Just as writer’s block is the scourge of wordsmiths everywhere, we graphic designers are dealt our own creative slowdowns. “Design block” is something that happens to the best of us, but never fear. Graphic design inspiration is just a step away from the project screen on your computer.
Step away from your computer. Go grab a coffee. Eat your lunch outside. Go for a walk around the neighborhood. Get away from the project at hand, clear your head, and take in world around you— vernacular design is everywhere. And, the fresh air will do you good.
Reference websites, magazines, and design annuals of publications such as Print, Lürzer’s Archive, Graphis, Communication Arts, and CMYK. Just remember that the work featured is included because it’s pushing boundaries; it was likely created with bigger budgets and for more progressive clients than you’re working with. Don’t feel bad if your current output doesn’t quite match up, these publications are still a gold mine of good ideas.
Revisit your student work. Pull out your old portfolio. While those smudged charcoal life drawings might not inspire you to greater design heights, the hand-lettered typefaces and carefully kerned Quark projects you labored through just might. Revisit the time when it was your job to learn to love design, and making a living from it was still a long way off.
Connect with other designers. Professional groups like AIGA and the Graphic Artist Guild exist to educate and inspire. Conferences like HOW Design Live and local after-work gatherings are great places to meet new folks and see others’ work.
Hit the library. And the museums. Connect with design history. Being in a big city helps, but there are numerous specialized libraries and museums with collections that you won’t believe. In Chicago, try the Newberry Library; in New York, the Cooper-Hewitt; and in San Francisco, the Museum of Craft and Design. If medieval illuminated manuscripts, 19th Century bicycle posters, and early World’s Fair ephemera don’t inspire you, what else will?!
Design is fluid, trends are cyclical, and design inspiration is all around- so step away from your computer and keep your eyes peeled.