Like all creative professionals, I understand there is an expectation that our wells will never run dry of ideas. In a busy agency environment, I find that having resources for creative inspiration will often help during those moments of chaotic timelines and due dates. When there is even a brief second of downtime, I retreat to various places of stimulation where, if I’m lucky, a spark might be kindling.
There is no single source, but I do frequently visit several such places and you may be surprised to find that they are fairly standard social media channels. The explosion of content sharing has made many of these sources ripe for creative abundance. The filtering and search tools have made these channels efficient vehicles for doing research and rapidly scouring for inspiring showcases. And they allow me to either become a publisher myself or create sets and collections of things I want to keep track of.
Tumblr technically is a publishing tool. However, I use it to search for inspiration.
I initially entered some tag searches, such as “identity,” “brochure” and “branding.” My dashboard then populated with any posts using those tags. Those posts displaying images I found relevant or creatively inspirational, I “followed,” meaning anything that posting person adds goes into my feed. Now each time I go on Tumblr, my feed is representative of those who I chose to follow at one time. I can “heart” certain posts too, which creates a list of those things I, well, “love.” Those posts that I feel are meaningful to me and my creative stockpiling can be “republished,” and in turn I create my own Tumblr page. All of those “killer ideas” are now on my own page for me to refer to and share with others who might be looking for inspiration as well. I admit I’m fairly lazy about adding my own tags that make those posts searchable and valuable. As I said, downtime is precious and the downward linear scanning fashion of this site suits me best.
Behance.net is a social channel created specifically for creative professionals who wish to share their portfolios and recent work. I use it as a way to see fresh work from around the world. It also uses keywords or tags to help search, but rather than publishing the things I like, I can “save to collection” and into sets that I create for sorting, such as branding, logos, websites, banks, healthcare, etc. It also works as a forum for critiques for those who post their work. I regularly give props to those whose work I admire, which helps elevate their submissions. I can also search by most recent, most appreciated, most commented, or random sample galleries. Many of the entries I save have a full-blown creative history for the creation of the final piece, including sketches, photos, clippings and background ideas. I again, unfortunately, don’t have the time to publish and share much of our own work but it is a great way to receive feedback on our work.
Pinterest has become an increasingly popular place to share ideas and also has some of the best features for building collections. It allows you to build “boards” to which you can “pin” anything you find online. So I could have a board for every industry I work in, or for any category I need to research. It’s a great visual organization tool. I usually search by topic and then find other designers like myself building collections of great work to share. Very quickly I am inundated with visual results that are great creative fodder and inspiration for my projects. This site has the familiar feel of the traditional creative mood board or war room, where we would cover the walls with clippings and tear sheets while brainstorming. I have only just begun sharing my own work on this site, as I’ve found it a bit time consuming but the benefit of taking the time to do that means others can connect to me and I don’t have to do as much outbound searching every time I want to do research.
Any of these websites offer me a way to quickly see great examples of relevant work. I can be introduced to new typefaces, new design styles, photography methods and color palettes that are fresh and contemporary. So before I break into my own sketching and preliminary design ideas, I like to take a look around and get some inspiration, much the way an artist might spend a few hours at the museum. And when the demand for the next great creative solution calls, I will feel a little more prepared to deliver it.
What online resources do you use to spark creativity?
Jeff Topping is the VP/Associate Creative Director at GY&K.