Where Do You Draw Inspiration From?


Getting creative is part of our job. Whatever project we are working on, at some point we need to come up with some nice starting point — some fresh idea which we could explore further, build upon and refine until we have a polished, perfect result. Although having an idea is at least as important as implementing it properly, without inspiration and innovation you just can’t get anything done.

And this is where it sometimes gets messy. In fact, drawing inspiration is not as easy as we used to think of it. Inspiration is not just observing something, analyze it and implement it in one or another way in your work. Inspiration is much more: there is a fine line between inspiration and imitation which is easy to cross and as easy to mix up.

Inspiration means captivate an idea and develop it further. Imitation means identify an idea and use it. As a professional when getting creative, you need to make sure that you pick the right path to follow.

Ideas and Inspiration1
Noell Hyman draws inspiration from magazines2; stick-it-notes contain some ideas she might want to work upon later.

So how do you actually come up with new ideas (apart from reading Smashing Magazine, of course)? Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you have some bulletproof approaches against creativity blocks?

We would like to hear your opinion. Let us know in the comments!


  1. 1 http://www.flickr.com/photos/noellhyman/1216828222/
  2. 2 http://www.flickr.com/photos/noellhyman/1216828222/

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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs responsive Web design workshops, online workshops and loves solving complex performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

  1. 1

    Working in a boring, absolutely non creative environment helps a lot. If you are a creative person you will be so bored and unsatisfied that ideas will come from alone.

  2. 2

    Design sites, portfolio’s, flickr,

    all sorts really :)

    I must say magazines and books are also very useful, but you cant beat the net :)

  3. 3

    From smashingmagazine obviously ;)

  4. 4

    I regularly read blogs, gallery sites, magazines and get time to do “my” things to get my inspiration. I recently dreamt about design, woke up, jotted the design down and put it together the following day.

    The client ended up loving it and it’s now ready to go live. Odd, but it worked.

  5. 5

    smashingmagazine.com and the odd post from webdesignerforum.co.uk

  6. 6

    Smashing, according to your poll results it’s time for some more inspirational round-up posts.

  7. 7

    I’m a writer, not a designer but I still get inspiration from Smashing Magazine! I also get it from reading biographies/memoirs of creative types, especially if they’re talking about how they do their work.

  8. 8

    Recently my company had a “creative day.” Basically they give you a day off and during this day your suppose to go somewhere to inspire yourself. So my coworker and I choose to go to the Santa Monica Design district. Rather than look at people’s paintings we decide to look at modern design for homes. For example one place specialized in kitchens, another in lighting, the others in furniture. I found the trip to be inspiration to look at high quality designs even if it’s not related to your field. As soon as I got home I started sketching up some layouts.

  9. 9

    FFFFound.com has something that catches my eye every time I visit.

    I take pictures often.

    I draw every day, even if I just make some little sketches with no goal or idea in mind, and I keep all of them. When I do have a concept, I make at least 100 thumbnails before I take it to the next step. This phase helps to explore the idea fully.

    Listen to music.

    Look at dozens of art blogs an CG sites.

    Get out in nature, the best source of inspiration there is.

    Outer space is another great inspirer. I love looking at nebulae, supernovas, galaxies, etc. Just thinking about the physics and how the gears of the universe function inspires me.

    When all else fails, look back to the masters. Sometimes I try to reproduce their work or incorporate it into mine.

  10. 10

    From Design Shack – http://www.designshack.co.uk

  11. 11

    Paper magazines, tv commercials, tv jingles…

  12. 12

    Inspiration for me comes from the emotions of others. To meet a stranger and engage in taboo sexual activities opens up new areas of my mind that have yet to be explored.it allows me to change my personal patterns of creative thinking and problem solving.

  13. 13

    Design related sites and magazines.

  14. 14

    obviously from smashingmagazine, however an important part is draw from my daily life and small bits of love from family

  15. 15

    An interesting article. I actually draw my inspiration away from the computer. I’m a radio controlled pilot and will often go and fly my helicopter or plane, or do something else that I find relaxing or fun. Strangely, some of my best artistic ideas, whether it be 3D, digital painting, or graphic design, have came from doing things like that. I’ve even solved coding logic in regards to programming and database structure by “taking a break” from the computer. The CSS gallery sites usually provide me with inspiration for content layout and structure, or maybe a neat CSS trick or interesting use of Ajax, but they rarely provide inspiration for actual design.

  16. 16

    getting high is the best inspiration method :D I don’t use drugs ! but I use to smoke Water Pipe … Once I have tea and water pipe with a piece of paper behind me I start colecting idees, online research, then I bring up a concept …
    Like Ash, I vizit design sites, portfolio’s, flickr, blogs, google images …

  17. 17


    Two hours of complete inspiration. The script, the locations, the set pieces, wardrobe, props, the music, etc. All good inspiration, and your soaking it up whilst enjoying a movie.

