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Quick Tips Inspiring Everyday Graphic Design

The most inspirational things are often right in front of us. It might be the typography on a book cover, the colors of your favorite music album, the opening titles in that movie you saw yesterday. To celebrate all those little moments of inspiration, we have compiled some resources for you which honor the beauty of everyday graphic design and the ideas behind it. Perfect to squeeze into a short coffee break. Enjoy!

Artworks On Your Bookshelf Link

We learned not to judge a book by its cover, but, honestly, there is nothing quite like browsing through a bookstore, soaking up covers, their colors, their typefaces, their layouts, every little detail. The variety is endless, and sometimes you’re lucky and find a little piece of art shining through the sheer mass.

To show their appreciation for excellent book cover design, Ben Pierrat and Eric Jacobsen brought the Book Cover Archive541 to life, a showcase for unique cover designs. It’s inspiring to see how designers boil the idea behind a book down to the limited canvas space of one rectangle. What will it inspire you to? Perhaps something extraordinary, like your own series of book covers made with HTML and CSS2?

Book Cover Archive3
The Book Cover Archive541 gives excellent book cover design a home. (Image credit: Book Cover Archive541)

The Magic Of Film Titles Link

Until 1955, cinema audiences didn’t get to see the title sequence of movies. Then a note on the film reels for Otto Perminger’s The Man With The Golden Arm changed everything: “Projectionists — pull curtains before titles.” The opening titles which Saul Bass created for the movie6 wrote history and marked the birth of an entirely new design field. Fortunately, because without this change of thinking, a lot of treasures wouldn’t exist today.

If you want to dive deeper into current and past film titles, into the stories and the creation process behind them, make sure to check out Art of the Title13107. The site was founded in 2007 to honor film title makers and is run by an enthusiastic team of three. A fascinating place that preserves and celebrates the history of this craft.

Opening titles of The Man With The Golden Arm8
The film titles that changed everything: Saul Bass’ intro to The Man With The Golden Arm9. (Opening title credit: Saul Bass; Image credit: Art of the Title13107)
Opening titles from the movie Marco Polo11
Fast forward 50 years: The opening titles for the Netflix production Marco Polo12 were inspired by traditional Asian paintings. A piece of art. (Opening title credit: Mill+; Image credit: Art of the Title13107)

The Forgotten Art Of Album Covers Link

The album cover was once an important part of music culture, with artists specializing in them and gaining fame with their work. Today, in times of digital downloads and streaming, the covers have lost their original purpose and live rather unnoticed in the corners of our smartphone screens. Unfortunately, because there are still some real gems out there.

The project Album Colors Of The Year1614 by Marcos Rodriguez and Zé Felipe draws attention to this design genre by showcasing the best covers of 2015. But the site is much more than only a showcase: the covers are arranged by color and hovering over one of them reveals the hex color value of its dominant color. A treasure chest for any designer. Could there be a better source for some fresh color inspiration?

A rainbow of album covers15
Cover design and hex color inspiration — a powerful combination. (Image credit: Album Colors Of The Year1614)

Graphic Design On A Square Inch Link

Stamps are boring? Not at all. They are the perfect example that great design doesn’t need a lot of space to fully unfold. For a fresh view on stamps, one that breaks with the widespread idea of a stamp collecting nerd, the Punk Philatelist2017 is your place to go. The blog celebrates the passion with which artists create those tiny works of art and looks at the stamp collectors community with a wink. And if that’s not enough inspiration yet, the Postage Stamps18 collection on Flickr will keep you busy for quite a while, too. Eye candy par excellence.

Fashion designer stamps19
A stamp series from the UK, featuring British fashion designers. (Image credit: Punk Philatelist2017)
An assortment of stamps from around the world21
An assortment of stamps from around the world. (Image credit: postxwayk22)

Paying With A Piece Of Design History Link

We use them daily without paying a lot of attention to them, yet they are one of the most challenging things to design23: banknotes. If you take a look around the world, they couldn’t be more diverse. But, let’s be honest, did you ever get the chance to hold a banknote from the Maledives in your hands? (Probably not, which is a pity, because they are actually very beautiful24.) While world travelers are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of all those unique, sometimes exotic, designs, the rest of us can find their dose of inspiration in online banknote25 showcases26 which turn out to be a rich source of color, typography, and pattern inspiration.

