If you’re a career creative, keeping yourself inspired is one of your top priorities. It’s the food that keeps that motor running — and like food it’s important to have a balanced diet. If you work primarily in interactive design (like I do) it’s easy to fall into the trap of going to the same “best of” websites day in day out for inspiration. Don’t get me wrong; those websites are great — for me it’s Awwwards, Dribbble, and Best Web Gallery. However, like eating nothing but bread, it’s not entirely healthy for your interactive designs.
To put it simply, it’s important to have variety to mix things up. Pick up an awesome book, or go to a fun store. Design inspiration can be anywhere. Below are some of my favorite places and resources to be inspired for interactive design.
Andy Helms is one busy illustrator. On top of producing the animated short “Space Bear” for Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover — he’s been creating an illustration a day for the past year. These illustrations match up with those strange official days you sometimes hear about — eg: Eat Outside Day, Johnny Appleseed Day, Men’s Grooming Day. I love seeing Andy’s strange associations and visual gags — going through his site totally puts me in a playful mindset.
Giant Spirographs, pumpkins you can play Tetris on, Molotov cocktail lanterns — sounds like the ramblings of a mad genius. Nathan Pryor from Haha Bird is one such genius. This DIYer has been posting some truly inspiring projects and hacks on his blog since 2009. His ideas make you look at an everyday object and push you to think what’s possible. Also, did I mention the pumpkin Tetris? I really love the pumpkin Tetris.
Almost every time someone sends me a CodePen link I end up saying, “Huh, I didn’t know you could do that.” CodePen is an impressive social playground to share front-end design/development experiments rendered in real-time. See someone’s project you like? Play around with their code and see how they did it or manipulate it to fit your needs. My favorites: SVG Running Man, Nav Icon Transformations, and Blob Circle.
“Beautiful Evidence” by Edward Tufte
Edward Tufte was into infographics before they were cool. His 2006 book, “Beautiful Evidence” is a deep dive into how humans have been visually depicting data since the dawn of history. Everything from the Barr art chart, to Minard’s famous map of Napolean’s march to Russia is contained in this amazing book. I love going through this masterwork as a reminder of the millennia worth of possibilities.
“Chip Kidd: Book One” by Chip Kidd
Chip Kidd probably doesn’t need an introduction — the man was a Jeopardy question — but for those who don’t know, Kidd is perhaps one of the most prolific and lauded book cover designers of the last and current century. His book features work such as “Jurassic Park”, “The End of Over Eating”, “Batman: The Dark Night Returns” to name a few. The work alone is worth the price of admission, but hearing stories about Kidd’s own creative stories is priceless.
“Swiss Graphic Design”, Richard Hollis
Maybe it’s because my best friend growing up was Swiss. Or maybe it’s their cheese cartels and my fondness for ski chalets. Whatever the reason, I love Swiss industrial era graphic design. The clear through line between modernist design and web design keeps me coming back to this book again and again for inspiration and ideas.
“Found Magazine” is a reminder that inspiration can be found any and everywhere, even in the trash. Published and edited by Davy Rothbart, “Found” is a collection of often hilarious, occasionally tear inducing letters, cards, and photos discarded and rediscovered in the world.
There are many art anthology magazines in the world, but “Blue Canvas” is probably my favorite. Spotlighting artists from across every conceivable discipline — it’s not uncommon to see a sculptor or painter featured next to an artist who works in augmented reality or who does both digital and physical art. I love being reminded that blurring the line between disciplines is where true creativity takes place.
My coworkers are probably sick of hearing me talk about 99% Invisible. This beautifully produced audio podcast dissects and discusses the beauty of the man made world. Razzle dazzle camouflage, currency design, crafting spaces for the deaf — host Roman Mars deftly tells “stories of who we are through the lens of the things we build” (I can’t help but quote the man). I love how the podcast lifts the veil on how the countless decisions we never see affect the things that we as a design community create.
The Memory Palace
A podcast about history sounds about as much fun to me as a trip to the dentist. However, Nate Dimeo’s acumen for storytelling and his ability to distill and personalize his material keeps me glued to my ear buds. Listening to Nate go on about Jane Froman or Elisha Otis is not only a treat but a master class in storytelling. My only complaint is that the podcast is monthly and he always leaves me wanting more.
When my wife introduced me to Anthropologie, I knew I had chosen the right woman. To start, I’m a huge fan of the design of the clothing — colorful, beautifully structured and striking. However, the store itself is my favorite thing about Anthropologie. Gorgeous displays, ingenious installations — the hero here is a brilliant team of interior designers. I end up visiting Anthropologie at least once a season to be inspired.
Vintage, handmade, local — Design Archives is the best of our local arts and crafts scene. Featuring designers, printers, clothiers and everything in between, going to Design Archives is like going to a small museum. I love walking around the store, seeing vintage trends turned current, and amazing illustration work. I always come away with a few ideas of my own.
Toys & Co.
At the risk of betraying my age, I remember when it wasn’t uncommon to find a locally owned toy store in a shopping center. Toys & Co. is a playground of toys, stuffed animals and all sorts of amazing bits and bobs. One of my favorite things to do when I hit a creative wall is to visit the store. I’m instantly transported back to my childhood, when creativity seemed to flow without stop.
Share Your Inspiration
What gets your juices flowing? Share sites, magazines, podcasts, stores or even museums that have inspired your creative side. What is it about those resources that bring out the creativity in you? Tell us in the comments below!