  18. 18

    That was really a checkbox question rather than a radio button question don’t you think?

  19. 19

    Every time I see a really cool site I bookmark it — when I need inspiration I look at my bookmarks.

  20. 20

    From everything I saw and liked. I kinda mix it and then make something good.

  21. 21

    Strangely enough, I get inspiration from music.

  22. 22

    Hmm… well it IS definitely the design sites for me. BUT:

    Posting this poll ON A DESIGN site really skews the result towards a design site. Hope you are aware of that,because the people who come to this site (not all of course) come here for inspiration…

  23. 23

    Strangely enough I always believed the best inspiration came from viewing other peoples work and ideas and trying to draw from it, but when i realised what true inspiration was i realised how wrong I’ve been going about things.
    You see I believe real and thought provoking inspiration comes best from actually being out in the world, living, breathing doing things that you wouldn’t experience on a day to day basis. For example going on a walk somewhere new with some friends through some beautiful scenery, playing a sport you wouldn’t normally play, going to a different bar. Seeing with your own eyes how things in all works of life occur around you and when you get back to your workplace, you’ll have all these recent memories and new experiences that for me transfer into any work or creations I may be doing.

  24. 24

    I have a lot of trouble finding inspiration. It rarely happens and even when it does I’m not sure where it came from. It’s caused me to stop being as creative as I used to be. :(

  25. 25

    la inspiración sale de muchas partes, de sitios, de libros, de charlas, de la calle. Especialmente de otras cosas no tan especificas así el campo de acción se amplia
    QuintoH es·tu·dio2

  26. 26

    Behance Network….certainly a fav: http://www.behance.net

  27. 27

    I pick up magazines now and again (especially design annuals, which seem to be a fairly regular occurrence).
    Anyhow, I’ve just latched onto a new cataloging routine.
    Instead of sticky notes and small-pieces-of-paper bookmarks, I now use a digital camera or phone camera to capture interesting ideas in magazines, and use Evernote (currently in beta — http://evernote.com/) to catalog said ideas. Evernote, a multi-device app, scans all images for text content, which makes searching even easier). Now my ideas are where ever I am!
    — just thought I’d share!
    … z

  28. 28

    flickr, my favorite design sites, behance & magazines. I have also devoted my personal blog to help inspire others @ http://www.fuelyourcreativity.com

  29. 29

    I tend to pick up flyers I find interesting, rip out pages of magazines, take pictures of posters, and make screenshots of sites I like or save pics, illustrations, etc.. whatever and save them in my “inspiration”-folder. From time to time I flick through them, especially when I don’t get any good ideas. And I save anything that’s good in my opinion, that can be the navigation of an e-commercie site, or just t-shirt designs, and I get ideas from them. Sometimes the composition, sometimes the colour palette..

    Looking at fine examples, it’s good to analyze why some works are good + it keeps you on your toes, you can compare your own work to work from others.. competitve and frustrating some times, but a source of ideas nevertheless

  30. 30

    Movies are the way to go. Some books and magazines are really help. Also, sometimes I went sailling into the sea as that can add more space for your mind to explore the world rather than sitting in the square room.

    Going out is very refreshing an idea!

  31. 31

    Movies are the way to go. Some books and magazines are really help. Also, sometimes I went sailling into the sea as that can add more space for your mind to explore the world rather than sitting in the square room.

    Going out is very refreshing my idea!

  32. 32

    The first two options are my main inspiration:
    . Design-related sites
    . Print-magazines and books

    There is one more thing: searching image in flick sometime give me the inspiration too. In fact these option come first in my mind when i start working one something new which needs creative idea.

  33. 33

    I actually found myself referring to other sites for design inspiration so I actually compiled my own list here of 101+ places to go for design inspiration.

  34. 34

    Inspiration does not limited to just one genre, I hope can just select all from the vote selections above. However, because I spend many times in front of PC so I select “Design related site”.

  35. 35

    I go fishing and bring my sketchbook
    Take long showers
    Walk my dog

  36. 36

    I get a lot of ideas from TemplateMonster.com

  37. 37

    No simply answer. In many times inspiration just come but sometimes is inspired with old classic paintings, work of other published in books or magazines, scene from movies, stories…

  38. 38

    This is so true I used to work at a construction campany warehouse and it was so boring that I would come up with ideas from looking at Downspouts on the shelf and get ideas from the old rusted trash cans.

