Design

Best Places To Find Design Inspiration

February 1, 2016

Inspiration isn’t always our best friend because inspiration can be so fickle. Sometimes, you get so inspired that you can hardly contain your creativity and you lament about the lack of time to realize your ideas into working projects. Other days, you’re running so dry on design inspiration that any work you produce feels lacklustre even before you’ve actually produced it.

It’s a tricky business, that of seeking inspiration. No one has yet figured out the science of how and when inspiration will hit you. Instead of waiting for whimsical inspiration to find its way to you, you could be chasing down design inspiration from one of these places we’ve compiled for you.

A woman looking for design inspiration on the web.

The Usual Suspects

Many visual and interaction designers start off their work days with a dose of ‘design porn’, that is browsing through the main design inspiration hubs, Behance and Dribbble, where other designers hang out and share their work. Otherwise, there are other possible design inspiration hubs where visual content from the web is selectively curated and shared, such as Twibfy, or in a slightly less selective way, Pinterest.

Web and Mobile App Design Inspiration

As George Bernard Shaw puts it, “Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning.” A lot creative work is actually a remix of some other design that has been remixed from some other design. The cycle could be almost eternal. This is not to say we are to directly copy from great designs but to pick out what’s great about those designs and learn from them.

A photo of two similar-looking pelicans side by side, the one on the right is slightly smaller.

Awwwards showcase the best of the web and is a great place to start for web design inspiration if you don’t already know it. Then, there are Site Inspire, One Page Love, Unmatched Style, CSS Design Awards, Httpster and, Nice One I Like.

You could also drop by Designer News and seek out the ‘Show’ section, where users post links to creatively crafted websites and portfolios.

For the more mobile lot amongst us, they can hunt down design inspiration Pttrns, Beautiful Pixels, Material Up, Laudable Apps, Inspired UI, Android Niceties, iOSpirations, and UltraUI.

And of course, here at Proto.io, we offer a monthly series featuring the best in mobile app UI design, the coolest of mobile interaction design, and chat sessions with influential mobile UI/UX designers. Be sure to bookmark our blog for fresh doses of design inspiration.

The ‘Anything Goes’ Design Inspiration

If you’re not looking specifically for web or mobile designs, but simply for great design inspiration in general, whether it be graphic design or interior design, there are some fantastic sites that offer you a huge dose of design inspiration of any sort.

Up close image of henna hand painting, an example of design inspiration of any sort.

Abduzeedo is a great site to bookmark as they create these great design inspiration collections ranging from web design to architecture to illustration. For those of you who like to be hit by great designs after great designs, Designspiration would be the hotspot for your design inspiration. Design Milk leans more towards interior design and architecture, but also offers fashion, art, and technology design inspiration so it’s a good site so long as you’re fine with feeling like your apartment needs a constant retouch.

A sleek site but with a name that has way too many ‘f’s, Form Fifty Five is another great site for all sorts of design inspiration. Another great site for design inspiration submitted by users, also with an inordinate amount of the letter ‘f’, is Ffffound. If you’re a moodboard kind of designer, Niice would probably be to your fancy. Finally, Tina Roth Eisenberg’s Swiss Miss blog is also a great read for ‘anything goes’ type of design inspiration.

The Accidental Muses

It is quite often the case that design inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places that has nothing at all to do with design. If you find yourself caught in a season of inspiration drought, what you might need is a different approach to seeking inspiration by temporarily distancing yourself from your work and engaging in some other form of creativity-stimulating activity.

Design Inspiration From Within The Boundaries

For the desk-bound web and mobile app designers who can’t simply leave the office as and when they please, a good starting point would be to seek design inspiration in other areas of the creative field that you are not actively engaged in.

A man taking photo in the middle of the street, photography can be a great way to gain design inspiration.

Photography, for instance, could be a place where design inspiration furtively lurks and that is indirectly related to design so you can’t be told off for slacking off at work. Browsing through Flickr, DeviantArt, or even flicking through your Instagram and/or Tumblr feed.

Fashion blogs and sites might also help give you a fresh dose of design inspiration as you take your mind off from the projects you’ve been working hard on. Now, to say that the online fashionista world is huge is an utter understatement. It’s humongous and if you decide to go digging for design inspiration by jumping straight in there with the help of Google, be prepared to get lost among this summer’s trending colors and the next seasons’ fashion faux pas, as if it was possible to predict.

To start you off, here are a few sites you can check out for design inspirations: The Sartorialist, The Blonde Salad, Fashion Toast, Song of Style, and Street Peeper.

A model walking down the runway for a fashion show. Fashion can be a good place to look for fresh design inspiration.

Into The Wild For Design Inspiration

Designers these days tend to form a significant part of the remote-working digital nomad class. If your work attire means a bathrobe and maybe some PJ pants, it means that you’re among the privileged in terms of having the flexibility to manage your own time. No doubt, the idea of “pure and absolute freedom” is a complete bogus. Like any other working adult, you also have deadlines to meet and goals to achieve. It’s not always rainbows and sunshine.

However, you are not bound to a desk and when inspiration runs dry, you have a lot more freedom to chase down design inspiration than do your desk-bound peers. It’s understandable if you find yourself not actively doing what it takes to refresh your mind and look for inspiration elsewhere. Quite often, I find myself stabbing at a dead-end problem blindly while thinking, “I just need to get this done and I’m done.” Then, I never do and am still stuck with the same dry spell the next day.

Go out for a walk or a run.

Physical movement helps to stimulate your neurons and get your creative juices flowing. Steve Jobs was an advocate of walking meetings and indeed, he was a creative genius. Walking helps you take your mind off a dead-end problem. As you walk, you may be lost in thought and perhaps you do not observe your surroundings but your mind and body register the change of sensorial stimuli, and design inspirations might hit you in the most unexpected ways, from the most unexpected sources.

Close up on walking woman’s lower body. Going for a walk is a great way to seek design inspiration.

Make some music.

Or if you’re afraid that your neighbours might try to get you evicted after, do a lip sync rehearsal in front your bathroom mirror. Go all out and jump around. Bring out that air guitar swag. Try and see if you can do more facial expressions than Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. What does this have to do with design? Not much, really. But music and theatrical performance are creative activities that can lead to amazing design inspiration.

Whenever I find myself stuck while writing an article, I pick up a guitar and start singing out the content. This usually ends up with me singing the rest of the article out albeit in lyrical form but hey, it helps get the ideas flowing.

Try something out of the ordinary today if design inspiration seems to elude you. You might just be surprised by what hits you.

Now that you’re inspired, begin designing and end with beautiful, fully interactive prototypes made with Proto.io, no coding required. Then download your prototypes to your devices and test on the go. After all, the best way to ensure that your mobile apps are truly user-friendly is to test your designs with users and iterate based on real data. Start your free trial today.

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