Author Resources, Trends

Inspiration Is Anything and Anywhere

“It’s a virtual visual Renaissance.”

The web is a wonderful place for creativity and finding inspiration for projects can be simple online. You can find a host of websites dedicated to the arts, graphic design and what’s new and now in visual culture. It’s a virtual visual Renaissance and a good time to be a creative.

A designer or artist need not stop there with their creative inspiration though, especially if they want to bring something totally new to the table. Sometimes if creatives go to all the same sources their work can end up looking more uniform and similar, regardless of whether they live in Phuket or Portland. A great way to create work that looks a bit different from the immediate trend and stands out is to find alternate sources of creative inspiration to add to your repertoire.

Creative inspiration can really be anything and anywhere and the more you look for inspiration, the more likely you’ll find it. Many seasoned creatives often talk about how they had that big new idea brushing their teeth or walking the dog. Plenty of in real life places can kickstart your creativity too. You can go local and find creative resources in your own town.

The library

Related article: 15 books every designer needs to read

The library is a choice source for creative inspiration. You can find classic art and design books and literature. With classic books, you can get retro inspiration for type styles, patterns, and color palettes. You can also find science textbooks, encyclopedias and children’s books as well which have lovely illustrations. Science textbooks and encyclopedias can provide interesting ideas for lineart and technical drawings. Children’s books, new and vintage, are a good resource for learning about illustration styles in general.

In nature

Image: erikreis

If you’re a designer who appreciates natural color palettes, textures and materials in your designs then nature walks and hikes are a must for inspiration. You can collect and scan materials to create collage style artwork and textures. If you don’t have a backpack, just bring your camera and snap some pics of objects. Camera phone apps like Real Colors make it easy to gather palettes directly from your photos, which makes creating true to life color schemes a breeze.

Shopping centers

Image: sergeypeterman

Shopping centers are a great place for finding inspiration for product, packaging, environment, and signage design. If you have clients in the retail space then keeping up on the latest in retail marketing design is most necessary. Window shopping is your purpose and function when you are this type of designer, so make the most of it!

Thrift and secondhand stores

Image: Tumblr

The old books you find in a thrift store are not the ones necessarily kept at the library, they tend to be more obscure cast offs or smaller press publications. So, you can find a lot of quirky typography and illustrations in these books from bygone eras. I personally find a lot of type and color inspiration from cookbooks from the 1950s. You can find cookbooks from this era where I live, I imagine because people don’t eat things like ambrosia salad anymore! However, even the name “ambrosia salad” is inspiring in a way that is new again, because we don’t hear about that type of food anymore, like ever.

So bad, it’s good

Finally, bad art and design, in general, are truly great for finding creative inspiration—if you’re willing to “think outside the box” as they say.

It’s not uncommon for creatives to find inspiration in bad art. The yarn bombing movement brought back a lost love for colorful retro 70s style knit blankets. The art of Tattoo was culturally fringe for years before being edgy and cool and then mainstream. Recently, with 90s nostalgia, the iconic squiggly turquoise and purple coffee cup design has been revered along with its designer, Gina Ekiss. If you’re a designer who has a particular liking for kitschy or quirky work then bad art and design can be a creative wellspring for you.

On Envato Elements

At Envato Elements, we can also see many creative projects that seem to be inspired by diverse in real life sources.

Esther Font

The Esther font has the quaint beauty of an antique book font but is completely hand-drawn giving it an organic quality as well. One can imagine the designer was inspired by looking at vintage books at the library.


The MacLaurent display type is inspired by the vintage type on food and beverage packaging. Sometimes vintage packaging, postcards and prints can be found at local second hand shops.

Print Matters

The Print Matters collage pattern set by yours truly was inspired by vintage newspaper design from around the world. Some of the papers were from ones kept from trips.


Foodly, a clean, elegant and fresh Shopify template for organic food stores, could have been inspired by a trip to a natural food store.

Modern Research Laboratory

The Modern Research Laboratory illustration tells a visual story in a highly detailed style. It looks like the top view of a pinball machine, with its levers and rounded corners. Maybe the designer’s day job is in a laboratory as a mad scientist?

More design inspiration: 

Color palette inspiration for WordPress and web design


Diagonal & Slanted Lines Inspiration for Web Design

Margaret Penney

About the Author Margaret Penney

Margaret is a writer, designer and artist. She can be found making textures and patterns at Hello Mart or designing at She tweets as @tweethellome and is on Instagram as @hellomartco.