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

    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.

  2. 52

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

  3. 103
  4. 154

    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.

  5. 205

    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.

  6. 256

    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!

  7. 307

    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.

  8. 358

    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.

  9. 409

    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.

  10. 460

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

  11. 511

    creative online portfolios

    design blogs

    fashion magazines

    animation flicks

    DIGIT & Computer Arts mag

    design books and portals

  12. 562
  13. 613

    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

  14. 664

    I absolutely agree

  15. 715

    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.

  16. 766

    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) :).

  17. 817

    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.

  18. 868
  19. 919

    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.

  20. 970

    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.

  21. 1021

    I use drugs and alcohol.

  22. 1072

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

  23. 1123

    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.

  24. 1174

    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?

  25. 1225

    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.

  26. 1276

    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.

  27. 1327

    I draw my inspiration from making extensive vacation :)

  28. 1378

    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)

  29. 1429

    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

  30. 1480

    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.

  31. 1531

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

  32. 1582

    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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