5 Surprising Places to Find Design Inspiration

We all know that inspiration can strike whenever it pleases, so maybe you have stopped being surprised when inspiration hits you. If you’re like me, you’re continually shocked by some of the things that spark your best ideas.

I find that it is useful to reflect on what has inspired you in the past so that when you’re at a dead end, you can seek a similar environment. Here are some activities and places that you may not immediately think of as idea-inspiring, but tend to do a pretty good job at it.

The Car

Sometimes examining an area that you are already often exposed to, triggers new and fresh ideas. Look at your car like it is new to you. Examine the outside. What do you think of the color and shape? Inside. Open the glove box and any other little compartments. Look at all the buttons, levers, and gauges. Feel the seats; notice the soda-stains (if you’re like me). If none of the shapes or textures give you inspiration, drive around a little bit and just observe your surroundings, enjoying the drive. After going through this process, you’re helping your mind be more open to new ideas.

Shopping

While retail therapy may not be the best suggestion for a struggling artist, window shopping is a great way to get design inspiration. By looking at a variety of products, you are giving your mind design-food. Looking at furniture, home and garden accessories, and even office supplies will get your creative juices flowing. By looking at commonplace objects in the context of your current project, you may discover a connection that wasn’t there before. Mixing genres and mediums also results in creative, out-of-the-box work.

Your Backyard

If you spend a lot of time in your back yard, use your front yard instead or vice-versa. The point of this is similar to you using your car to find inspiration. You are going to look at a familiar space with a new perspective. Since our lawns are a part of our everyday lives, we tend to ignore their little details. Take a good look at everything in your yard. If you have patio furniture, sit on it; feel it. If you have lawn ornaments, really look at the shapes. Find holes in the ground and trees where animals may have hidden. You never know what you’ll find. Give it a chance and see what ignites your spark.

Restaurants

Food is inspiring. But you can have food at home. The reason you want to go to a restaurant is because you can be inspired by both food and branding. Every Restaurant has some sort of logo and they also have décor. The combination of all these aspects with random people will result in a hodge podge of potential muses. A busy restaurant can be sensory overload, so try a quiet place if you are sensitive to overstimulation. If possible, try to associate colors, sounds, tastes, and smells with each other. This will help you combine different objects together and may result in a cool design idea.

The Library

If you’re lucky, your local library is a beautiful historic building; an example of premium modern architecture. Even if it isn’t, there is a lot to find there to be inspire by. Besides having decorations and a design scheme of its own, every item in there has cover art. Just browse aimlessly, or pick a subject and flip through books. The great thing about libraries as opposed to bookstores, is that you don’t have to feel bad about really looking through items without buying them. Also, libraries typically have a quieter air than most public places, so getting into a focused state of mind may be easier. While you’re at it, don’t feel bad looking at some art history books.

I find that it is useful to reflect on what has inspired you in the past so that when you’re at a dead end, you can seek a similar environment.

These suggestions work for stoking your creativity in a variety of mediums, not just design. If you are a writer, artist, craftsperson, or use any other task as a creative outlet, you will be able to use these places to find inspiration for just about any project you can think of. Not all of them will work all the time; that is not how inspiration works. Sometimes you just have to look everywhere, and sometimes taking a break works wonders. Do whatever works for you and don’t be afraid to try new things.

What are some of your key spots you like to get inspiration from? How do you handle creative block?