Finding Inspiration: How does design creativity work?


As a designer I often find myself searching for a source upon which I can gather unlimited creative power with little luck, if you are better at google searching than me and have found this source please leave the link in the comments.

If you also have not found the creative fountain of youth don’t worry, you are not alone. So the truth is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the creative mindset. But aren’t designers naturally creative people? Aren’t they the ones who help inspire all of the ‘normal’ people to achieve unique solutions to challenging problems? Well to some degree this is true. However, not a whole lot of us are born with the innate ability to pull an unlimited number of ideas out of head on command, we too need sources of inspiration.


From the perspective of web design you might be surprised how quickly we use up all these ideas too. In my experience only about 30% of the designs I produce ever make to the web. The rest hit the personal archives perhaps to be revived and revised later on with new ideas implemented for new clients. So with 2 or 3 misses with every hit the ideas need to keep on coming, so where to get them from?

So the first thing I do is simply look at web sites, preferably super cool ones! Two of my favorite sources are creattica and the bestwebgallery sites. When looking through these galleries of other peoples work don’t just limit yourself to the websites either, check out poster designs, business cards, anything! While sometimes its as simple as ‘I really like design element 1 from website A and design element 2 from website B’ other times you may find creativity in more unexplainable ways. And this second method is the one that really produces the best design work.

Often times just browsing through good designs will get your brain into the creative mindset and things such as color combination, image manipulation, patterns, or the most subtle of effects that you see on a favorable design will spark creative ideas of your own. It’s simply the human mind in all of its unexplainable goodness. I liken it to the same type of effect that sleeping has on problem solving. Ever have a particularly annoying question that you just can’t seem to dig up the answer for but when you stop thinking about it you find that answer later on? Even though your conscious thoughts gave up on the question long ago your sub conscious is out to prove that it is not only much smarter than your shallow conscious thoughts, but also much more patient and persistent.

The best part is that this type of creative inspiration is not limited to looking through web design examples. For truly creative people this process is always at work and it results in creative ideas that pop into our heads as a result of just about everything we experience on a day to day basis. Personally most of my ‘ah ha!’ moments occur to me while I brush my teeth or while I am in the shower. This type of mind set is what makes creative people invaluable for marketing, advertising, and design. The best and most effective designs come as inspirations that we find just by living our our lives and we find a way to apply that to web pages, advertisements, and products or services that are in need of some solid marketing.

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