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Every graphic artist looks for new sources of visual inspiration. It?s the thing that fuels us and keeps us from doing the same things over and over again. I know if I didn?t keep an eye out for trends and new design techniques, I might still be doing what I did 15 years ago?beveling everything and adding cheesy drop shadows to all my text. New sources of visual inspiration help us keep our work fresh.

We all have our own traditional forms of inspiration?some magazines, a few photographers? Instagram feeds, and a couple of websites (that unfortunately set off the content filters of your church?s firewall).

But some of the best designers out there have more than just a few sources of inspiration. And these sources of inspiration are often things we might overlook. We might pass by them without giving them a second glance.

I?ve discovered inspiration is all around you if you?re willing to look for it. So let?s explore a few of these less common sources of inspiration. Let?s allow them to open our eyes to see the inspiration that?s already all around us.[quote]Inspiration is all around you if you?re willing to look for it.[/quote]

Greeting Cards

Megan Watson will look at anything she sees while running errands. Greeting cards can be a perfect source of inspiration. While some are poorly designed, others are quite brilliant in their simplicity.


?I fully realize that all my ?man friends? who read this are going to snicker and scoff because of the stigma that Pinterest is only for women who craft and cook. But it really is a phenomenal search engine for visual inspiration,? says Cameron Smith. Don?t be so quick to dismiss something that appears to be for only one purpose. Pinspiration is everywhere.

The Supermarket

Carrie Grant says, ?I get decision paralysis pretty easily when there are tons of products to choose from. So beer labels, wine labels, mustard, ketchup, bacon… I’m always looking for the coolest design to help me figure it out (after price, that is).? She has the unique advantage of living in Portland, Oregon?where everything has the hippest packaging. But don?t be so quick to overlook the packaging at supermarkets in your location.


Russell Brown has made it a point to ask his kids for their opinions. Often he?ll just draw and color with them to get inspiration. He heard this idea??market to a third grader??and has taken that idea to heart.


Paul Carlson picks apart billboards while he drives. He examines what works and what doesn?t work about each billboard. This is a great practice for starting to see information hierarchy and flow.

Bookstores/Antique Stores

?I used to walk bookstores. I love seeing people walk used bookstores and posting pictures of what they see,? says Mitch Bolton.

Artists Outside My Own Style

Joe Cavazos follows artists outside of his personal style. ?I follow developers, photographers, filmmakers, painters, etc. I also follow entrepreneurs or creatives with really great work ethic. Sometimes it’s more about finding the inspiration to do the work rather than finding visual inspiration.?[quote]Sometimes it’s more about finding the inspiration to?do?the work rather than finding visual inspiration.?[/quote]


Steve Stone looks at these things for big sources of inspiration: ?I like storms and trees. There is something about the chaos. Also taking a shower, sitting out in the rain, tea, coffee, water fountains? And as girly as it sounds, I usually have a candle lit when I’m working at home. I think it?s the movement??

Past Projects

?This will probably sound really egotistic, but a lot of times I revisit some of my own projects that I felt were either very successful visually or that have a broadly similar target. Almost all of the time, the inspiration has nothing to do with the visual itself, but rather something in it that catches my eye?the way some colors worked together, a particular technique or style that gets me thinking about something else?things like that. More than anything, it often helps me to go from a ?oh crap, I have no ideas? frame of mind to a ?hey, I can actually successfully create something visually appealing? frame of mind?which is important, at least for me.? ? Jason Watson

Movies from Certain Directors

Finally, this is a big source of visual inspiration for me. Any piece of work from Wes Anderson or Spike Jonze gets my attention. I love Wes Anderson?s use of symmetry and whimsical elements in his work. And Spike Jonze?s adaptation of the book Where the Wild Things Are is such a source of nostalgia?it returns me back to my childhood where my imagination was boundless.

Visual Inspiration is All Around

Many people listen to music from certain artists. Others take photos of shadows. There?s no end to the visual inspiration available to you if you?re only willing to look.

We?ve explored a few sources from some successful artists, but I?d love to hear some of your sources. Share in a comment below where you get visual inspiration so we can all learn together.

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