Inspiration

9 Sources of Design Inspiration

October 17, 2018

We all need places to go for design inspiration. After all, it can be tough to keep your work fresh and relevant, day after day, and year after year.

Sometimes it helps to dig around outside of your organization (and outside of your own sketchbook). By looking to others — even those outside of our industry — we can find inspiration for that new app design, or at the very least, stir our own imagination just enough to make it through a stalled project.

Here are a few of our favorite destinations for fresh design ideas, plus a bonus section with our favorite design apps and tools.

UX Magazine — Essential Reading for App Designers

A screenshot of a page from UX Magazine.
UX Magazine will help designers stay up to date on the latest trends while keeping you inspired.

If you’re a UI or UX designer looking for a single site that will let you keep up with all the news from your industry, UX Magazine is it. UX Magazine explores a huge range of topics in UX design — from theory to the newest developments in Android and iOS, to design concerns like accessibility and new technologies like eye tracking.

Not only is it a great way to stay on top of industry news, but it can also give you the sorts of fresh ideas that lead to UI design inspiration. You can read up on storytelling, get new insights into human psychology and get ideas from design leaders in other sectors.

It’s a great magazine to keep you thinking about design in new ways, so you spend more time growing as a designer and less time in a creative rut.

Awwwards — The Best Web Design, Recognized

Awwwards provides feedback from experts, which will help you design better apps.
Awwwards provides feedback from experts, which will help you design better apps.

Some design blogs are great for getting new ideas flowing — they’ll help get you thinking outside the box. You’ll probably see some things you don’t like and some design esthetics that don’t work for your product. Chances are a lot of what you see will be interesting, albeit unconventional.

Awwwards isn’t one of those. You won’t see a lot of rough-around-the-edges or experimental work — just the best design, curated by people who know what they’re talking about.

Awwwards bills itself as “the awards that recognize the talent and effort of the best web designers, developers and agencies in the world.” They take that job seriously. With an international panel of executives, art directors, and a range of experts in various design disciplines, they review and exhibit a tremendous amount of great design, including a featured site of the day, every day.

They have also published plenty of great design reading, including some wonderful free eBooks and an annual collection of their best sites. Their free Brain Food magazine is a great educational collection, with expert advice on everything from WebGL performance to typography.

Awwwards is also a great resource for freelancers and other job-searchers, as well as companies looking for top design professionals.

Pinterest — Design Inspiration for Digital Wanderers

A screenshot of Pinterest showing search results for the term “vintage design.”
Pinterest was modeled after good old fashioned corkboard.

Sometimes, looking at the work of your colleagues is a great way to get mobile app design inspiration. But other times, it’s the last thing you need. When you’re stuck in a rut, looking at flashy mobile design animations or flawlessly executed interfaces can just remind you that you’re not making any headway — that your design feels stale or derivative or just not quite right.

You need to get a fresh perspective and wander through the images that inspire you, whether they’re vintage movie posters, or industrial photographs, or the works of a favorite illustrator. Or better yet, get outside your own favorites and find new, unexpected images to inspire you. It’s at those times when Pinterest really shines.

Pinterest isn’t generally thought of as a professional design resource. Although the site has upwards of 200 million monthly active users — including many known designers — it’s better known as a place to share crafts, wedding and party planning tips, recipes, and other DIY photos. But its breadth of images, massive user base, and excellent search functionality make it a perfect search engine for design inspiration.

Pinterest facilitates design inspiration in a few ways. First of all, it’s an intuitive system to collect the images that inspire you and organize them around common themes. It’s also a great place to wander, clicking from board to board and user to user until you find something that fires your imagination.

However, one of the best things about Pinterest is its ability to show you the creative process other designers use.

When you follow someone whose work you like, you can see their interests, the images that inspire them, and the ways those images are linked in their mind. You can also get a glimpse into the way different developers, artists, and designers influence each other, and make your own connections with designers whose work inspires you.

Proto.io Spaces

A screenshot of Aman Tiwari’s Proto.io Spaces page, featuring his IMDb redesign.
Our users are so talented.

The fact that you’re reading this means you’re probably aware of our blog. We love blogging about the sites and tools that fire our own mobile app design inspiration, and we love sharing tips and tools for designers and design students.

However, some of the best work on our site comes from our users in Proto.io Spaces. It’s a great place to browse when you’re looking for a new approach to a UI design problem, or want to up your mobile app prototyping game.

Struggling with a tricky mobile redesign? Take a look inside Aman Tiwari’s beautiful work for IMDb. Working on a responsive home app? Check out Jason Hamilton’s elegant Lights Control.

A screenshot of Jason Hamilton’s Proto.io Spaces page, featuring the prototype for his mobile app, Lights Control.

If you like something or need to know how someone achieved an effect, feel free to leave a comment — our vibrant design community is a great place to connect, teach and learn.

We also have in-depth on-demand webinars to help you learn more about how to use various features. Check out the Drag and Drop animation or Parallax demo, then click through to learn how to easily add the effect to your own prototypes. We pride ourselves on our extensive collection of webinars, video tutorials, and other mobile prototyping resources.

The Design Blog — Eclectic, Unpretentious Design Goodness

If you’re looking for a good, general-purpose blog to skim for design inspiration, The Design Blog is a great choice. With its clean layout and unpretentious motto, “Don’t Just Be a Designer — Be a Good One,” the blog is a great place to browse for ideas.

