11 Ways to Find Design Inspiration

By Alyssa Gregory

skyIf you do a lot of design work, facing designer’s block on occasion can be very common. Much like writers hit walls, it’s not always easy for designers to be creative on command.

You probably have a routine you follow to get into the groove when you’re starting a new design. But if you get stuck, here are 11 ways to restart your stalled creativity:

1. Look at Past Work

Go back through your files and explore the progression of other designs from start to finish. It can be helpful to see the big picture, especially one that was a success.

2. Sleep On It

Obviously, not an option if you’ve waited until the 11th hour, but if you have time, go to bed and revisit the design in the morning.

3. Doodle

Even if you’re not an illustrator, doodling rough ideas can spur some possibilities. Sketching a layout idea, playing with shapes or even more abstract doodles can inspire you.

4. Watch TV

The mindlessness lets your creativity work on its own. Commercials and product logos are also a great place to find inspiration.

5. Work Out

If you’re an exerciser, going for a run or even doing some stretching can get your adrenaline and your imagination going.

6. Play Some Tunes

Listening to a few favorites can get you fired up and push you over the design plateau.

Pattern Tap7. Browse

Sometimes there’s no better way to get inspired than by looking at other great designs. Some of my favorite inspiration sites include Smashing Magazine, Pattern Tap and PageCrush.

8. Shut Down

Get away from the computer and give it a break. Not consciously thinking about the design may be exactly what you need to conceptualize a new idea.

9. Give Up Perfection

It’s natural to want to hit the target with the initial mockup. But how often is the first round the final? Try going for a few rough possibilities instead of one aiming-for-perfect idea.

I.D. Magazine10. Read a Magazine

Any magazine will work…check out the typography, ads and the layout for ideas. I.D., Fast Company, and People are a few of my favorites.

11. Have a Brain Dump

Open a blank document or grab a notepad and start typing/writing. Put down anything and everything in your head, whether it relates to the design or not. This can clear your mind of thoughts that are preventing you from focusing and potentially give you ideas you can use as you work.

So, what’s your magic cure for designer’s block?

Image credit: Flavio Takemoto

  • dev_cw

    Good tips. Everyone goes through inspiration block at some time in life.

  • Great stuff. I find the old “word association” works well for me. Much like No. 11 (Brain Dump) but with structure enforced over the top of it, to force me to work within some parameters. Sometimes those restrictions open up ideas that would never have come otherwise.

  • Its really very useful stuff. Designers should follow the tips. Thanks for the post. Keep it up!

  • keith5885

    Some people do mushrooms but I think a beer or two to relax yourself would work too. I usually sleep on it or try and lay down and think about ideas without the pressure of the daytime.

  • Yankee

    Meditation works! So does a good glass of wine .

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