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

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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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Let’s refuel our inspiration for another month and start working on our New Year’s resolution list. Observe closely at the following techniques used, and how the colors have been applied to add contrast and character. As always, there is a lot to learn. Today, we hope that these illustrations and photographs will inspire you to get creative and get ideas which you can apply in your own projects. Go ahead, don’t let anything come in your way, and let your artistic juices flow! Let’s begin.

Time moves pretty fast. A new year will be upon us soon, and most of us probably haven’t even realized it. So while we’re almost ready to leave the autumn season (and 2016!) behind, let’s refuel our inspiration for another month and start working on our New Year’s resolution list. Observe closely at the following techniques used, and how the colors have been applied to add contrast and character. As always, there is a lot to learn.

I hope that these illustrations and photographs will inspire you to get creative and get ideas which you can apply in your own projects. Go ahead, don’t let anything come in your way, and let your artistic juices flow so you can create something beautiful and unique yourself.

Let’s begin.

Go Outside & Run

One of my own shots taken while I was out riding my bicycle. Fall usually has these foggy mornings; when the sun peaks through, you can get lucky and discover a scene just like this one.

Image credit: Veerle Pieters

Nobody Could Hear It

I love discovering the many layers of imagination and humor in the work of the Spanish brothers operating under the monicker Brosmind.

Image credit: Brosmind

Windy Morning

Magnificent shot of a sea view at sunrise in Finland. Great light and perfect timing with the waves breaking on the rocks.

Image credit: Pete Huu

Centaur Realness

Some great details in this one. Such as the markings on the chest and how the saddle is done.

Image credit: Justin Middendorp

Explorers Club: Malibu

Another one from the Explorers Club’s bikes series. This time a proper beach bike called ‘Malibu’. Admire those details and perfect color choice!

Image credit: DKNG

Falling: Round Things

New startup image for the Photoshop CC 2017 update. In case you are wondering how it is done here’s a tutorial explaining it all. I love the feeling of being drawn into this round hole into the light.

Image credit: Amr Elshamy

Artists For Education

Some lovely brand assets. Curious to see how the Artists for Education further evolves.

Image credit: Steve Wolf


Illustration to accompany an article in a newspaper about food supplements. It’s always refreshing to see how an illustrator translates it. Love the shape of the rooster.

Image credit: Bram van Rijen

A Place For Your Butt

I adore the mid-century feel to this great example of what can be accomplished with just a couple of colors and strong lines.

Image credit: Justin Mezzell

The Things I Ate In Japan

A beautiful simplification of what you can eat in Japan. Bright colors used, but still refined enough.

Image credit: Andrea Nguyen

Tycho: Honolulu

The design system is working nicely with every concert poster Tycho releases.

Image credit: ISO 50

Old Fashioned

The typography on this design to celebrate the Old Fashioned, Louisville Kentucky’s official cocktail is ace.

Image credit: Bryan Patrick Todd

Caffe Demetré

Orginal menu cover illustration with some inspirational shadows, textures and patterns. Some fun and interesting shapes and details in, too.

Image credit: Dave Murray

NFusion Halloween

Loving the color and lay-out. It has some really slick typography going on.

Image credit: Jacob Etter

Scotland: Joshua

Wish I was the person enjoying this beautiful sunset. The spectacle that nature puts up still amazes me every time.

Image credit: Joshua Earle

Exploring Iceland II

The colors in this photo are amazing. Taken in beautiful Iceland. Be sure to watch the 4K drone video.

Image credit: Lukas Furlan

Insider Guides II

Part of several heads series that covers various aspects of student life in Australia, from adventure to food, nightlife to fashion. Love the half-tone textures.

Image credit: Kindred Studio

The Lake Superior #Badgehunting Club

I’m a fan of badges and I’m glad I can feature one this month. Badges are a great exercise to play with typography and color. Allan Peters is a master in this field.

Image credit: Allan Peters

Dale’s Diner

Tough aesthetic to do right without being cheesy. This definitely strikes a nice balance.

Image credit: Bethany Heck

Milestone Institute Illustrations

Loving the style of these illustrations for the Milestone Institute. Great to analyze the use of simple shapes. Great colors, too!

Image credit: Jones & Co


Great concept. It’s a family united by the line. Not easy to keep everything recognizable.

Image credit: Martin Azambuja

Africa Is Awesome

Just looking at this makes me happy. Something to get the travel bug going. It’s all fun discovering everything that’s in there.

