Unexpected places to find design inspiration

Nicole Steinberg
Mar 25, 2024

Inspiration can be quick to strike and even quicker to slip right through your fingers. When you work in a creative field, it can feel like there’s a lot of pressure to constantly be looking for that next great idea. Sure, you could turn to the usual suspects of Pinterest and Dribbble, but where do you look when those rivers run dry?

Having been through our fair share of inspiration dry spells, we’ve discovered some unexpected places to turn to when stuck in a creative rut.

Get out of the office

Whether you work from a home office or a corporate one, getting up from your desk is usually the best place to start when struggling to find inspiration. Instead of doom-scrolling through Instagram for the 15th time today, try stepping away from your screen and getting outside. If you’re able to, walk around a park or somewhere in nature and just take a look around. Make a note (or take a photo) of any colours, textures, or even shadows that catch your eye. Live in a more urban environment? No problem—there’s plenty of inspiration that can be drawn from graffiti and murals, or street signs and storefronts.

Getting out of the office doesn’t have to mean getting outside either. Pop into a grocery store and look at the packaging of items on the shelf. Go to a bookstore or a library and find interesting cover designs and page compositions. Maybe even venture into a thrift store and see if you can stir up something new from something old. And if you still find yourself with a lack of ideas, you’ll have at least cleared your mind and can come back to your desk with fresh eyes.

Take a trip down memory lane

As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”. Sometimes turning to the past is exactly what we need to keep moving forward. Graphic design is a field with a rich and storied history, with plenty of books and online resources that offer a look at designs of the past. Books like ‘The History of Graphic Design’ and ‘Logo Beginnings’ are ones that we pull off the shelf for nearly every project, and we discover something new within their pages every time. Taking a look at everything from vintage matchbooks and posters to old packaging and signage can spark countless ideas for things like typography, colour, and layout.

Another place we’ve recently found to be a goldmine for inspiration (or at least a starting point) is our old files and sketchbooks. There are always abandoned logo concepts and project ideas that get left in the depths of an Illustrator document or scribbled out on paper. While these designs might not have been the right fit for another project, they could be exactly what you need to get rolling on your current one.

Take things out of context

Normally, I would never suggest taking things out of context, but when it comes to finding inspiration, looking at something objectively can be a great exercise. Rather than trying to find the perfect keywords that will bring you just the right inspo pic, don’t search for anything at all. Instead, try just scrolling aimlessly through sites like Pinterest and Behance and seeing what jumps out at you. I’ve often found colour palettes, shapes, and patterns in illustrations and art pieces completely unrelated to the content I was working on. By not limiting yourself to searches that only pertain to the subject at hand, you open yourself up to a whole new world of material to draw inspiration from.

This same tactic can be applied when it comes to flipping through print materials for ideas. Rather than running straight to your typography and layout books, try looking through works about different subject matter. Just because a publication isn’t directly about design doesn’t mean that the look of the content itself wasn’t carefully considered.


Finding that spark of inspiration when you're feeling stuck can sometimes be as simple as looking in places you'd least expect. Taking a quick walk outside, a nostalgic flip through old projects and books, or even scrolling without a clear goal in mind could be just what you need to break through a creative block. Our best ideas often come when we’re not trying so hard to find them, so don’t be afraid to take a breather and look at something else for a while—you never know what you might find.

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