Finding Design Inspiration Outside Of List Posts

Finding Inspiration Outside Of List Posts

If you’re like me, every time you turn on the computer there are 37 more fresh and inspiring list posts that have made their way to a blog near you. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like list posts and believe that they help to uncover new inspirational material that does in fact inspire me. Not to mention, I’m guilty as charged for providing a couple of these list posts myself on a weekly basis.

With all of the inspiration that surrounds us both online and off, I wanted to share several unique ways to find design inspiration outside of a roundup or website dedicated to displaying fresh inspirational works. Whether you’re suffering from writers/designers block or are just searching for new sources of creativity, try a couple of these ideas out and see if you can stimulate those creative juices.

Where To Find This Inspiration

Below you will find several unique sources to help conjure up design inspiration. A few rely on their environment to help nurture fresh ideas, while others dump the inspiration right in your lap.

Flickr Pool Slideshows

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last couple of years, you’ve undoubtedly made your way over to Flickr and probably found some really cool images while you were there. Try diving deeper into the service by find some groups (pools) or photo streams tailored to your favorite genre and start taking advantage of the slideshow option. Hit the full screen mode, add your favorite music and let the inspiration flow! Here is a great example.

Flickr Slideshow

Brainstorming With Friends

I vividly remember being introduced to brainstorming in the 6th grade by Mrs. Jones. To this day, I still use this extremely productive, thought-provoking exercise to help generate fresh ideas when writers block has begun to take a toll. While it can be executed alone, I’ve found that including friends can help to kick things up a notch. Find a weird friend and you’re guaranteed to gather some fresh ideas. Choose a topic, set a short timer and begin writing words or phrases that accompany or compliment the main topic in any way. Don’t be afraid to write down lame ideas, just keep the pen and the creative juices flowing.

Brainstorm with Friends

Super Secret Getaways

Where do you think I got the inspiration for this post? Finding a hidden place that you can call your own is a treasure worth keeping to yourself. The best way to find such a place is to head out into the woods and just start exploring. Anywhere near a creek bed or any type of water source helps to add a nice background noise for extra relaxation. Introvert or extrovert, alone time is a great way to clear your mind and allow fresh thoughts to flourish. No woods nearby? Find a park and show up in the early morning or late afternoon when the crowds are scarce.

Super Secret Getaway

Apps Before Bed

Recently, about 65% of the fresh ideas that have come my way came to light just before slipping off to sleep. Where is this inspiration coming from? I point the finger at a handful of iPhone apps I’ve been listening to made to provide soft relaxing sounds. While my mind is usually running a million mph, I’ve found that these subtle tones help me to delete the garbage and allow new ideas to make their way in. The biggest problem I’ve found is forgetting the really noteworthy ones when waking in the morning.Two of my favorite sleepy sound apps so far have been – Ambiance and Easy Relax Ultimate (these links may open your iTunes account).

Nighttime Apps

Twitter Search Is Your Friend

Twitter search is like gold. You can get up-to-date blog posts, designer sneak peaks and just about anything else tailored to your specific needs. Don’t rely solely on your timeline and the people you follow to send inspiration your way, be proactive in your Twitter environment. Simply hit up and key in the type of inspiration you’re after. Sit back, relax and let the fresh inspirational links flow your way.

Beer With Buds

How do you think all of that awesome cave art found its way from the minds of the bored caveman and onto the rocky walls of his/her local cave? Mankind has been brewing the beverage for over 9,000 years, as far back as the new stone age. When your work is done for the day, try opening up a fresh cold one on occasion and dabble around in your favorite design playground i.e. Photoshop, Illustrator, Text-Editor. If you don’t drink, try brewing up a strong batch of coffee and see if that doesn’t do the trick. Just remember, everything in moderation (except on birthdays).

Note: This is the part where I tell you that alcohol is bad for you and that you shouldn’t drink it for the sole purpose of inspiration.

