everything I know (on the internet)
I’ve been working on a thought leadership post at work to empower my coworkers to be inspired about design without my help. I wanted to create a resource center so they could get pumped or find inspiration on their own. A lot of times, at the beginning of a project, I do a visual inspiration hunt to find examples of what I’m thinking about so that I can show them what direction I’m headed. I think it makes it easier for them to grok what I’m thinking about if I can physically show them something, as opposed to designing it.
I also use my sketchbook a lot. Read the article I wrote about starting on paper.
Another thing about designing for a marketing team is that there will always be edits, copy changes, last minute tweaks, and then translating everything into 11 languages, so other members of the team need to be able to make those changes. I can’t be a bottleneck for everything we plan to send to press just because I designed it in InDesign, and they need to change a data point at 6am but no one can reach me.
To solve this problem, our team (just Albert and I, really) has adopted the “teach them to fish” method. One approach is teaching a few members of the marketing team some basics in Photoshop and Illustrator. The other thing, which has been the most challenging for me, is using Powerpoint or Keynote to design documents that I’d ordinarily create in InDesign. Tough, I know, trying to make Microsoft as beautiful as Adobe. But it’s been a valuable lesson in being a creative designer no matter the tools I use.
One of the most important lessons my professor, Doug Scott, taught me was to look everywhere for inspiration, not just in the category of your project. To paraphrase, “If you look at all the graphic designers who have made things, you’ll never feel like you can come up with anything new, because someone has already made it. To truly find inspiration, look at the photographers and the poets and the painters and sculptors and chefs and craftsmen. That’s where you’ll discover something new that you can make your own.”
I don’t just look at graphic design sites when I’m looking for inspiration on a new project. Sometimes I find something really valuable in an unconventional place. I might really enjoy the texture of something I found in a photograph, which could lead me to use a different grid in the web page I was designing. You never know. Also, I have a huge library of design books at home (only one shelf of which is pictured above).
This post is a massive, ever fluctuating list of places I go to look for inspiration. I chose to mostly include group sites or blogs, and leave off individual designers or design firms that I admire. I have a very long list of them though, so please ask me if you want to know a few. The sites are organized by category, but there is no hierarchy within the lists, the order is arbitrary and unbiased (well, my commentary is biased). Also, nothing beats discussion and conversation with other designers and thinkers/makers.
Happy looking! I know this post was long overdue.
Designspiration community curated collection of all types of design. Useful, if you know what you’re looking for. search by tags. useful for information design.
Design Defined curated list of graphic design. usually print. good for information design. not everything on here is good design, but it usually is.
subtraction Design and technology. usually written posts.
Taxi all sorts of design.
swiss miss general design blog by Tina Roth Eisenberg, who also runs Creative Mornings and Tattly
Behance a portfolio site, but also a good place to hunt for inspiration.
Reading for Designers
Fastco Design Fast Company’s design blog
Design Observer articles and design criticism. thought leadership
Dezeen Architecture, furniture, design, high end online magazine, design thinking and thought leadership
A List Apart Responsive Web Design
Medium used to be invitation only, now open to the public. some articles are good. run by one of the founders of Twitter
Designers & Books resource for books and news on design community
AIGA great articles from the AIGA community (American Institute of Graphic Arts)
How To Steal Like an Artist excellent, short book about design, thinking, and writing.
TED this isn’t reading, but it’s an essential tool in a designer’s research arsenal
The Dao of Web Design article about RWD and design thinking for web
Why our worst-selling item is my favorite article about the Warby Parker Monocle. very good read.
Using Type useful and interesting blog posts from Fontshop Type Foundry
Information Design & Data Visualization
Visual Complexity complex, data driven graphics, lofty thought.
Visually text and imagery describing data points, what you would call “infographics” even though designers tend to avoid that terminology. there are some great examples here.
Infosthetics another source for complex, data driven graphics, usually computer generated.
I Love Charts this is more just for fun.
Strange Maps mapping information
We Love Infographics some of these are good examples. there’s usually cool stuff here.
