Writer and designer Ben Secret reveals why a functional jacket, luxury furniture, and a 1960s magazine are among his top sources of inspiration.

Fascinated by what really makes designers tick, we asked another to reveal what inspires them the most. Up this week is...

Ben Secret

Ben Secret

British-born writer and designer Ben Secret started out pursuing a career in music, before a love of cinema eventually compelled him to pick up a camera.

Today much of his work is in the fashion industry, where he’s as in demand for his image editing skills as he is as an art director.

He currently writes a monthly Photoshop section for Computer Arts magazine, and uses his time away from cameras and graphics tablets to write about culture and the media.

Pierrot le Fou - Jean-Luc Godard

"When I'm working around photography, I tend to get a lot of ideas from films. I remember watching Pierrot le Fou for the first time... the party scene, a few minutes in; shots bathed in surreal monochrome light; guests talking like they’re reciting dialogue from TV commercials; the boredom; the scathing satire on the bourgeoisie; the insanity of the closing moments... and realising, somehow, you feel like you’ve been at this party so many times before (much more so than, say, a party scene in a TV drama – which will always manage to feel thoroughly alien).

This film is the embodiment of defamiliarisation

"There's a Viktor Shklovsky quote: "The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known." Which I think should define just about every creative decision you make in photography. This film is the embodiment of defamiliarisation; Godard at the zenith of his art - pure freedom of expression, narrative, love, technique... and a tragicomic self-portrait of the turmoils of trying to pursue a life in art."

The 1965 French film Pierrot le Fou, starring Anna Karina (above), is based on Lionel White's novel Obsession

Approaching Shadow - Ho Fan

"One of the funny side-effects of digital photography has been the way we’ve all gravitated towards this bold, geometric style of image composition - which is probably largely down to the fact we interact with so many photos now, initially, as tiny square thumbnails, and we're all fighting for attention.

"With Flickr, this led to a deluge of ultra-wide-angle landscape shots. Now, with everyone using fixed focal-length smartphone cameras, we've begun re-exploring the use of shadows and gradients to achieve much the same thing (an image which is as strong small as it is big).

Ho Fan's 'Approaching Shadow', from 1954, is a masterpiece of minimalist composition

"While there may be silly reasons behind it, what this seems to have done is inadvertently take photography back to an age where the lines were generally much more blurred with art and design.

"Ho Fan's 'Approaching Shadow', from 1954, is a masterpiece of minimalist composition, and a master class in applying design principles to photography."

Approaching Shadow by Ho Fan, 1954

Archigram magazine

"I've really been enjoying going through the online Archigram archives recently. You can see where the inspiration behind so much contemporary design has come from - and especially the work of groups like The Designers Republic.

What's really interesting is how so many of these ideas are used today at the level of pure aesthetic

"In case you didn't know, Archigram was the name of an avant-garde, futurist architectural group, and magazine, formed in the 1960s. A bit like concept cars, the aim wasn’t necessarily to make practical designs, but rather to keep ideas flowing and avoid modernism becoming too safe and dull.

"What's really interesting is how so many of these ideas are used today at the level of pure aesthetic, when originally they were often quite inventive and functional ways to convey potentially constructible designs (the walking city may be a bit of stretch there). You also realise that while society's view of the future has become increasingly cynical and dystopian, designers still have to be optimists at heart ­- whether designing the utopian cities of tomorrow, or as the architects of our future digital environments."

The Walking City in New York cartoon was created by British artist Ron Herron in 1964

Mille Miglia jacket

"Massimo Osti's one of my heroes. He started out as a graphic designer, and later went on to found the CP Company and Stone Island clothing brands.

"In many ways he did for clothing what Archigram strived to do for city design: constantly experimenting with new materials and techniques, and creating functional, problem-solving wearable-architecture for future-living. CP Company famously put out an Urban Protection series (a sort of military/sci-fi-inspired range of clothing, featuring dust masks and built-in torches), as well as a Transformable series (featuring a jacket that inflates into a full-sized armchair).

It's a really engineered and three-dimensional piece of clothing design

"But my favourite and probably their most iconic piece is the Mille Miglia jacket - which was designed for drivers to wear in the Mille Miglia ('thousand miles') endurance race. A really engineered and three-dimensional piece of clothing design, with the iconic goggles and a transparent disc on one arm so you could still see your watch when driving through dust clouds in an open-top race car."

Massimo Osti's jacket design was named after the Mille Miglia - an open-endurance race which took place in Italy in the 1920s

Eero Aarnio ball chair

"I couldn't complete a list of my favourite designs without mentioning the classic ball chair.

"Cult '60s TV series, The Prisoner, was always popular in my house growing up. So the iconic image of the black, spherical chair rising from the floor in the opening sequence is probably etched into my subconscious.

I couldn't complete a list of my favourite designs without mentioning the classic ball chair

"It's only coming back to it now that I really appreciate what a brilliant piece of design it was. Described as a room within a room, and as a blurring of architecture and furniture design, the idea was to build functional, creative spaces for people living in expensive, overcrowded cities. Which clearly makes it the perfect solution for anyone living in London today - whether you want to escape into the ball to avoid your dozen flatmates, or to forget about the drab interior of the tiny bedsit you're otherwise forced to live in.

"There's a 21st century version called the Comfort Sphere, which adds an integrated sound system an wrap around TV screen. I'm fairly sure you could live quite comfortably live in it."

The famous Ball Chair was designed by Finnish furniture designer Eero Aarnio in 1963

So, what do you think of Ben's choices? What inspires you? Let us know in the comments box below...