Prasad Kantamneni
6 min readSep 23, 2022

To identify different ways of thinking about a problem

Do you know how airplanes are invented? The flying mechanism has been inspired by the birds and the pressure created by their wings.

This is how the inspirations help in solving a particular problem by inspiring from different ideas and observations to come up with an effective solution.

For digital products, inspirations can be taken from the digital and non-digital world.

When you are solving a problem, it’s important to know who your users are and what problem you are trying to solve. One can search inspirations in general to design good applications/products.

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Inspirations can be in three levels

1. Direct inspiration

To understand design conventions, people’s habits, industry norms in a similar domain and to solve the problem in less time or to understand how the problem is solved in similar applications. Try looking at direct inspirations from the same domain which provide quick solutions. This kind of inspiration works for problems that are already solved effectively

For example:
Consider you are designing a movie binging website and you are trying to solve a problem “How might we help the user to know the glimpse of the movie before actually watching it”.
Now go to similar websites like Netflix, amazon prime, daily motion, etc to look at how they have solved this problem.

Source: Amazon Prime

Pro: Amazon shows the description of the movie on hovering

Source: Netflix

Pro: It plays the movie once the user hovers on the particular one
Con: Netflix does not show any description of the movies as users might not get a glimpse of the movie just by video.

Source: Youtube

Con: Youtube does not give any description but plays the video for a few seconds when the user hovers on it

Each inspiration has a different way of solving the problem according to its context. Choose the appropriate inspiration that solves your problem in an effective way.

You can get inspired by looking at the layouts, different features, etc. You can also check competitor websites for inspirations

2. Cross-domain

Sticking to only direct inspiration might limit the quality of ideation, similar problems might have been solved across different domains. These inspirations to understand the abstract level problem, and will help in solving the problem uniquely and might give a different solution to the problem by matching with the intent. Ex: supply-demand problem.

For example:
Let’s take the same example i.e. “How might we help the user to find the required movie quickly”. Look inspirations in cross-domain like flight booking applications, books applications, hotel booking applications, etc

Source: Airbnb
Source: Goodreads
Source: Lufthansa

The above inspirations are from different domains other than entertainment, these inspirations help in solving the problem by providing a filter search for the movies as for the flights the user needs to provide “To” place, “From” place, and “Date of travel” when searching for the flights. A similar type of search can be applied for a movie binging site by taking the requirements like languages or genres etc from the user before searching for a movie.

An inspiration can solve multiple problems, so always try to observe and ask why they have used it and how you can use it in solving your problem.

3. Real World

These inspirations will help in solving the problem in a most intuitive and most relatable way as they are taken from the things that the user observes in daily life, this results in innovative and disruptive designs.

These inspirations are hard to find as there wouldn’t be any prior example, try to spend time to find inspirations in different ways like observing photographs, magazines, architecture, nature, etc. Understanding real-world inspirations help you create unique designs

For example:
Consider designing a book reading application and it should give a feeling of reading an actual book. The problem that we need to solve is

“How might we give the experience to the user as physically reading a book”. So when we are reading a book we like to use bookmarks and highlight our favorite quotes. When the book is completed we like to recommend it to our friends and family. By considering all these requirements Kindle has been designed and it feels like you are reading an actual book with the features they have provided like page flip interaction, highlighting the text, changing to night mode, etc.

Source: Beakdal

While looking for inspirations you need to primarily focus on

  • Have a design problem for which you want to look for the inspiration
  • Check out for the inspiration that relates to the problem that you are solving.
  • Reverse engineer the solution that the inspiration had solved by understanding the intent of the solution and the impact
  • Do not copy the exact solution that the inspiration has because some of the inspiration might have an IP property (Intellectual property)
  • Understand the approach they followed to solve the problem and document the pros and cons of it
  • Now apply it to your design by balancing the pros and intent of your design

Finding the inspirations might vary by individual, the best way is to write down the design problem, find different type of inspirations that solves the problem, and document them by writing pros and cons, at one place so that if you encounter a similar type of problem you can refer these documents without wasting time and maintain the document up to date.

After finding the inspirations don’t jump into duplicating them, ideate and modify the inspirations to solve your problem effectively. The use of one or another kind of inspiration depends on the intent and the problem you want to solve.

Tips / Best Practices

  1. Define the problem you are trying to solve.
  2. Set a time limit while finding inspirations.
  3. Find the inspirations and map back to problems.
  4. Get inspired from the inspirations and modify it according to your intent.
  5. Try to collect different inspirations of different levels for each problem.
  6. Maintain a repository of inspirations for each problem by documenting the pros and cons for each inspiration.
  7. Check whether the inspiration solves any other related design problems.


  1. Identify and document the problems.
  2. Explore different domains for inspiration.
  3. Document the pros and cons for each inspiration
  4. Sketch out the final idea by combining the pros of different inspirations.

Quick Question

What will you do after finding inspirations related to the problem?
Replicate the best one

  1. Replicate the best one
  2. Ideate and modify according to your needs
  3. Write pros and cons for all the inspirations

Leave your answer in the comments section below!

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Prasad Kantamneni

I am a Designer, Problem Solver, Co-Founder of an Inc 5000 Studio, and an Educator by Passion. My goal is to Demystify Design & teach Pragmatic strategies.