Whenever I start a new project, my first step is to review my idea collection.
I’m constantly scouring the web for inspirational textures, photos, layouts, and coding techniques and saving ideas I find for different needs – these hits of inspiration help form color and layout choices and push me to think differently. If you always create the same thing, you’ll get stuck in a rut…I’ve seen it happen to other designers who create the same site every time – and that doesn’t serve you or your client.
Here’s what I do to get inspired
On the Web
I keep a master PhotoShop file with screenshots of design elements (this way I always know I have a copy – if you simply save a URL, there’s no guarantee that site will be there when you go back to review it). Not using PhotoShop? Simply click Print Screen if you’re on a PC or CNTRL + CMD + SHIFT + 3 on a Mac and save the files to a folder.
I’ve been doing this for years – taking screenshots of things I love. It’s fun to go back to older files and find what you once considered interesting now feels dated! Or you may re-discover an aesthetic style that’s just right for right now.
Quick tip: Remember to either keep url showing in the address bar so you can go back or name your layer with the domain name).
I have multiple pinterest boards for color, type and product design. I tend to use Pinterest more for personal projects and interior design ideas more than client ideas.
Quick Tip: Pinterest is a 3rd party site. You don’t control the info stored there and it can be deleted at any moment – another reason to always make sure you have a back-up of your ideas!
I save design notes, code snippets and URLS to evernote folders for later review. You can also use the web clipper to save full web pages. For example, I know I’m going to be creating a conference site in the near future – so as I discover similar sites that feature unique layout and functionality – I save them to my client’s evernote file. (If you aren’t using evernote, check it out here – it’s been a game-changer for me!)
Quick Tip: If you can’t find the web page that existed a while ago, Use the wayback machine to find old sites (you can even use this to find old versions of your site…this is also a great last-ditch resource if you accidently delete a site or page and you don’t have a backup).
As I find great blog resources, I add that blog to my feedly account (my blog reader) and read their posts when travelling or the days I set aside for my business development.
For an overload of inspiration, I’ll review a few of the big sites that feature a collection of new designs. I have about 100 of these sites that showcase varying designs but here are a few of my absolute favorites where the work blows me away every time.
Not only are newsletters a great way to keep up with the latest design and coding techniques, products and services – but the actual design can be inspirational. If you’ve ever created your own HTML email, you know it can be tricky to design and code. I always save emails that feature great design – and a great resource gallery is from email service provider Campaign Monitor. Check out their gallery here: campaignmonitor.com/gallery/
More sources of inspiration
Limiting yourself to only looking at web sites will prevent you from seeing what else is out in the world.
I love print design and magazines are a great resource for the display of complex information like tables and infographics (Fav mags for design and layout inspiration include Martha Stewart, Dwell, Fortune, Entrepreneur and Monocle). For example, I’m designing a site that needs to display various types of events – a recent Food + Wine magazine inspired a color coding concept.
Contrary to popular opinion, print isn’t totally dead – I’m always saving unique postcards, business cards and flyers (I store these in an expandable folder).
Yes, watching TV can inspired you – Look at opening title sequences for unique font choices and illustrations (ever seen the opening sequence to a Bond movie or Catch me if you Can? So creative…) – Watching The Italian Job recently inspired a font choice for a new design.
My husband is a package designer – and we’re constantly taking pics on our iphones for later reference – (we get the oddest looks in the grocery store!) We do this all the time when we see a great idea like store exterior graphics or modern furniture.
Hard to believe, but there’s a whole world outside the web. My husband drives race cars for fun and recently had his helmet custom painted by a local artist. What this guy can paint freehand is absolutely amazing – and his color choices are inspiring a future site palette.