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January 29, 2015

How to Find Inspiration for Your Graphic Designs

Published: 29 January 2015 

As a designer, have you ever been really keen to start a new project, but then suddenly your brain hits a brick wall, and you can’t come up with any good ideas? Sometimes you need to think outside of the box to get your design juices flowing again, and maybe even leave the comfort of your desk. Everyone’s brain works a little differently, so we’ve put together a range of ideas to help keep your design brain power intact and quench your creative thirst.

Designer Lotta Nieminen agrees that the best source of new ideas is to step away from her usual surroundings:

To me, stepping away from my desk is by far the best way to get new ideas and perspective to the work I do. Sitting at a computer is not the place to get inspired – it’s where you put the inspiration to work. Therefore not seeking any experiences outside of the desk can quickly result in a terrible creative block. I have tendencies to get extremely involved in projects, so I’ve had to work a lot on managing to strike a good work-life balance. It isn't easy, especially because I like to be invested in things, and when I'm working on something, I'm immersed in it.

1. Surround yourself with good design


Everything around you in your daily life has been designed by someone – some things more carefully than others. Don’t leave the designer in you behind when you leave work for the day – use your design passion in other aspects of your life. Cover your walls at home in amazing pictures and prints, buy some really funky bedsheets, or create a blackboard wall in the kitchen where you can jot down your ideas on the fly. Maybe even do some fun DIY projects like painting your flower pots or drawing on your shoes – in other words, be a designer in all parts of your life.

It can be easy to treat design as just a job. If you need a breath of fresh air, you might like to come up with some fun personal projects where you are not restricted to the client's wishes, and you’re the one making up the rules. These things are a good addition to your portfolio and you might even be able to sell your work on sites like Society6 or Threadless. Get creative!

2. Soak up the world around you


Maybe you walk past a hipster hang-out spot with a funky logo on your way to work, or you notice a cleverly designed menu when you’re out for dinner with friends on a Saturday night. As a passer by, you might think “oh, that’s neat!” and move on with your life. Don’t leave it at just that. These days, it’s safe to assume that most people have a smartphone within reach at all times. Take snapshots of the things that capture your attention and save them for later. Maybe even share it with your followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter so they can appreciate the good design too.

When you’re out travelling, going to a market or just out for a stroll, collect brochures, magazines and business cards that you come across on your way. If you’re really dedicated, you can even make an inspiration box for yourself at home where you keep all these nice works of art, and slowly build your own little library of different styles and ideas. If you don’t want to clutter your home, you can do the same online via Pinterest – create your own boards for different styles and themes and start pinning all sorts of wonderful designs from the world wide web.

3. Look at current trends


What are other people in the industry doing? Is there a new emerging trend that you should get on the wagon with? Or maybe a new technology that changes the way you work? In this type of industry it’s essential to keep up to date with the latest trends and news. Maybe a new hyped-up web-design trend turns out to be great for user experience, but what if it doesn’t? These are essential things that you need to be made aware of, and the way to do that is to join online communities and read the latest news. Using Panda can help you on your way there. Panda is an add-on you can get for your browser that gives you a start page with the latest design news and discussions, while showcasing popular items from Dribbble. Start your day by checking what’s new and trendy.

Branch out

Say your main area is web design… you don’t have to be restricted to only collecting inspiration from other websites online. Draw inspiration from other sources like editorial design or custom typography. As mentioned above, there are endless sources of inspiration available for you as a designer – try not to limit yourself to your specific field of work.

Creative Director Brian Hoff demonstrates this well:

While I know “inspiration is all around you” seems cliché, I personally seem to find inspiration in more unusual places than online galleries and websites (although I certainly dig through works on Awwwards and SiteInspire from time to time). I love print and magazine design, mostly what they bring to the table in terms of layout and typography, and focus my work around some of those core “print” design principles. Striking one color branding with strong typography also inspires me. Something powerful can be said with a single color and smart typeface.

Online tools

There are heaps of tools online that can help get your brain ticking again. If you’re looking for Web Design inspiration, SiteInspire and Line25 are showcasing a good selection of new and trendy sites, and stays up to date weekly. If you’re looking for a wider selection of different types of work, Designspiration and even Pinterest can give you anything you’re looking for with a simple search. If you’re more branding oriented and need help defining a harmonical colour palette, Adobe’s Kuler have endless of palettes, and you can even download and import them to the Adobe programs you’re working with.

Like Brian Hoff said – Inspiration is all around you. You just have to know where to look. Everyone gets their creativity flowing in different ways, and it’s all about finding what suits you. No matter how you do it, make sure you have that spark to make something awesome!

What inspires you?

Ben Maden

Read more posts by Ben

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