Discovering Offline Sources of Inspiration

By on Graphic Inspiration

As web designers, some of us have boxed ourselves in. We get to a stage where we feel like we need to get inspired, so what do we do? We go to our RSS reader that’s packed with useful articles, check Twitter for the latest design news, or we visit our favourite web design galleries. We all do it, but then we get the problem of everything looking… ‘samey’.

When was the last time you saw a truly unique website design – a design you looked at and said ‘wow!’.

Don’t get me wrong, they do appear now and again, but it gets harder and harder to draw inspiration from the online world as time goes on.

Designers spend 7 hours+ a day in front of a computer, in Photoshop, Sketch or Sublime Text, and browsing the same old sites again and again when we get stuck. It’s time to look elsewhere people!

In this article, I want to show you that inspiration can be drawn from anywhere, not just online, and as a result breath new life into your work.

Discovering Shape & Form

Introducing shape into your work is the fundamental part of any design. Whether created by text or image, everything you ever design will have shape. To define, shape is a collection of lines which form the external boundaries of the space an object occupies. Form takes a shape into a 3-dimensional plane – for example when working on a 2D canvas a prime example is perspective – creating a 3D illusion to bring depth into an image.

Looking at examples of design to draw inspiration for a similar project is all well and good, but why not look elsewhere? Go for a walk. Look at nature. The shape of a leaf, the silhouette of trees on the skyline, the pattern in the bark on a tree. This will introduce new aesthetically pleasing shape and form to your work which is unique – even if it just the flow of a collection of shapes. This can be seen in man-made structures too – just look at the flow of a row of buildings, see how they cluster together to form their own shape. For example:

You can then take this shape forward, using it to draw the eye to a focal point on your design project as the shape in itself implies perspective, by adding a slight gradient we can enhance this effect even further. Place your information at the ‘deepest’ part of the shape and everything flows nicely:


Nothing inspires a new color palette like looking out your window. Colors change with the seasons, and on a daily basis with the weather (especially in Scotland!). Pick up your camera, step outside and take some photos of everything you see on a ten minute walk. The cars in a car park, the tree line and sky, the pavements, roads, tracks and grass you walk on and even that strange looking bug you just passed.

When you get back to your computer, open these images and start sampling the colors – you’ll be amazed how a slightly different shade of your favourite color or a sexy new palette can inspire you all over again.

Sources of Inspiration

The above is just a couple of examples of how you can be inspired by going for a walk and just looking about – but why stop there?


Take a look in your local area for an upcoming event – a farmers market, a funfair, carnival etc – the event in itself is not what’s important, it’s what you see while you are there. If it’s a trip to a local farmers market look at the billboards, posters, advertisements on the way. Look at the layout of the market itself and see how it is designed to flow – to draw the visitors in towards the focal points, in this case the stalls. Look at how you would improve on it, and be inspired by what you see!

Your Local Library

Another great place is your local library – you’ll get more inspiration from looking at design books in a library than you will online – even if it’s just because of the lack of distractions!

CD or Record Album Art

A great source for inspiration is CD cover art – there’s something for everyone. Here are some great examples:

Chicago typographic cd cover design inspiration

The Chemical Brothers typographic cd cover design inspiration


Another great source of inspiration are posters – movies being a personal favourite of mine.

creative minimal poster of the The Big Lebowski film

Inception cult movie poster remake by fans


Everyone loves a well packaged product, whether its electrical, food or even a special edition DVD. Packaging is also a great source of inspiration for those who pay attention…

Pantone Home Paint crafted packaging product

Slingshot Coffee Side by Side


What you see here is just the tip of the iceberg that is offline inspiration. So go, explore different avenues to inspire yourself. Take a day off, attend a local event, walk through a forest, visit a nearby town and KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN. You will get more inspiration in a day like that than procrastinating in front of your computer for another day.