Become immersed in your user's life. Break out of your designer bubble and immerse yourself in the environment you're working to create solutions that feel both fresh and relevant.
1. Go to your user's environment (and bring a camera with you), Take photographs of the materials, textures, and objects you see around you. Notice what people gravitate to, what inspires them, and the colors, patterns, and objects that make a place unique.
2. Print out your photos and start to play with them. How might you manipulate these elements and incorporate them in the look and feel of your design? Arrange them in different ways to reveal new textures and shapes. This will result in an aesthetic that feels both local and fresh.
3. Continue to iterate your work with these artifacts in mind, and find a healthy tension between abstracting them and interpreting them literally.
When we were designing a financial service based in the Mission District of San Fransisco, we were inspired by local murals and street art. Our final design incorporated the neighborhood's vibrant patterns and celebrated its forward-thinking community.