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Graphic Design Inspiration: Tools and Ideas for Great Templates

Fueling continuous creativity is essential for graphic artists crafting original templates, icons, fonts, and graphics that stand out. Finding fresh sources of design inspiration expands possibilities.

This comprehensive guide will cover creative tools, resources and strategies for generating innovative new digital design ideas able to become appealing best-selling templates. Follow these tips to stay inspired.

Cultivating consistent inspiration empowers creating unique graphic assets people want again and again. Let’s start exploring!

Online Inspiration Resources

The internet offers endless creative repositories:

Design Blogs

Industry sites like CreativeBloq feature daily articles spotlighting novel designs across formats like branding, UI/UX, illustration etc paired with creator interviews offering context and insights from professional technique explanations to career advice.

Pinterest Boards

Follow Pinterest boards curated to specific tastes like minimalist branding or retro signage showcasing multitudes of muses. Create idea books based on projects and hobbies fueling your work.

Dribbble

This community of designers share WIP sketches, gradients, fonts, color schemes, textures and other assets for inspiration or direct feedback on works in progress. The collective insights push creativity in new directions.

Behance

Adobe’s portfolio platform allows browsing extensive archives of top work across all design genres searchable by program, style and creative field or simply wandering the beautiful projects endlessly for visual inspiration.

Design Twitter Chats

Lively discussions like #DesignChat and #AskADesigner provide inspiration through crowd-sourced tips, creative prompts, advice and real-world peeks into other designers’ processes and experiences from failures to wins.

The creative internet provides infinite inspiration at your fingertips. Use sights, sounds and interactions to spark fresh perspectives.

Physical Design Resources

Escape screens with tangible stimuli:

Design and ART Books

Page through beautifully laid out hardcover monographs showcasing the iconic work and creative processes of top designers both for all-time legends like Saul Bass or contemporaries pushing today’s styles.

Magazine Back Issues

Revisit visually rich old issues of publications like Communication Arts, a classic repository of ads, illustrations and layout designs spanning decades of changing aesthetics waiting to inspire new takes.

Classic Mood Boards

Curate physical inspiration boards collaging paint swatches, magazine clippings, posters, photos, fabrics, packaging, stickers and anything visually striking. Traditional yet endlessly creative.

Gallery Shows and Museums

Exposing yourself to physical artworks, show flyers, installations and exhibits creates sparks traditional galleries and museums provide through immersive experiences.

Vintage and Antique Stores

Beyond just wearable fashions, vintage shops offer graphic scores from classic advertisements, glassware logos, poster designs and architectural signage across past eras awaiting reuse.

Physically engaging with design history and artifacts fuels new connections impossible digitally. Surround yourself with artifacts and tactile pieces.

Drawing From Other Creative Domains

Cross-pollinate from every visual field:

Photography and Videography

Photographic styles, darkroom effects, cinematic color palettes and collage layering techniques translate across both mediums. Study masters like Wes Anderson.

Interior Design and Architecture

The painterly details within textures, spatial use of positive and negative space, balance, and perspective offer new ways to approach graphic compositions and layout decisions.

Industrial and Product Design

The stylized functional minimalism of interfaces, appliances and consumer products inspires new takes on icons, textures and lighting principles applicable to UX, branding and advertising.

Fashion Design and Styling

The interplay of colors, patterns, silhouette, and texture in apparel and accessories crafts stunning palettes. Produce epic style guides and brand boards.

Nature and Organic Forms

Natural fractals, forests, waves, crystals and organisms reveal patterns, ratios and shapes rife for echoing through geometric or figurative graphics and illustrations.

Immerse yourself across every creative realm without limiting inspiration strictly within design itself. The most intriguing ideas synthesize diverse influences.

Fueling Consistent Creativity

Cultivate daily inspiration habits:

Start Idea Notebooks

Always be recording visual sparks in dedicated notebooks rather than transient apps to consciously amass inspiration over time into permanent references.

Ask Clients for Mood Examples

Gathering initial client direction through existing style precedents they share helps jumpstart both alignments and new possibilities.

Shoot Your Own Photos

Capture personal reference photos aligned to ongoing projects like nature patterns, intriguing textures, architectural lines etc rather than only stock imagery.

Collect Color Palettes

Curate ongoing favorite color compilations across every hue from bold neons to muted earth tones. Expansive organized palettes break creative blocks choosing new combinations.

Maintain Templates and Brand Guides

Retain design standards across projects like grid systems, brand guidelines, wireframes and layout guides as starters inspiring iterative new concepts rather than always initiating from total scratch.

Establishing idea gathering frameworks supports perpetual innovation vs just temporary bursts when motivation strikes. Make inspiration a daily habit.

Generating Design Ideas Through Process

Follow creative processes evoking new possibilities:

Brainstorm Extensively

Rapidly sketch and iterate dozens of loose visual concepts across both pages and whiteboards allowing raw ideas to riff before refining favorites. Silo one solution prematurely.

