by Jeromey Naugle

Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds. I may be given credit for having blazed the trail, but when I look at the subsequent developments I feel the credit is due to others rather than to myself.

Alexander Graham Bell

Art creates art.  The fancy description for this is appropriation–in other words, artists don’t live in a vacuum.  They are influenced by their culture, by fellow artists and by industry trends.  While I believe that in many ways designers and builders are artists, I think a more accurate catch-phrase (of my own invention) would be the industry imitates the industry.  Designs springs up and details spread from builder to builder because this is simply how it works.  While individuals may lament this process (i.e. “they stole my idea!”), when viewed more positively, this type of sharing of information is really a form of collaboration.  Since we don’t exist in a vacuum of our own creativity, it’s important to absorb what’s going on around you in your industry.  I propose that we embrace sharing ideas and place collaboration over competition in order to harness all the goodness of the industry…with our own great ideas in the mix.  When we combine our ideas with the current ideas of the industry, we innovate and push the envelope into creations that are awe-inspiring and unique.  When we commit to taking what’s in the industry and making it our own, we grow as individuals and the industry grows as well.

There are two ways that we can embrace being inspired by the industry.  The first way is more obvious: simply embrace your process while collaborating with those around you.  Most of my solutions to problems don’t come from sitting around and thinking.  They come from actually doing.  By embracing the construction process, I invariably find solutions.  How many times have you started a part of a process, like installing waterline tile or brick-set paving, to realize that certain transitions didn’t go as planned?  You could beat yourself up or you could recognize the answer comes from doing.  The process is trial and error, tossing around ideas to settle on the best solution–only to find out that the best solution doesn’t work at all.  Embrace the creative process and don’t see the hurdles as hurdles.  They are simply an inevitable part of the process and can be remedied by 1) expecting them, knowing that knowledge comes from doing and 2) actively watching and learning from those around you.  When you’ve exhausted all avenues, you’re able to find something new.  In Tributary Revelation, we’ve always stressed collaboration over competition, and this is why!  When we embrace our industry cohorts, it’s equivalent to “pass go and collect two-hundred dollars.”  Collaborating together gives everyone freebies–in other words, I don’t have to learn every hard lesson because my fellow designers and builders have learned them first.  The mindset of expecting hurdles and freely giving and taking ideas with others will make your professional life easier.

In addition to expecting hurdles and actively collaborating with your peers, you can also actively draw inspiration from other while making it yours.  So frequently, pool builders think that inspiration comes from looking at pools.  My advice: Quit focusing on pictures of pools!  Inspiration can come from anywhere–it can come from social media, the home and site or even a palette of colors and textures.  There are planting details, accent walls and a wide variety of materials to draw inspiration from.  When you look at other types of materials, it’s impossible to “copy.”  And in fact, sometimes the pool is the last element that you need to determine.  Establish the overall feel that you’d like to accomplish and then focus on the actual design.  Also, take advantage of the world wide web and social media.  There are an abundance of architecture, building or design websites–or even better, try to see projects in person.  Instead of googling obvious choices like “pool design”, trying googling more specific searches like, “modern water feature” or “contemporary design.”  It’s like building a portfolio of limitless ideas within your memory and nothing can replace being an idea-generating machine–each idea snowballs with the next.

Instagram is a major source of inspiration for me.  Seeing a lot of projects helps me be discerning–when I look at enough work, I can begin to discern quality design from mediocre design.  Typically, most clients haven’t looked at as many projects or details that I have and that’s why it’s part of my job to educate them on good design.  We obviously have to work within their preferences but frequently, clients don’t know why their idea is hard to execute and/or awkward and clunky upon completion.  As builders and designers, we learn from building and from looking.  In addition to looking at whole projects, pay attention to materials.  Collaborate with your vendors.  They will keep you up-to-date on the latest materials and the best way to install them.  And remember, you don’t have to stay within their parameters.  You can use material in unusual ways.  You’re not bound by tradition or by matching your peers–you can create the next trend!  The industry imitates the industry so keep raising the bar. Continue to push design and the industry will follow you.

Embrace the industry by collaborating with others and by drawing visual inspiration by seeing projects in person or online.  When you see your detail show up in other people’s projects, don’t stress.  Take it as flattery because it means you did something right.  And ultimately, even if a fellow builder “appropriates” one of your details, recognize that your whole project is what’s yours.  Don’t waste energy on being frustrated and instead, keep moving forward rather than looking back.  There is an abundance of ideas and if you spend your energy on improving your process, you’ll continue to be ahead of the curve.  That’s part of why I actively share designs, answer questions and share resources.  What helps the industry will ultimately help me–I believe that the more you put out there, the more you learn and receive.  If you want to get anything back, you need to put out twice as much.  If we keep collaborating and growing the industry, it’s impossible to stay stagnant individually.

— Jeromey Naugle of Premier Paradise, Inc.