The front and back of a bank note from the Maledives27
A recently-released banknote from the Maledives, merging tradition and modernity. (Image credit: Banknote News3128)

Another source for brilliant banknote design is the recent redesign of the Norwegian Krone bills. The Norwegian Bank called out competition to find the design for the country’s next banknote series and released a catalog (PDF, 3.1MB) showcasing all entries29 for us to indulge in. The PDF is in Norwegian, but the designs are worth taking a look as they tackle the given maritime theme in so many different ways, ranging from black-and-white photography to collages and children’s drawings. A very unconventional approach to banknote design. The winning design, by the way, merges Norway’s past und present with a rather traditionally designed front and a pixelated back.

Norwegian 100 kroner bill front and back30
From Viking times to pixel art: front and back of the new Norwegian 100 Krone bill. (Image credit: Banknote News3128)

What’s more left to say as: Keep your eyes open! The best kind of inspiration might indeed lie where you least expect it.

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 http://bookcoverarchive.com/
  2. 2 http://codepen.io/collection/DmyyeO/
  3. 3 http://bookcoverarchive.com/
  4. 4 http://bookcoverarchive.com/
  5. 5 http://bookcoverarchive.com/
  6. 6 http://www.artofthetitle.com/title/the-man-with-the-golden-arm/
  7. 7 http://www.artofthetitle.com/
  8. 8 http://www.artofthetitle.com/title/the-man-with-the-golden-arm/
  9. 9 http://www.artofthetitle.com/title/the-man-with-the-golden-arm/
  10. 10 http://www.artofthetitle.com/
  11. 11 http://www.artofthetitle.com/title/marco-polo/
  12. 12 http://www.artofthetitle.com/title/marco-polo/
  13. 13 http://www.artofthetitle.com/
  14. 14 http://albumcolors.com/
  15. 15 http://albumcolors.com/
  16. 16 http://albumcolors.com/
  17. 17 https://punkphilatelist.wordpress.com/
  18. 18 https://www.flickr.com/groups/stampcollection/pool/
  19. 19 https://punkphilatelist.wordpress.com/
  20. 20 https://punkphilatelist.wordpress.com/
  21. 21 https://www.flickr.com/groups/stampcollection/pool/
  22. 22 https://www.flickr.com/groups/stampcollection/pool/
  23. 23 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2016/01/learn-from-the-history-of-banknote-design-most-desirable-product/
  24. 24 http://www.banknotenews.com/files/3ba51b3af31b12c0a52c084af37f5bcb-3785.php
  25. 25 http://www.banknotenews.com/
  26. 26 http://americabanknotes.blogspot.com/
  27. 27 http://www.banknotenews.com/files/3ba51b3af31b12c0a52c084af37f5bcb-3785.php
  28. 28 http://www.banknotenews.com/
  29. 29 http://www.norges-bank.no/Upload/Images/Sedler_mynter/nyseddelserie/konkurranse/Norges-Nye-Seddelserie-Havet.pdf
  30. 30 http://www.banknotenews.com/files/tag-norway.php
  31. 31 http://www.banknotenews.com/
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Cosima is editor at Smashing since 2013. When not writing articles for the Smashing Newsletter or the ‘Quick Tips’ series, she’s probably working on a new Smashing eBook.

  1. 1

    Tyler Brown

    March 3, 2016 7:57 am

    Beautiful. And you know what? You almost never see design like this used on the web since the advent of flat and responsive design. I can’t say I’m not guilty of it.

    I sometimes feel like we saw more original site design in ~2008 than we do today (aside from interaction design, of course).

    8
    • 2

      Disagree. It’s out there if you look. Also, we have to accept that responsive design is a thing, along with performance, these are key characteristics of an open and flexible web, and they inform the design appropriately. Within those frameworks there is ample room for expression, but you have to be conscious of them. The design language (and brief) has matured and moved on, we’re solving vastly different problems now.

      0
  2. 3

    Jaison Justus

    March 3, 2016 5:59 pm

    I completely agree with stamps and currency notes. They are a good piece of art and information. I am a philatelist and still inspire a lot of artworks comes in stamps. I also try designing some minimal stamps for countries as a part of hobby. if interested please check here https://www.behance.net/gallery/25873579/Minimal-Postage-Stamp
    https://www.behance.net/gallery/30837315/Postage-Stamp-Design

    1
  3. 4

    Hemang Rindani

    March 14, 2016 1:38 pm

    When inspiration meets creativity, the resultant output is a great looking web design, however inspiration comes instantly while creation required good amount of brainstorming and experimentation. Keeping target audience in mind and looking at the design from their perspective, you will be in a better position to develop an impressive design. For users of enterprise web content management systems like WordPress, there is a user friendly back-end portal that will allow to create and share custom made design. Alternatively you can bank on re-designing a readily available template/design. By taking an example of WP, I means all other CMSs like Sitefinity, Drupal etc. allow theme customization.

    -1

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