Inspiration to graphic designers is like love at first sight. We crave it, we need it, and sometimes, we struggle to find it. It can come at any time, from any thing, in any setting.
But before beginning any graphic design project, we first must understand our client’s needs and expectations, the target audience, and develop a strategy that best accomplishes our communication goals. That’s the easy part. What comes next requires internalizing all of that research into an original idea and producing beautiful, clever works of art that knock the socks off of our clients. This can prove maddening when deadlines are looming.
With that said, when you are in a bind and need to get your creative juices flowing, here are some of my favorite places I look to find inspiration.
Ah, the great outdoors. The number of inspirational opportunities that are presented by the world around us is astounding. When I’m lacking inspiration, one of the very first things I do is get some fresh air away from the problem at hand. Try taking a walk in your local community and just–walk, don’t try to force any ideas. Instead, soak in the shapes and textures of your surroundings and the colors and patterns of the environment. Listen to the hustle and bustle of traffic, the flow of water, or a gust of wind through the trees. Study the architecture around you, and look for ways these elements can be implemented into your designs.
Find inspiration in the things you already love to do. As a graphic designer, I know it can be difficult to maintain hobbies outside of work and friends, but strive to find something you are passionate about away from your career. I love painting, traveling, music and photography. I can’t tell you how many times the things that have appeared before my camera lens have crossed over to inspire my graphic design work. Whatever your hobby is, remember to make time for it and let it be an inspiration for solving visual communication problems.
Other Graphic Designers
Maybe the most common way to get the creative juices flowing is by looking at what other designers have done before you. Remember there’s no harm in looking; just be sure to avoid plagiarizing another creative’s hard work. Look at communication magazines such as Communication Arts and Print. Go online and browse through photo galleries like Flickr, design archives on AIGA, and read graphic design blogs such as Design Champ! Further, make time to go to graphic design events, listen to speakers, visit urban art galleries, and network with other communication professionals in your community.
My Inspiration File
If you haven’t already, I encourage every graphic designer to develop and maintain a personal inspiration file, either digitally or physically. This can come in handy if you need a creative pick-me-up. Paul Rand said it best: “The artist is a collector of things imaginary or real. He accumulates things with the same enthusiasm that a little boy stuffs his pockets.” So every time you are out and about remember to collect samples of clever advertising, color swatches, photo clippings, inspirational textures and patterns, business cards, and even restaurant menus. What you put in your inspiration file is completely up to you; just make sure you’re inspired by it.
Inspiration is out there, we just need to be open to finding it. It often comes from the most unlikely places, and sometimes, the best can be found right in front of us. So what are you inspired by? What advice can you give to other graphic designers with creative block?