This story is part of our new series, “Creating for Creators”, which explores products being built for creators in India
There is an intimidating experience that creative people know too well. Seeking inspiration to get your thought-process started, you type words into Google and then try and wade through gigabytes of often irrelevant information. (At this point, I usually give up and go back to staring out of the window with a strong cup of coffee, waiting for something to strike me).
Dhrupad Karwa and Andrew Leung believe they can change this frustrating process with INSPO – a search engine for inspiration. INSPO uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to mine cultural sources across the Internet like ads, memes, visuals, haikus and social media, to display associated words as well as contextualised results, which aim to inspire and not just inform.
If one divides the creative process into ideation and execution, most tools focus on the latter. There is a plethora of software for design and platforms like Canva make it easy for even non-designers to develop creative assets. Very few have tried to commercialise the ideation phase at scale. A platform like Pinterest comes closest to a widely used source of inspiration, but Karwa and Leung point out that it faces a similar problem of thematic convergence: When searching for pizza, for example, countless similar-looking pizza images are returned. While these may be visually enticing, they “lack associative breadth and for creative work, a divergence in associations and content is key to conjuring breakthrough ideas and possibilities.”
“The burden of finding and synthesising inspiration sits entirely on the shoulders of the creative person, and it could be made a lot easier. That’s what INSPO aims to do”Dhrupad Karwa, Co-founder, INSPO
Let’s Get INSPOed
INSPO is still in beta and the team gave me access, so I could experience it for myself.
I keyed ‘Life’ into the search bar of the functional but intuitive interface. The map of word associations that INSPO returned, ranged from ‘Love’ ‘Live’ and ‘Beautiful’ to ‘Unpredictable’ and ‘Hard.’ (So far, the sentiment analysis was spot on.) You can go deeper, pursuing any one word to unfold layers of other associations.
It is also possible to narrow down results by selecting filters like ‘Social’, ‘Memes,’ ‘Visual’, ‘Ads,’ ‘Design’ and ‘Goodreads.’ or even ‘Nouns’, ‘Verbs’ and ‘Adjectives.’ I selected ‘Design’ and got this somewhat puzzling set of images from sites like designinspiration.com and mymodernnet.com. The desire to keep clicking through is strong, to see where the rabbit hole finally takes you. You can organise the results by saving them to a board. The more you use INSPO, the more intelligent and tailored the experience becomes.
From agencies to freelancers and writers – the founders see anyone creating content as a potential INSPO user. For example, Dentsu used INSPO to define restlessness for their client Spykar Jeans.
To be able to search through creative and contextualised associations, instead of just unconnected information is an exciting proposition. This board, for instance, was created by searching in INSPO for the keyword, ‘Royal Enfield.’
The Inspiration for Inspo
The idea for INSPO came from HaikuJAM, a venture Karwa started in college in 2013. HaikuJAM is a creative writing app that lets you ‘jam’ with other writers around the world. You write a line and other writers will complete it to create a three line poem. Today, HaikuJAM is used by over 1 million creators from 144 countries who have collectively published over 100 million lines, with 1 line being published every second in the app. There are over 10 million unique associations in the corpus, and this grows at over 12,000 new associations per day.
While cathartic creative collaboration is HaikuJAM’s value proposition, it also works as a data source for INSPO and the machine-learning that powers it. Karwa says that as they grew HaikuJAM, they realised that it was “a dynamic repository of human expression; a lens into the collective subconscious” and could be mined to produce intelligent inspiration for creators.
INSPO’s vision is ambitious “To be the world’s AI partner for inspiration.” The founders raised US$ 3.4 million from Lightbox Ventures in January 2020. It is early days yet and INSPO has about 100 registered users in beta mode, keying in an average of 6 keywords and spending 50 minutes on the platform per week.
INSPO’s success in large part, will depend on how useful its results are for early adopters. The team says they are constantly adding new sources of data – audio, video and artistic inspiration are in the works. They are also working to deepen INSPO’s intelligence, which will make the process of finding and synthesising inspiration more electric. The recently announced GPT-3 from Open.ai could be a powerful technology for the INSPO experience and the founders confirm they have applied for access.
Karwa is clear that INSPO’s role is not to replace the creative process but to aid it, by “intelligently organising and synthesising the raw material for creative work.” If INSPO does indeed succeed in doing that, there will be many grateful creators around the world.
Want early access to INSPO? Send in a request for an invite here