  39. 39

    #1: inspiration from site?!?! poor boy…

  40. 40

    all of the above in the poll..

  41. 41

    After reading blogs and analyzing designs… try to combine several ideas or even ripoff some features while drinking some hot tea

  42. 42


  43. 43

    persoally I think you can get inspiration anywhere and anytime…. it also happens unconsciously. You may be at the cinema, see something your artistic brain will capture without telling you until the right moment infront of your computer or paper. As I walk on the street I look at posters, commercials, clothing, stores… there is “trend” and inspiration everywhere. Well, internet makes it even easier. I also try to travell, to get out of y environment. It’s always refresshing and you’ll definetly get back to your office with good and new ideas.
    Please excuse my english!

  44. 44

    Life….trying not to walk around with my eyes closed!

  45. 45

    smashingmagazine ! :)

  46. 46

    New York City Wedding Photographer

    May 12, 2008 12:17 am

    As a wedding photographer, one of my biggest sources of inspiration is my clients. Watching the couple interact is very enriching. I also draw inspiration by watching the guests at the wedding. I am fascinated by the little stories that occur throughout the course of the day. There are so many other experiences that I draw on for inspiration including sharing. One of my favorite sites is behance.net there is so much talent here and I log on to the site every day.

    Parris Whittingham
    New York City Wedding Photographer

  47. 47

    i get inspiration from artist’s portfolios, companies websites and creative agencies

  48. 48

    Charlie Nielsen

    May 12, 2008 12:39 am

    Keep your head clean

    I actually tell my clients that I can’t be inspired on command and that they might not see a result for the next few weeks. This doen’t mean that I’m not working, but means that I’m thinking throug the semantics and functionalities of a stunning design – in my head.
    At the drawing board (by hand and not by the computer) – I draw drafts, look’em over and start using the right elements for drawing it up on the computer hereafter. If I need further inspiration, I tend to use cssremix.com, smashingmagazine.com or webresourcesdepot.com ..

    Innovate – Don’t imitate!

  49. 49

    I do not consider myself a professional, but that doesn’t mean I try to be creative. I mostly go check out several design sites, look for beautiful websites I love and try to get inspired. I must admit I might have crossed over to imitation from time to time, but I think I’ve done a pretty decent job in all my designs…

  50. 50

    i’m really found of magazine and books. the very plus i research in it is the maximum visualisation of designs in a very short time.

  51. 51

    Mehrdad khoddami

    May 12, 2008 1:43 am

    I think ….
    F from my all observation (Web, TV, Book, Magazine ,etc).
    I compile theme for making a new thing.I Love New Things.

  52. 52

    for me, i think travel or stay in another country for a couple of years will help.

  53. 53
  54. 54

    I find that If I seek out inspiration too much I overwhelm my brain with too many ideas. My inspiration usually comes from those little moments when something peaks my curiosity.

  55. 55

    honestly! my greatest inspiration has come from the bathroom. Yep. For some reason I have the biggest breakthrough’s when I’m standing there at the urinal staring at the blank tiled wall. Maybe it’s just taking myself out in front of my computer and letting my head clear itself and relax. I think that’s important to do at least 100 times a day.

  56. 56

    various sources actually. websites like smashingmagazine and similar sites are one of them. then there are these design books and magazines i buy. sometimes i go through the same design book a hundred times.. and each time i go through it i find something new in it!

    then random inspirations pop up when i meet new people.. i just take a stroll on the road, and meet random people, see things, and experience events.. and sparks fly from no where! really!

  57. 57

    As a designer, I often find inspiration in old typography and textures. I live in Baltimore city, and often will just wander around and look at old signs, textures from posted bills and the like.

  58. 58

    I keep a del.icio.us account just filled with loads of design which i find. That can be anything from website designs, photos, or just anything with a nice colour pallette. I then stick the best ones on my blog for the world to see.

  59. 59

    I love to check out the design related sites daily, as well as take my frequent breaks to jump on the skateboard/skimboard and clear my mind. But when im out on a regular day – I like to look to everything for inspiration, billboards, posters, big cities, small cities, a little television… I really don’t have much of a schedule but I do run into design block like once a month.

  60. 60

    I draw inspiration from http://www.imaginepaolo.com

  61. 61

    creative online portfolios

    design blogs

    fashion magazines

    animation flicks

    DIGIT & Computer Arts mag

    design books and portals

  62. 62
  63. 63

    I prefer to take some walk and see people. The way they act or look, the way they dress inspires me to design. I also look other designs so I can learn from other. But my favorite is nature. I have a great view at my workplace, its the same view, but it doesn’t look the same everyday. ;P

  64. 64

    I absolutely agree

  65. 65

    Music usually does it for me. If I’m having little success getting going on a project I’ll surf around in search of a new artist to listen to.