Beer with Buds

Podcasts/Live Chat

There are a few designers on the web who will actually interact with their readers outside of the standard article or blog post. This is an excellent way to gather inspiration from the pros. Just a week ago I was able to tune into a live chat with James White, an amazing graphic artist (below), and hear a few of his thoughts on where he finds his inspiration, some of his favorite fonts and answers to several other questions that helped to shed light on what makes him tick. If you can’t catch him live, check out some past episodes. Paul Boag from Boagworld has a similar venue in the form of podcasts that you should turn your ear to as well.

Signalnoise Live

Antique Stores Are Awesome

I grew up in a medium sized city claiming to be the oldest town in Texas. With that notoriety came a million and one local antique stores. The combination of the smell, the feel and of course the thousands of vintage products make for an excellent place to grab design inspiration. Try checking out the old records, buttons and any attractive packaging designs specifically for any retro/vintage design inspiration that you’re after. Flea markets, thrift stores and the like work just as well.

Antique Inspiration

Inspirational Design Quotes

There has been no shortage of clever individuals full of intelligent thoughts throughout our history. Luckily, many of the wisest of these words often make their way into collections of inspirational quotes. While some may seem to be more generic and open to anyone’s interpretation, there are a few sources of these quotes tailored to design in general. Check out Chris Coyier’s site Quotes on Design for a huge collection ready to inspire the designer in you. You can also do a hashtag search on Twitter for #quotes and you’ll likely find a few that will strike a tune.

Inspirational Design Quotes

Wrapping Things Up

So hopefully you’ve picked up at least one new technique from the bunch that will help you in generating fresh innovative ideas. Remember to always bring a pen and paper with you, especially for the trips outside of the house, so that you can write down ideas as soon as they form. You sure don’t want to suddenly think up an iPad killer and then forget about it before having a chance to jot it down.

What did I miss here? Where do you find your inspiration? Please share your thoughts with the rest of us and remember to stay inspired and be creative!


+Add your comment
  1. Sharron Tiggs

    I love the Flickr pool slideshows idea. A very well-written article. Thanks!

    • One of my favorite. I typically use Abduzeedo’s Flickr pool for the slideshow and some Radiohead or a really good Pandora channel to accommodate it. Thanks Sharron!

  2. Grant

    I love how you mentioned both online and offline sources. Tossing a few ideas around with friends over a cold one is a great way to inspire creativity. Great list Shawn!

    • We can’t always sit in front of our computers. I find most of my inspiration offline. I’m glad you enjoyed the list Grant.

  3. Incredible post! :)

  4. Excellent list, although I do love spending a bit of time every day with several tabbed list posts…

    Beer is a good source of inspiration? Excellent! But it’s important to remember not to get wasted whilst on a lunch break, since “I was sssearchiink for inspeeerashunn…AND II LLLOVE YOUU!” will not satisfy your boss.

    • Lists posts are awesome! I find so many fresh design works and resources thanks to well-researched list posts. I’m in no way bashing them and don’t let the title of this post make you think that. I’m actually working on one as I’m writing this.

      A beer from time to time definitely gets my creative juices flowing. Yeah, you should probably wait until after work and not tip bottles while at lunch.

      Thanks Conor!

  5. Great Article!

    lol at your disclaimer for alcohol.

    • LOL at myself for the alcohol disclaimer. Thanks Cliff!

  6. Incredible.

    My favorite quote that you wrote:
    “Don’t rely solely on your timeline and the people you follow to send inspiration your way, be proactive in your Twitter environment.”.

    That is SO true. I feel we always wait for inspiration or connections to just come to us, when in reality, we need to get out there and find it ourselves.

    Excellent post.

    • Well said Hillary! I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. It’s nice to know when someone actually gains something from an article you write. Thank you for your support and feedback!

  7. TomPier

    great post as usual!

  8. simon

    Love that you mentioned antique stores, however I can never seem to leave one without picking up an old camera.

  9. Nathalie Cagadas

    Great article! Totally agree with you guys.

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