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Unconventional Sources of Design Inspiration

Unconventional Sources of Design Inspiration

Generally designers and graphic artists get their inspiration from sites such as Deviant Art and the Behance network. Of course blogs are also constantly pumping out inspiration posts that provide plenty of daily inspiration.

However, if you’re taking your inspiration from solely online means then it can really limit your creativity. Today I’m going to discuss some of my favorite methods of inspiration, that will help get you away from your computer screen and boost your creativity!

Produce Non-Digital Art

As design-lovers many of us have some non-digital artistic talents. It’s very easy to ignore these when you get bogged down with RSS feeds, list-articles and sites like Flickr and Youtube. However, rather than ignore our creative skills we should be embracing them!

Exploring your offline artistic talents not only makes you feel more creative (doing creative activities often leads to you feeling more inspired), but the results that you produce are often easily transferable to digital means. Think about it, if you produce a creative collage, awesome doodle or attractive postcard design then you can try recreating these works within Photoshop. As a tutorial author I often get inspired by pieces of art I’ve done during my week.

Here are some ideas for non-digital artwork you can attempt:

  • Painting/Drawing
  • Try sculpting something
  • Produce a creative collage, using mixed media
  • You can even produce a short film or animation!

Take a Photo Tour

This can be a great way to get inspiration. Simply take a digital camera out on a walk and snap anything that catches your eye. For the best results try to go somewhere that has a mixture of urban and natural scenery. You’d be amazed at how much inspiration you can gather from a short walk. Look out for designs such as:

  • Street Signs
  • Shop Signs
  • Textures on natural surfaces – bark, grass etc…
  • Urban sculptures

Inspiration Pin-Board

If you can purchase a pin-board and put it by your work desk. Whenever you see something inspiring in a magazine or newspaper tear it and out and pin it on your board. I’ve written many of the tutorials at PSDFAN based off of ideas I’ve gotten from cool magazine ads and images.

The fact that the pin-board is right by your computer means that you constantly have a range of inspiration that you can look up at whenever you need it!

Get Inspiration from Lyrics

I’m a big music fan, and it’s amazing how much inspiration you can get from listening to your favorite lyrics.

Song lyrics are often full of metaphor and imagery, so next time you’re listening try and get a mental picture of the words. Particularly more obscure lyrics can give beautiful images. Just take a look at the opening two lines of ‘Runaway’ by The National:

“There’s no savin’ anything
I was swallowing the shine of the sun”

I instantly get some great ideas for a poster design from those lines. What do your favorite songs make you think of?


Finally, a bit of peace and quiet can sometimes be the best inspiration of all.

Not only does quiet give you time to reflect on the inspiration you’ve witnessed that day, but it stops you being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information we come into in our lives. The internet means that it’s very rare we stop to think up new and creative ideas, and we’re constantly being bombarded with new content. Next time you have a chance take a few minutes to sit and reflect on what you’ve seen.

What Gives You Inspiration?

I’d love to know what gives you guys inspiration in your daily designing. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

About the Author:

Tom is the founder of PSDFAN. He loves writing tutorials, learning more about design and interacting with the community. On a more interesting note he can also play guitar hero drunk with his teeth.

Leave a comment


  1. I think that inspiration from everywhere is a great idea, restricting where you look for inspiration will only restrict the designs that you create. The smaller things that you like or remember visually and keep could be something that sparks off a whole concept for a future design even if your unaware of it at the time.

  2. Good advice, often used implicitly

  3. I have found that something as simple as taking a different route on your way home from work can spark inspiration. You may see a billboard that inspires you or could even be something as simple as seeing a beautiful tree you have never seen before. The world is full of inspiration there for your taking.

  4. carlos says:

    Great blog and very useful resources.


  5. topper says:

    And the most important: Take a Break, Go for a walk, go eat lunch, or something else. . You may find an idea just comes to you while you’re doing something else. Great tips. Thanks.

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