  66. 66

    a technique that worked allways for me is, to look at things and ponder about, what is obvious and what are the facets ohters won´t see. how can i put things into another context, twist sense and message, look at it from a totally different angle. inspiration i often get, beside the mandatory websites (like smashing mag ;)) and print mags, from classic art books, museums, architecture, and simply nature (i think god still is the greatets designer ever). going out and looking at plants, landscapes and animals is very inspiring (or just sit back and watch my chameleon changing its color is allways a good insiration for a nice color set) :).

  67. 67

    I dont think inspiration comes from stearing at something cool, a website or a magazine. You need to get your brain to work. So its like appetite, it comes by eating, so inspiration comes by working.

  68. 68
  69. 69

    T.M Shibli Nomani Romance

    May 13, 2008 12:49 pm

    I draw inspiration from my family and a variety of sources websites . Strangely I actually draw my inspiration away from the computer. It allows me to change my personal patterns of creative thinking and problem solving.

  70. 70

    I do get inspiration from various websites and smashingmagazine is one of my top inspiration site for design, typography and lots. For flash based website inspiration, my fav is http://www.thefwa.com.

  71. 71

    I use drugs and alcohol.

  72. 72

    music, books, portfolios, websites, blogs, sex, etc

  73. 73

    I draw my inspiration from magazines use the same stick-it notes technique like Noell Hyman. Apart from that I’m always on the look out for new artists. The thing I find the most stimulating though is to see how different people go about designing the same subject. Through my blog I try to find inspirational pieces and themes. Recently I published an article about art which uses CMYK as “Leitmotiv” and it’s amazing how different the interpretations are.

  74. 74

    My vote is “taking some time off…”
    That’s not the direct inspiration but it’s necessary before any brainstorming session, any graphic research, any draft…

    The list is very long for the rest, i’d say music alot, kids books, packaging, shop windows, scribbles, drawing, and of course the classics (designers and developpers’ websites, arts and design magazines…).

    I loved the part about inspiration/imitation.
    I’ve had this thought many times lately, that some illustrators, designers… imitate and do not really create.
    The difference stands in the “digestion” of the idea. If it is too raw, then it is a copy. If it’s digested and taken further, it’s more creation. More work. More personnal influences mixed alltogether.

    That’s my opinion anyway, how about you?

  75. 75

    I believe inspiration comes as much as possible from looking at aspects one doesn’t expect to be part of your work and connecting those together. So if you work in mobile, the last thing you should do is get inspiration from mobile.

    In that respect, a few of us started a modest grouptweet to showcase things we find that we think are inspiring without always being obviously applicable: Inspiring on Twitter.

  76. 76

    This, I find, is an interesting question (Where do you draw inspiration from?)

    Inspiration not only in design terms, but for people involved in the web, inspiration for development, managing projects, business ideas etc. I guess drawing inspiration can be a skill learned. Inspiration is everywhere, however actually drawing inspiration and being creative about it comes about by being conscious of it – opening our senses to it and translating it to our working lives.

  77. 77

    I draw my inspiration from making extensive vacation :)

  78. 78

    SmashingMagazine for inspiration from all sorts of media
    Wandering Barnes & Noble for inspiration from book covers
    Coverboom.com for more inspiration from book covers
    Museums for inspiration from history
    Magazines (Wired is a good one for random inspiration)

  79. 79

    Funny, I wanted to choose all of the options in that poll b/c they are all sources of inspiration to me. I finally settled on “Take some time off (Walk / Sport etc.)” b/c sometimes just walking around or even driving around and looking at stuff like advertising billboards, graffiti, restaurant signs and stuff like that inspire the crap out of me as well. I remember one vacation, my wife and I were at Epcot Center and The Magic Kingdom and all I did both days was take pictures of everything from signs to peoples’ clothes. There truly is a wealth of inspiration around us

  80. 80

    I start with a word and finish with other word and so many ideas, colors, forms, lines, curves, typography, later I go walk, turn on tv and I’m almost ready, next step is mix ideas and mix again (like fruit juices), take my tablet, listen music and good bye people I come back tomorrow.

    Very funny post, I think inspiration is knowledge mixed with creativity and hability, anybody have this qualities, just we have to look well and let to our mind to fly.

  81. 81

    I regularly visit smashingmagazine, smashingapps, 24ways, and other design related websites and designers portfolio

  82. 82

    I’m into motion graphics but I draw inspiration from everything around me: magazine ads, (good) television commercials, intro/outro movies title sequences and great sites like Smashing Mag and Fuel Your Motionography http://www.fuelyourmotionography.com


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