Image credit: Jones & Co

The Less I Know The Better

2016 cover art submission for the Secret 7 exhibition for Tame Impala’s “The Less I Know The Better”. The cover was inspired by Henri Rousseau’s jungle paintings.

Image credit: James Gibbs

ESPN: Goatbusters

Nice duotone work. That goat is just so adorable. Be sure to go see the animated version. You’ll not regret it.

Image credit: Elias Stein

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More Energy. More Lives.

The details in this illustration for Duracell are amazing. The imagination of the illustrator is powerful.

Image credit: blindSALIDA

New York Times Editorial

Editorial illustration for the New York Times. A complete different style so it’s inspiring to see how the buildings and vehicles are done.

Image credit: Remko Heemskerk

A Study In Scarlet

Riccardo Guasco is a regular on my inspiration hunting expeditions. The geometry and use of light and shadow make these so dynamic.

Image credit: Riccardo Guasco

Secret 7s

Collage with several interesting pieces.

Image credit: Jack Bedford

Just Fired

This one made me laugh. Funny interpretation of the traditional “Just Married” signs. Only here’s it is “Just Fired”. Great colors and lovely style.

Image credit: Steve Scott

Hot List

These 3D letters are gorgeous! The texture and inside structure is beautifully executed. Such perfection!

Image credit: Jeff Rogers

Los Caminantes

This is so wonderful! The colors, the faces, the cloths, the subtle shadow behind them… When I see something like this, it itches and I want to start illustrating just right away.

Image credit: Santiago Oddis

Golden Glow

When the mind needs cleaning there’s always this friend you can count on. Lovely golden glow!

Image credit: zioziegler

Woolworths Metro

Great style and inspring usage of textures. Part of a flexible suite of imagery to be used primarily as murals and point of sale in each of Metro’s inner city, urban and beachside stores. See them all here.

Image credit: Andrew Fairclough

Uinta Contrail White Beer

A well-done concept for a brewery. Perfect mix between illustration and typography.

Image credit: Emrich Office

Adobe Illustrations

Admiring the not-so-common color palette. The perspective used in this illustration is also quite inspiring.

Image credit: Steve Scott

Elie Saab SS16 Couture

This illustration for fashion is so wonderful. Just look at those patterns on the dresses. Those details!

Image credit: Kelly Beeman


Who needs a drink? Beautiful colors, perfect depth and hard-edged drop shadows.

Image credit: design á emporter

Autumn Paragliding

Wouldn’t mind being up there enjoying the view. Lovely touches of bright colors.

Image credit: Philipp Medicus

Iconic Fog

San Francisco’s iconic fog sure looks stunning from above. You would almost think it isn’t real.

Image credit: Wired

Kajak & Mountains

Such beautiful scenery! I love the pastel color palette in this photo.

Image credit: Cody Priebe

Saturday, 3PM

Inspiring combination of illustration and typography.

Image credit: Neil Stevens

Directory Of Illustration #33

Great interpretation of a Greek god. Great lines!

Image credit: Owen Davey

100 Things To Do Over The Weekend

A super-duper color palette to begin with and loads to discover in this editorial illustration for the Wall Street Journal. With all this action going on, you won’t be able to stop looking at it.

Image credit: Steve Scott

REI End Of Summer

Beautiful illustration celebrating those special skies that you get to see during autumn. Be sure to read how the piece came together.

Image credit: Brian Miller

Pinterest / What Is A Pin?

Illustration that is part of a 3-month project to create an inspiring and informative motion piece named “What is a Pin?”. Love the style and colors.

Image credit: Matt Stevens

Bar Graph Exploded View

Lovely metaphor of analyzing a bar graph.

Image credit: Jan Cavan

Triangeln Station

What’s not to like about this? Look at all those overlapping lines in perfect symmetry with the escalators.

Image credit: nihilisten

Revelstoke BC II

Love the trees particularly. Textures and very subtle gradients are on point, too.

Image credit: Steve Wolf

RetroJet Postcards

These postcards are so tasty! Imagining what Jetblue would have been like if it existed during the golden age of travel.

Image credit: Bailey Sullivan

Using Design Principles To Find Happiness

Beautiful color palette, and interesting drop shadows. Something that I can relate to.

Image credit: Chris Selas Neal

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Further Reading

Smashing Editorial (mrn)