A screenshot of The Design Blog’s homepage.
We love that tagline.

The Design Blog features an eclectic sampling of good design from around the world — particularly emphasizing the work of students and young designers. Croatian graphic designer Ena Baćanović, the site’s founder, covers everything from UI and UX to crafts, to brand identity.

The curation is excellent and easy to spend hours exploring. Baćanović personally researches designers using Behance and other sites, pouring over their portfolios to find just the right pieces for his blog. There’s an impressive amount of high-quality content, with daily features (although updating seems a little sporadic).

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the blogroll for more visual fuel to light your imagination.

Dribbble — More Than a Place to Network

If you’ve been looking for a job lately, you might already know Dribbble. The website is a great place for designers to share their work, get feedback and connect with design teams who are recruiting talent. Dribbble boasts that they help talent connect with over 40,000 brands, and their massive user base and traffic stats back that up.

So what makes Dribbble a great place to go for design inspiration? Simply the vast amount of great design work. Members post, vote on, and share feedback on posts such as images, animations, and templates (called “shots” in Dribbble’s basketball-centric terminology). You can follow your favorite designers and artists, peruse popular or trending images and search based on keywords.

If you’re looking for an ongoing source of mobile app design inspiration, you may want to explore Dribbble’s creative community.

Creators in Dribbble create “rebounds” — pieces adapting each other’s work. Shots that get multiple rebounds are exhibited in “the playoffs,” which is just one of the ways Dribbble acknowledges great work. If riffing on concepts by some world-class designers (and seeing how other artists adapt your work) sounds like fun, Dribbble is a fantastic destination.

Adweek — Design Inspiration From the Stories Brands Tell

If you’ve worked in marketing, you may already be familiar with Adweek. The publication, which has been around since 1979, bills itself as “the leading source of news and insight serving the brand marketing ecosystem.”

Adweek covers a huge range of news across marketing and advertising, from new adtech, to recent hires in major agencies to the latest Nike campaign. While Adweek does share some design news (like this article about the new DuPont logo), design is not the main focus. There are better places to go if you’re just looking for some inspiring product photos or user interfaces to peruse.

So why should you go to Adweek for mobile app design inspiration? First of all, they have solid coverage of how brands are using new technology that is relevant to UI designers and other mobile design professionals — this article on augmented reality in Snapchat, for example.

A screenshot of AdWeek, featuring an opinion piece on Snapchat and augmented reality.

But beyond that, Adweek can help you look at the bigger picture, to see how brands are connecting with their consumers. You can see how apps fit into brand strategy, and spot shifts in the way companies are addressing and exceeding audience expectations. By looking outside of your industry and niche, you’ll find things you can borrow, adapt, and make better for your audience.

Feedly — Curate Your Own Design Inspirations

With so many different sources of beautiful design around, keeping it all organized can be a challenge. Bookmark too many blogs and searching for the images and articles that fire your imagination can start to feel like work. You need an easy tool to feed you fresh design inspiration, all in one place.

Enter Feedly, a user-friendly feed reader featuring clean design and an intuitive UI. Feedly is a portal into nearly all the media you consume, bringing new blog content, social media posts, articles and other content to your own customized home screen.

Feedly also integrates with Slack, Trello, Evernote, and other common platforms, which enables you to integrate your design feeds, client feedback, and collaborative boards into a single workflow. You can also control how content is organized, categorized, and prioritized — for example, by choosing between most popular and newest content first.

Feedly makes it easier to consume articles how and when you want them. You can preview a source such as a design blog in Feedly, save the parts you want to read for later, then click through to the site when you’re ready. And with social media and email integration, you have multiple options for sharing posts with friends and colleagues.

Boing Boing — Your Daily Dose of the Odd and Fantastic

Boing Boing bills itself as “A Directory of Mostly Wonderful Things.”

Finding a more apt description is hard.

For decades, they’ve covered technology, gadgets, odd and remarkable news, and more than a little politics. It also has many articles that will entertain and inspire designers, from intentionally terrible fonts (supposedly built to enhance memory) to gorgeous art installations to vintage design work like these bizarre NSA internal security posters.

A screenshot of an article on Boing Boing featuring vintage internal security posters from the NSA.
Please tell us people used to travel around the NSA on tricycles.

The great thing about Boing Boing is how truly eclectic and unexpected it all is. Despite the diversity of online media, there really aren’t many places where you’ll always find something interesting and completely unexpected. It may not be the right place to find design ideas for that frustrating UI problem you’re struggling with, but there’s a good chance it will break you out of your rut anyway.

Bonus: The Apps You Need to Get Inspired

From reading up on the latest UI technologies to wandering through Pinterest looking for just the right image, there are almost endless sources of inspiration at our fingertips. But the tools you use are every bit as important for your creative process as the media you consume.

Check out our list of 8 Tools for Visual Designers and our Top 6 Inspirational Apps for more ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Proto.io lets anyone build mobile app prototypes that feel real. No coding or design skills required. Bring your ideas to life quickly! Sign up for a free 15-day trial of Proto.io today and get started on your next mobile app design.

Where do you get design inspiration? Let us know by tweeting us @Protoio!

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