Finding design inspiration
So hands up, I've nicked the title of this post from the site I've probably visited most out of all the internet in the world. Designspiration is seriously the absolute best Break In Case of Emergency Hammer for immediate design needs, and I recommend you check it out when you get a sec. But when you've got longer than an hour to fix a logo, or more time than it takes to drink a cup of tea to nail a layout, where should you turn to spark a shiny new idea? Here I've listed my top six places where I find my nice brain thoughts occur; I’m hoping that writing these down will significantly reduce the time I spend staring at a blank artboard in Illustrator, and possibly help anyone who also occasionally finds themselves in a sinking boat full of Helvetica and standard swatch palettes.
There are bloody hundreds of beautiful design and type magazines out there. You could probably chuck one issue of each into a swimming pool and not have any trouble walking straight from one side to the other. But I felt that these were worth mentioning regardless. Staples I have collected every now and then for years are Oh Comely, Frankie, Eye Magazine, Wrap Magazine, and Creative Review.
I always pick up some reduced back issue copies of Elephant when I’m in Manchester, which are lovingly stockpiled at Magma for £2.99 an issue. And when I was last there I discovered TypeNotes, which I immediately fell in love with. It’s only on its second issue but so far it’s been a nice mix of short listicles and longer pieces, with practical, accessible advice about the industry, as well as some slightly more offbeat articles, which cover topics ranging from the typography of tattooing to the type treatment on Stranger Things.
Galleries & Museums
This is a pretty obvious one, but what I like most is when I find a gallery with absolutely badass pamphlets loitering in the entrance. Leaflets advertising family events and children’s activities, floor maps and towering signage are my favourites. Sometimes these are slapped together in Word, but often they’re absolutely gorgeous pieces of design in and of themselves. When I find one I like it usually finds its way into the recesses of my bag and emerges weeks later as a nice surprise. What a treat.
Cafés and pubs
Cafés and pubs can be a haven for neat logos, cool stamp cards and delightful menus and, as a strong hint to anyone looking to start a food-based venture, I'd absolutely love to design a whole host of stuff for this one day.
Aside from the actual branded bits, millennial cafés in particular will also have an array of excellent print work strewn around them - in Manchester there's Bag Thing which I always grab when I see, stashed full of leaflets and programmes for arts events around the city. Recently whilst working in Grindsmith I stumbled across an A5 booklet about nightlife in Sheffield, which was immediately handy for a brochure I was designing at my full-time job. The end product looked nothing like it, but it was a really good starting point for new ideas when I was in the middle of a rut, and I'd discovered it during a dash to the loo. Hey, I’m not fussy - I’ll pick up your leaflet wherever you leave it.
Books I've Stolen
I am incredibly bad at borrowing things, and yet despite my protests people keep insisting on letting me do it anyway. So far my most treasured stolen items* that have inspired me are: Logo Type, which is a perfect flick through of shapes; Do/ Design - Why Beauty is the Key to Everything, a staple quick read; How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul, which I dip in and out of now and again; and Cut & Paste, one of the earliest design books I got my hands on, full of lovely and varied collage work.
Also in the obvious category, Instagram is a super useful tool to stumble across designers and illustrators that are ace, follow hashtags that throw new things onto your feed, and keep up to date with whatever your favourite agencies are producing at the moment.
I won’t name all the big dogs of the industry or the numerous agencies I’m low-key stalking (hello, I like your dogs), but some accounts I enjoy are The Design Kids, for what’s new in the world of graduate design with an aim to make the whole thing a lot more accessible; Emma Jane Palin, for nice interiors and bold colours; Better Letters for some hand lettering treats; and the Indy Coffee Guide for nice printed books about caffeine.
Records and Tunez
When I start designing something for the first time I usually like to listen to something new. Then whenever I hear it in the future I get a lovely little buzz reminder of a certain colour, or a certain font, or a certain frustrated feeling about nothing looking right until eventually it did.
Other inspiration from music comes from album design which I think probably warrants a blog post of its own eventually. Admittedly I collect records for both the music and the artwork, and sometimes it sways more towards the latter. Some of my favourites for both of these though are Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Noah and the Whale’s First Days of Spring, which has only just come out on vinyl, and pretty much anything by Tom Rosenthal - although a particular favourite is The Pleasant Trees.