the college of Coleridge, and the college of Sir Isaac Newton, renowned inventor of the milled-edge coin and the catflap!’
`The what?’ said Richard.
`The catflap! A device of the utmost cunning, perspicuity and invention. It is a door within a door, you see, a…’
`Yes,’ said Richard, `there was also the small matter of gravity.’
`Gravity,’ said Dirk with a slightly dismissive shrug, `yes, there was that as well, I suppose. Though that, of course, was merely a discovery. It was there to be discovered.’
He took a penny out of his pocket and tossed it casually on to the pebbles that ran alongside the paved pathway.
`You see?’ he said, `They even keep it on at weekends. Someone was bound to notice sooner or later. But the catflap… ah, there is a very different matter. Invention, pure creative invention.’
A bit of research reveals that there actually is some historic mention of Sir Isaac Newton creating a catalpa, or a cat-door. It is mentioned in a ‘column’ of the The Monthly Religious Magazine (1863) on page 298, discussing ‘common sense’. The example of Isaac Newton’s cat-door is mentioned as an example of how even the smartest ones can overlook common-sense. Newton created the cat-door as he was annoyed either by having to open the door or by the light from the cat pushing the door open, disturbing Newton’s experimentation. Maybe it was a cat door, maybe it was just a hole in the door. The reason for mentioning this anecdote was because Newton created a smaller hole for the kittens of the cat, and his surprise that the kittens followed the mother through the larger hole instead of using their own one.
I am inspired by situations, by people, by people’s interest. An uncommon situation, the appreciation for a smile, the struggling with tools or instruments. In design thinking, this is the empathy phase. As a designer, without inspiration what am I? What inspires you?