Feltron Nicholas Felton’s blog (famous information designer, RISD grad, formerly head of Facebook design)
Web and Digital
Awwwards curated and voted list of award winning websites
From Up North web design inspiration
Captivate application and interaction design
Dribbble take it with a grain of salt. everything starts to look the same after a while. be wary of trends.
Smashing Magazine excellent resources and articles
A List Apart Responsive Web Design
RWD article specifically about RWD
A Book Apart excellent books from the same crew as A List Apart on web and mobile design
Little Big Details not exactly design, but great resource for fun, interesting details in digital spaces
Worst Portfolio Ever satirical example of a portfolio website.
WOD Taxi’s website of the day list.
Squarespace build a website
Cargo Collective build a portfolio
How not to suck online fun read, valid points.
Typography, Identity and Logo design, Print
Fonts In Use real world examples of specific typefaces on branded things.
Logo Design Love curated list by David Airey, commentary on identity design
Identity Designed another David Airey identity blog.
Lovely Stationery, counterpart to Lovely Package. though this is a stationery/print design site, it’s a great resource for logos and identities.
September Industry wide variety of print design and typography
For Print Only great resource for examples of high quality printed design.
Swissted Swiss posters, or swiss-inspired posters
Typographische Monatsblätter archive of posters and book covers designed by famous swiss designers in the 60s etc.
Type Token typography showcase and reviews
Type Everything kind of trendy but sometimes useful examples of typography.
Typographic Posters excellent resource of poster design: unusual use of negative space, typography, photography
Aisle One blog for minimalist and swiss design and technology
book cover archive pretty much every book cover that was every (well) designed
Design is History historical archive of excellent design (mostly print)
Gridness praise to the grid
Type Connection fun little game to learn how to pair typefaces
Typographunnies stupid typographical jokes that you have to be a nerd to find funny. mostly groaners
Your Logo Makes Me Barf perfect examples of what NOT to do. terrible logos that will make you laugh (or cry)
Sharpsuits excellent posters of stupid things designers often hear from clients
Art, design, photography, physical spaces
Colossal a great site for visual inspiration, not specific design, more interesting projects and approaches, and extraordinary visuals
Design Envy AIGA-run design blog and though leadership / critique / discussion
Collate wide variety of visual inspiration.
Void a good place if you need to get lost in the internet and find unexpected inspiration.
Street Art Utopia street art from around the world
But it does float another place to get lost in the internet
The Useless Web speaking of getting lost. purely for entertainment. get ready to waste time
Physical Objects, Packaging, Architecture, Furniture
Dezeen (again, because it’s imagery as well as articles) Architecture, furniture, design, high end online magazine, design thinking and thought leadership.
Lovely Package excellent resource for beautiful package design
The Dieline package design
Oh Beautiful Beer excellent package design site devoted specifically to beer. everybody likes beer.
Packaging of the World international package design
Better Living Through Design (BLTD) Fun site for furniture and three dimensional spaces / objects
Design Vagabond similar to BLTD, some girl’s blog of cool design stuff
Minimalissimo curated list of minimalist objects, furniture, print, fashion, photography, art, etc.
Tattly just for fun: designery temporary tattoos.
Book Worship a personal collection of books, designed between 1950-70
Notcot blog of designy things
Apartment Therapy fun place to go for spatial inspiration. my favorite section is home offices / desks
Uncrate maybe doesn’t belong on this list, but still a fun place to look at tech and design objects.
Zegma group site for illustrators
subtle patterns for backgrounds of things (use with discretion)
Typedia an encyclopedia of typefaces
Design Magazines and Publications full list
Stock Photography (ish) and other resources
mac pix pictures people took of their apple products
Unsplash interesting pictures of stuff
500px better stock photography (terrible search engine though)
Place It device shells with backgrounds
Stocksy somewhat useful stock photography site
Well, that’s it. I’m sure I’ve forgotten at least a few sites. If you have sites you love to look at for inspiration, please share them! I’m always interested to learn about new things. I hope this has been a helpful resource for you.