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The Smashing Book #5

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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!

Footnotes Link

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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 UX, front-end and 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 and the odd post from

  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 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 –

  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 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

    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 there is so much talent here and I log on to the site every day.

    Parris Whittingham
    New York City Wedding Photographer

  26. 26

    Behance Network….certainly a fav:

  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 — 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 @

  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!


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