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Web Design Inspiration

I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Brand New Conference in Chicago. It was two days filled with an abundance of compelling case studies and concepts from talented people, each with their own unique experiences and takes on the world of branding and design.

It’s so important to stay inspired when you work in any field of design, and not silo yourself from the creations and ideas of others. Sure, you can always seek out insights on the web or in a book. But sometimes it’s nice to get that inspiration directly from the individuals who have those insights. Here are a few of my own takeaways from this year’s conference.

Find the Foundation

“If the process is suspect, the outcome will be suspect.” A design system has to stand upon a strong foundation, or else the design elements can feel fragmented and out of sync. That’s why a designer must create some form of a creative brief that has client approval before moving forward with more complex design components. I know this to be true for when I start any new web design project. We have to determine first a single source of truth that the design can reference. What are we trying to achieve through the design and functionality? This foundation can be a moodboard, a style guide, or a UI kit. Once we have this, a designer can use the determined source of truth as a guide for all decisions moving forward. “Is this following following the the guide?” If we jump right into the design before having done any research, we are really just throwing darts at the wall, hoping one will land. Basing our designs off a strategy that the client has been involved should also make for a much smoother review and approval process. At Adage Technologies we call this strategic process “Align” and our single source of truth our “Organizing Idea”.

Keep the Client Involved

Keeping the client team involved is a pretty logical concept when doing design work with clients. Though some designers may hesitate to let the client participate in the creative process, it is absolutely necessary. One has go into a project with a collaborative mentality while still bringing their design expertise to the table. Obtain whatever insights you can about the client. What issues are they currently having with their product? What is their purpose? The more of an understanding a you have about them and their brand story, the better you can create design solutions that align with who they are. The more involved they are, the more connected they will feel to the final product.

Don’t Let Fear Paralyze You

Be Fearless - Web Design Inspiration at Brand New Conference Chicago 2017 - Adage Technologies

Don’t be afraid to fail, failure is a great start.


This was a very popular theme at the Brand New Conference. Almost every speaker addressed it in some way. It’s common for designers to run into some kind of creative block, where they start overthinking and let that sense of doubt get in the way of making something wonderful. Letting creative juices flow can be difficult in the context of a tight-budget project. Design isn’t like a math equation where there is only one possible correct solution, thus it is more susceptible to being questioned and critiqued. But this should not hold you back from exploring new techniques and approaching a design from an angle you typically wouldn’t. It’s a balance of trying to achieve perfection while not losing sight of the goal of the project. Once you let go of that nagging self-doubt, you can work towards achieving a fearless design.

Surround yourself with other people who have experience that you can learn from.

Surround Yourself with Other Talented People

Working in a creative field means always seeking out new ideas. And though web resources are helpful when it comes to staying up to date, it is also important to surround yourself with other people who have experience that you can learn from. Learn from them and become an expert yourself. And it doesn’t matter if those individuals aren’t necessarily in the same profession you are in. Working in web design I have learned so much from working with front-end developers and user experience designers. My team helps inform my designs, make more intentional decisions, and hone my process when beginning new projects. Spending time with other talented people can help fuel your creative drive and encourages you to keep pushing the quality of your work forward.

In a nutshell, design, like any art, is susceptible to subjective opinion. But it is the research, the strategy, the logic behind it that keeps it grounded on a strong foundation. And it’s important that there be approval from the client on this foundation before moving full-speed ahead on a new project. It’s natural for there to be some moments of doubt, but trust your intuition. And don’t forget that there are other talented people that can help inspire your work.

Denise Castañeda has been with Adage since September 2015, and has been involved in the redesign of many Episerver websites such as McCarter Theater (Live Site) and SFJAZZ (Case Study). She likes getting to collaborate with clients, giving them designs that provide a better visual and user experience. Denise received her BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.