“I’m often wary of using the word ‘inspiration’ to introduce my work — it sounds too much like a sun shower from the heavens, absorbed by a passive individual enjoying an especially receptive moment. While that may be the case on rare occasions, the reality is usually far more prosaic.” – Shaun Tan
No matter how brilliant a designer you are, you’re always going to need inspiration, and a lot of the time it doesn’t come easily. We trawl the internet looking for that bright spark, or a combination of smaller sparks to make a bigger one. It might be a colour we like, a photo, a shape, an emotion or something we found funny. All these things lead to inspiration, so it pays off to be a sponge. To absorb everything we see and to take note of what we like and what we can use later.
When we’re not experiencing design in real life (aka stuck at the work desk), our best resource is the Internet, but because there is so much content available to us, the question is always which is the best one? I personally cannot tell you which ones they are but I can share the ones I use most often. You are probably familiar with most of them, but here are the reasons why I like them so much.
First and foremost, because when I’m looking for quick ideas, Dribbble’s screenshot format works best. Unless the designer or artist has added an attachment, a quick glance is all you need before you decide whether you like the Dribbble post or not. The content is varied, even now extending into traditional mediums, but I tend to use Dribbble for app and branding research. It’s logos galore and one of my favourite features is the colour palette breakdown. It almost feels like stealing when you copy and paste those HEX codes.
The other great thing about Dribbble is that there are some really, really good designers and companies that have joined the “show and tell” craze. Which means you’ll always be up to date on what the “pros” are creating. Being able to see which designs are popular means you can get a good indication of what the general audience is responding to. Then you can start using those techniques in your own work. You don’t have to follow these trends but I reckon it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them. Especially since website designs can go out of date within the year.
Selecting a good colour palette is both great fun and utterly overwhelming. Adobe Color CC allows you create your own custom palette of five colours, or by using colour rules (e.g. Triad, Complimentary etc). Alternatively, you can explore existing palettes and save them for later use.
There are so many alternatives to Adobe Color CC, but this one feels like a sturdy foundation. A great, basic starting point from which you can create your own personalised palette. The way I use this tool, is by collecting several palettes I’ve taken a liking to and then mixing and matching till I get a combination that fits the project I’m working on. Whichever method you end up using, a little help to begin with is always handy.
If you are looking for something a little simpler and less finicky, I would have to recommend the new ColorHunt. The Chrome extension means you get a face-full of colour every time you open a new tab.
As designers, I believe we all want to create something unique, but for the times when we need to create something really quickly, having someone else do the innovative work for you can help to speed up the design process.
“Sometimes there is no need to be either clever or original.” – Ivan Chermayeff
Awwwards is the place to go to to find innovative web design. You’ll find interactive sites, commercial sites, sites with a story to tell and (my personal favourite) sites completely made up of illustrations. Built to impress, and sometimes a little bit out-there, they will leave you wondering, “What was that all about?”, but if you’re looking for something truly unique, you will probably find it here.
Warning: Be prepared to wait. *Sigh* beautiful images need time to load.
This resource has a little bit of everything, web, apps, product, art, games and more. The sky’s the limit. It is by far more detailed than Dribbble, where instead of just a screenshot, you can view the entire project and some people are generous enough to share their process shots.
There’s a neat feature where you can see the activity of the people you follow, not just they’re uploads but when they update a project, who they follow, and what other projects they have appreciated (a great insight, because you start to see who has influenced who). Maybe it is because it’s run by Adobe, that it feels reliable. That the content aught to be good because of it, but to me the high standards of work, and even the presentation alone, shows that these designers and artists really take pride in their work. Go explore, and you’re sure to find inspiration here.
Here’s the odd one out. When I think of UX design, my first thoughts are “Wireframe Layouts”. I would look at other products and designs to see how they solved their problems. Then some time ago, a friend suggested I subscribe to Gerry McGovern’s newsletter. She said that he’ll make you see things from a completely different point of view. He talks about the customer or client, and how they interact with you or a business. He discusses what they’re really after and how they respond when they don’t get it. He reiterates the importance of designing for people, and not designing what you think people ought to be using.
This resource is more about altering the way you think when designing a product, and less about how it will look. I have been guilty of describing my job as “Making things look pretty”, but McGovern may just encourage you to take a little more responsibility for how your product will actually work in the real world.
So, what did you think? Let me know which resources you use, and how you use them, because sharing is caring. My bookmarks list is getting out of hand, but like I said, “Be a sponge.”