Breaking Out Of The Box: Design Inspiration (October 2016)

About The Author

Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. When he is not writing, he’s most probably running front-end & UX … More about Vitaly ↬

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Simple design is hard, since it requires much more thought and inspiration. Colors play a major role, and today Vitaly Friedman would like to show you a couple of illustrations that may motivate you to try out some new color combinations and techniques. Illustrating is creativity in its pure form. It is endless and that’s why Vitaly Friedman loves it so much.

Whenever I work on an illustration, the objects don’t always have to look like they do in real life. They can look like how I perceive them in my mind. Breaking away from reality is the privilege you have as an illustrator. There are, in fact, no boundaries. Illustrating is creativity in its pure form. It is endless and that’s why I love it so much.


Drilled down to just the basics. Great work. I love the hard edged clean shadows and the high contrast of the bright colors palette.

Image credit: Justin Mezzell. (Large preview)

Bake Shop

It took me some time to see the face. You could see a dog at first, too. The mustache will help. :) Having to look and analyzing is what I also love about this one. I also see a fork in the wheat.

Image credit: Steve Wolf. (Large preview)

Floyd’s Bakery Part II

Great to see the previous branding evolving into a badge design. Love the connection between the ‘F’ and the ’D’.

Image credit: Steve Wolf. (Large preview)

Le Tour By Carla Fuentes

Love the details that are present in this great texture work. There’s a certain uniqueness to this pencil drawn style.

Image credit: Carla Fuentes. (Large preview)


Great to see some illustration work that tackles printing services. Some subtle gradients & textures. Love the ‘movement’ in the legs, and the shape of the hair.

Image credit: Timo Kuilder. (Large preview)

3d Cake Car

I would buy an ice cream from this nicely designed 3D truck. The tires are especially well done.

Image credit: Selver. (Large preview)

Proud & Punch

Brilliant summer vibe and colorful message. The aquarelle effect fits perfectly. Wouldn’t mind a taste with such lovely packaging. It expresses the fruity juiciness very well.

Image credit: Proud & Punch. (Large preview)

Secret Woods

With September being the new August here in Belgium, it’s too early for me to start thinking about Fall, but that’s not a valid reason to exclude a beautiful photo like this. The mystery wondering is strong in this one. Perfect path to cruise on. Very inviting indeed!

Image credit: Heiko Gerlicher. (Large preview)

Team Olympique

Admiring how well balanced everything is in this poster for the Lacoste Team Olympia runners. Typography is also cleverly integrated, and the Comoros are just perfect.

Image credit: Mike Lemanski. (Large preview)


Alamar, Ciudad De La Habana, Cuba. Sunset 8:11pm. Nature’s gradients at its best.

Image credit: Eric Cahan. (Large preview)

Fragment d’éternité

Speaking about nature and its talent for creating beautiful gradients. Wouldn’t mind enjoying this view for a while.

Image credit: Girolamo Cracchiolo. (Large preview)

Joy Division

It has been a while since I last added something from Swissted. Joy Division at lyceum theatre, 1980. When you turn an indie rock show flyer into international typographic style poster this is the result.

Image credit: Swissted. (Large preview)

Colorful Geometric

Wonderful experiment with colorful geometric shapes. Almost looks like some modern apartment building with terraces. Love the highlight and shadow effect created by such perfect overlays and transparencies, in combination with only a bare minimum of gradients to keep the overal style extra clean.

Image credit: Ray Oranges. (Large preview)

Geometric Bicycle

Another inspiring example of using geometric shapes to create a bicycle with a minimum of detail.

Image credit: Ray Oranges. (Large preview)

Volcano View

The right amount of light, colors and composition! Santorini sure has one of the most breathtaking sunsets. One of those places you’ll want to put on your to visit bucket list.

Image credit: Abbs David. (Large preview)

Ready For Takeoff

These kind of illustrations are just absolutely fantastic. They look straight out of a 60s magazine. A wonderful source to study all the texture overlays and shadows. Photographically realistic shown in every detail, wrinkle, glow or sparkle. It’s all there.

Image credit: Alexey Kot. (Large preview)

Her Living Room

Part of series of illustrations for an exhibition that portray the fashionable lives of the Shanghai women in the 30s. Love how the dress is constructed with a beautiful pattern. It immediately grabbed my attention.

Image credit: Jun Cen. (Large preview)

Kinderdijk, Holland

Beautiful shot of a Unesco World Heritage site in Holland called Kinderdijk. It has 19 windmills strung out on both sides of the canal.

Image credit: Remo Scarfò. (Large preview)

Nomad Hill

Inspiring patterns collage. Great color selection as well. It’s amazing what you can achieve as a result starting from simple shapes when you apply the right colors, and the right composition. It all looks so simple, but it is not.

Image credit: Andrew Littman. (Large preview)

Dave Matthews Band Gorge Poster

Another piece of exceptional work by DKNG. Just study all the details and discover the depth in the landscape background, even when you look through the windows of the van.

Image credit: DKNG. (Large preview)

Ticket App Illustration

Nice header illustration for a concert ticket application. For starters the colors are spot on and the texture is very much up to par as well.

Image credit: Matt Carlson. (Large preview)

Dallas Child Magazine

Really a perfect example of great use of simple colors and shapes. Those leaves are pretty close to perfection.

Image credit: Steve Wolf. (Large preview)

Sales Dashboard

A dashboard hub concept. Such great typography choices in here.

Image credit: Bethany Heck. (Large preview)

Fire In The Sky — Arto

Almost looks like a foreign planet. Some great clouds and an exploding sky.

