Top 10 Places to Find Design Inspiration

By: Kelly Read-Lyon, Senior Designer

New ideas. As graphic designers, we have to come up with them every day. For me, creativity is not only part of the job but also part of who I am—which is why I became a designer in the first place. I love it, but it doesn’t always come easily. Sometimes you really have to work for your next new idea.

So where do you go for inspiration when you need to invent that new logo or web design? I used to collect a lot of books, but that was in the past. These days I can fit most of my collection into the 15-inch filing cabinet sitting on my desk—otherwise known as my laptop.

When you need inspiration, whether it’s for a new project, daily browsing, or breaking through your “designer’s block,” here are my top 10 places to find design inspiration when you really need it:

  1. Blogs are my favourite way to keep up with new ideas. They’re curated, usually prolific, and it’s easy to store your favourite samples in your personal inspiration folder on your computer. The beauty of blogs is that you can gather ideas a little bit every day—a routine workout for your creativity. Some of my favourites include the popular Brand New by UnderConsideration, Grids by SPD and Smashing Magazine. Get inspired, check them out. 
  2. Look into new techniques, like Cinemagraphs (still photos with subtle motion embedded), as a source for new ideas. Great designers are always improving their skills. When you see something new, be sure to share it with your friends!Photo Credit: http://www.someoneinlondon.com/Photo Credit: http://www.someoneinlondon.com/
  3. Talk to others about your simmering ideas—or even about nothing at all. We all like to talk. Being social helps inspire creativity.
  4. Relax. Take a break. Sleep on it. Go do something you love. Get some sun. Look around you. As your brain settles it sorts through your thoughts and becomes open to new possibilities. If you can find the time to relax, new ideas will spark.
  5. Books still exist. It’s not a completely digital age… yet. Used bookstores contain gems. Art Director’s manuals from the 70s & 80s, old typography books—it’s like a little treasure hunt. If there’s a design-focused bookstore in your city, even better.
  6. Just Google it! Enter keywords and see what sorts of images come up. One search will always lead to another, and luckily, you’ll never “run out of Internet.” You might not find anything original, but you will start making connections between your ideas, which is exactly how new ideas are made. There are also some alternative searchable sites out there, like Niice, which provide more refined visual examples. Pinterest may be an option for some, too. Wherever you search, keep your mind open to inspiration and you will find it.
  7. Look somewhere new. If you’re designing a website don’t just look at other websites. That mind-blowing idea might come from outside of your project’s discipline. You can seek inspiration everywhere, in video techniques, advertising, and even architecture. Don’t limit yourself, narrowing your viewpoint makes for stale results.
  8. You keep an inspiration folder on your computer, right? Use it! You’ve already put in the work. You are your own best curator.
  9. Save samples. Whether it’s a promotion that’s been mailed to you or a brochure you spot  at your local coffee shop, if you love it, save it. 
  10. Digital brain dumps are online galleries where people share their latest projects, places like dribble or behance. They are worth checking out, even if the quality is not always great.  You never know what you’ll find.

I’ve shared my sources, now I’d love to hear from you. What are some of your favourite ways to find design inspiration? How do you break past that inevitable blank page? Know any fantastic design blogs? Tell me about it by leaving your comments below!

Banner image credit: Live & Learn