Where Do You Go For Design Inspiration?

Two common questions I get from people I know personally are:

Where do you go for design inspiration?” and “how do you get out of a creative block?”

Well… my answer to that is this:

It’s commonly known that “everything is a remix“… OR in other words… “nothing is original“.

I forget the other saying but it goes something along the lines of… all ideas come from somewhere; nothing is purely original. That’s why all the monsters in horror movies all look like mash ups of body parts from creatures in the real world. You never really see anything “new” that can’t be seen somewhere else in some form or another.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hinting that you should just go and out right copy someone else’s work. What I’m saying, and what I personally do is… if I’m working on a logo design or something (for example), what I do is I go and look at other logos. Yup, pretty simple and almost obvious.  Just have a look at related stuff that people have already done in the past.

What do I do when I’m looking at other logos?

Design is all about taking a set of criteria or restrictions and using resourceful creativity to create a solution that satisfies all of those criteria. When I’m looking at other logos, I’m keeping those criteria and design goals in my mind and then looking to see how some other past work has satisfied at least a few of those criteria or goals.

Why re-invent the wheel right? It’s all about gathering some data to work off of. It’s not copying and it’s not stealing. It really is like remixing, for lack of a better word. It’s kind of like innovating. You’re looking at what has been done, what currently exists, where you want to go, and then creating something that builds upon what currently exists and pushing forward in the direction that you want to go.

So, aside from getting some emotional inspiration to get you charged up and motivated, what are some of the practical resources that I go to when I’m either in a creative block or when I’m in need of some design inspiration?

One of the first places I go to is Google Images. Google Image search is like a massive image bank. If you’re exploring some ideas or combinations of words, it’s a fantastic place to start brain storming. Let’s say you’re designing a logo and web site for a company called… Agile Architects Inc. (don’t know if such a company exists… my intentions were to make up a fictitious one for this example). What I would first is do a quick brainstorm on images that come up when I search for the word “agile” in Google Images. That search would inform you of what the word agile means visually. You may branch off into looking at agile animals, or agile poses. Looking at agile animals may lead you to pick an animal to represent the company logo. Or you might branch off and search for synonyms of “agile” and that may lead to some ideas.

Then you do the same thing for the word “architect”. That would likely point you to pictures of buildings, or traditional architect tools, etc. As you build up a visual brainstorm from these terms, you need to keep the criteria and design goals in the back of your mind and use them to filter all the ideas that are coming to you.

For example, let’s say that one of the design goals is to come up with a brand that exudes modernity and a sense of being technologically advanced. That would likely lead you to filter out using any traditional architecture tools in any of your imagery/branding. You could also do some brainstorming with the words from your design goals, and then see where you might find some intersections/commonalities in the two groups.

After the brainstorming stage, there’s really an infinite number of routes to go from there, but that does give you a bit of a foundation to go off of.

Let’s talk about some other resources I use other than Google Images.

Another good place to go, regardless of the type of project you’re working on, is Behance.

Behance is a fantastic place to see fantastic work from all around the world from some of the most talented people. Something I really love about Behance is the filters they have on the home page which let you sort by the “creative field” you’re working in. There’s everything from Industrial Design, Photography, Web Design to Animation, Crafts, Copywriting and Toy Design. After that, you can sort by ratings, views and geographic location.

It’s an amazing resource that can be useful for almost any designer in any creative field. It can also be a big time suck because it’s so easy to splurge a whole ton of time on there just checking out all the cool stuff.

Lastly, another great resource is Pinterest. Yes, there’s a lot of cheesy tacky stuff on there, but there’s also some really good stuff if you find the right Pinner or right group of people.

I hope this helps and that you’ll find the inspiration you need to get out of your creative blocks!

~Lisa