Image credit: Arto Marttinen. (Large preview)

FM Magazine — Fast Changing

Illustration for FM Magazine about companies and the fast changing environment. Most notably in this one are the bright colors that are working well together. Love this early 90s looking pattern in the shoe and the book at the book at the bottom right. You can find this kind of pattern (named ‘Capsules’) in Adobe Illustrator’s ‘Basic Graphics Textures’ pattern library which you can load from the Swatches panel via ‘Open Swatch Library > Patterns’.

Image credit: Andrea Manzati. (Large preview)

De Stijl

Poster for an exhibition based on oil on canvas painting called Counter-Composition V, 1924 — by Theo van Doesburg. Strong composition, very simple and eye-catchy.

Image credit: The Medium Control. (Large preview)

Wedding Invitation Tom & Karlien

Such a beautiful and original approach to a wedding invitation. Love how the dress is like the centre of everything and I especially like the two kids at the end of the table.

Image credit: Jacques & Lise. (Large preview)

Cosmópolis Pt.4

One of the nice collection of illustrations that show a famous city. This one is about San Francisco. An inspiring color palette and many small details to discover. Beautiful flat 2D illustration style with a subtle depth created through colors.

Image credit: Aldo Crusher. (Large preview)


The horse is nicely simplified and the diagonal items, and beautiful gradient effects perfectly show the notion of speed.

Image credit: Jones & Co. (Large preview)

Club Kiddo Co. ✳ Flag 3

Part of a series of some inspiring flags. Quite delicious.

Image credit: Eight Hour Day. (Large preview)

Cover For Settings Magazine

Cover for an interior magazine. Interesting use of textures and subtle 3D effect. The highlights and shadows are so well done here. You feel the daylight shining through the window.

Image credit: Twistedfork. (Large preview)


Without a doubt the most beautiful little bird that you can spot in Belgium if you are lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time. Those colors and little details in its feathers!

Image credit: David Man. (Large preview)

Daybreak At Val d’Orcia

This is absolutely gorgeous. Perfect lighting. This photo just looks like a painting.

Image credit: Fabbrica della Bici. (Large preview)


Out of the forest, back to the views. The nicest surprise you can get as a cyclist. After some rough section you come into this kind of view. Reward score! The Dolomites can do that for you.

Image credit: Gruber Images. (Large preview)

Native Specimen 2

Wonderful example of what can be achieved when you combine typography smartly. Featuring a lovely new typeface called Native.

Image credit: Bethany Heck. (Large preview)

Het Financieele Dagblad

Beautiful work from Amsterdam-based illustrator Jacob Stead. Great for studying the inspiring texture usage. Also a perfect example of going beyond reality and expressing the message directly.

Image credit: Jacob Stead. (Large preview)

Het Financieele Dagblad II

The colors used here are so wonderful. The detail in the faces and the hair are quite amazing even on such a small size. The proportions are far from real which adds extra strength in this illustration. Just look at that huge body as he seems to grow out of the cubicle, compared to his tiny feet and hands. I think the message gets across just perfectly.

Image credit: Jacob Stead. (Large preview)

Electronic Pig

Again a perfect example of how illustrations are so perfect to translate to anything if your imagination is there.

Image credit: Jacob Stead. (Large preview)

Mountain View

The flow of this composition is just really beautiful. I feel it captures the Fall season as well with the color choices.

Image credit: Dmitrij. (Large preview)

Geometric 3D

Excellent use of a well balanced color palette in combination with such well aligned geometric shapes and a bit of 3D achieved by these subtle gradient effects. So well done.

Image credit: Ray Oranges. (Large preview)

Tycho — Epoch

Boldly go into new musical territory. Tycho’s newest ‘Epoch’ is making me look forward to the upcoming album. As always the matching artwork is on par as well. Simple and beautiful.

Image credit: Tycho. (Large preview)

Apex Experience

Editorial illustration that matches an article focused on body language and behavior during a flight. Many nice subtleties to discover here. The expression on the faces is inspiring as those are so difficult to get right.

Image credit: Bee Johnson. (Large preview)

Paul Simon — Graceland

Minimalistic and great in composition. Perfect for a classy album. Ideas like these are treasures.

Image credit: Eric R. Mortensen. (Large preview)

Eau de Paris

The special style of Rick Berkelmans aka Hedof. An illustration for the 2016 campaign for Parisian public water company Eau de Paris. The colors, and the overwhelming round shapes sets this one apart. There’s an animation as well created by Benjamin Moreau.

Image credit: Hedof. (Large preview)

Staircase den Bell

Looking up or looking down, it’s all part of the thinking process of how you would get an awesome shot. This one of the staircase of “den Bell” Antwerp is just an example of that. Just fascinating to look at.

Image credit: Things I See. (Large preview)

Bicycling Magazine

Great collection of spot illustrations created for bicycling magazine. Love the disproportion of the bicycle.

Image credit: Alex Perez. (Large preview)

Teatros Luchana Madrid

Part of refreshed brand/corporate identity of Teatros Luchana Madrid. Interesting diagonal red overlay effect, and typographical choice. The rest can be seen here.

Image credit: toormix. (Large preview)


Beautiful image with moody sky. Wonderfully composed & perfect focus. Such perfect vanishing point!

Image credit: Cuba Gallery. (Large preview)

Internet Tarot

A bit of humor. Not sure what this means but someone could pull the plug. :)

Image credit: Justin Mezzell. (Large preview)

All I Need Is Blue

Part of a photographic series that focuses on the color blue. Such perfect scene. It’s wonderful, so be sure to check out the rest, too!

Image credit: François Peyranne. (Large preview)

Further Reading

Smashing Editorial (yk, il, mrn)