Mind Map Connections

Visually organize disparate inspirations, client requests, constraints, target demo psychographics and other inputs radiating outward into new inventive spaces where concepts crystallize.

Create Concept Boards

Collage found images, colors, fonts and textures together digitally through platforms like Pinterest and Milanote or physically through art supplies crafting stylistic springboards.

Embrace Ambiguity

Allow in-progress work to live in ambiguity across iterations avoiding pressure for absolute solutions immediately. Distill order gradually from chaos.

Unify Scattered Thoughts

Review notebooks, photos, tear sheets and sketches for connecting threads and through lines that unexpectedly coalesce once outputs are laid side-by-side. Identify sequence in randomness.

By deliberately framing creative tasks procedurally, new possibilities emerge through externalized thinking processes. Make ideas tangible.

References and Tools to Kickstart Ideas

Resources to ignite inspiration:

Color Finders

Tools like Coolors, Design Seeds and Canva generate attractive color combinations from images dynamically creating editable palettes starting web and branding projects on strong visual footing.

Image Banks

Stock giants like Adobe Stock centralize photo, video, template and 3D asset searching across libraries of over 200 million files searchable by keywords and classifications streamlining idea gathering.

Graphic Packs

Sites like Freepik and Vexels offer diverse libraries of graphics, templates, patterns, mockups, icons and design elements for experimentation across projects both free and premium.

Typeface Inspiration

Typewolf and Fonts.com display beautiful recommendations expertly pairing fonts based on usages across categories like food, fashion, weddings etc simplifying stylish typography selections.

Texture Tools

Resources like Transparent Textures, Textured.io and Subtle Patterns offer endless textures enhancing designs through naturalistic overlays conveying depth and tactility in tools, illustrations and branding.

Leverage idea accelerators allowing swiftly experimenting across colors, fonts, imagery and styles breeding new directions. Don’t start from zero.

Seeking Critique and Collaborating

Other minds unlock new vantage points:

Design Community Feedback

Post works-in-progress across social communities requesting constructive criticisms through fresh outside perspectives. Honest peers highlight areas for refinement.

Friendly Critique Nights

Gather groups of fellow designers for regular casual feedback nights allowing each person to present concepts and receive unfiltered developmental reactions in a safe space over food and drink.

Client Input Sessions

Schedule open-ended directional discussions with clients before starting where they share examples of aesthetics and brands resonating. This mutually aligns the envisioned path.

Creative Collaborations

Brainstorm with other visual pros like photographers, interior stylists and art directors to achieve design solutions greater than possible individually through interdisciplinary inspiration sharing.

Intern Learning Exchanges

Invite junior design students and apprentices to collaborate exposing you both to new tools, generational aesthetics and experimental techniques through fresh eyes.

Healthy critiques prevent creative stagnation. Welcome feedback and collaborations expanding perspectives beyond your own lens. Two minds excel beyond one.

Breakthrough Inspiration Exercises

Jumpstart idea flows through activities:

Limit Yourself

Spark unconventional solutions by introducing deliberate limitations like minimalist palettes, set fonts, or fixed layouts. Restrictions force resourcefulness.

Alter Perspectives

Reimagine branding from diverse user personas, for example mascots. Or redesign apps for extreme use cases like visually impaired audiences. Pushing boundaries breeds invention.

Impose Quick Deadlines

Rapidly prototype single design aspects like mobile navigation flows under tight 5-10 minute sprints utilizing speed to tap subconscious instincts vs overthinking.

Sketch 100 Variations

Iteratively brainstorm vast idea volumes through sketches and mind maps to break fixation on singular concepts. The 75th idea may be the charm.

Step Away

Interrupt idle thought ruts by changing physical environments and completely shifting activities. Passive inspiration incubates subconsciously when not forced.

Shaking up familiar patterns often reveals unexpectedly obvious ideas right under your nose. Disrupt the ordinary and reformulate problems through new lenses.

Ongoing Learning Fuels Ideation

Continuously expand your knowledge base:

Master Fundamentals

Obsessively practice core skills until color palettes, typography, layouts and wireframing become second nature expanding options improvising original designs.

Learn Supporting Tools

Complementary programs like photo editing, 3D software and after effects expand capabilities realizing ambitious concepts impossible manually through new techniques.

Study Design Legends

Analyze the iconic styles, processes and insights of historic design heroes like Saul Bass through profiles and monographs detailing their problem-solving thought processes across eras.

Subscriptions Inspire

Stay on top of emerging styles and reinvented vintage looks through magazines like COMMUNICATION ARTS, subscriptions to resources like Adobe Fonts and collaborative tools like Adobe XD Cloud Documents.

Spark New Connections

Follow creators working across mediums like architects, choreographers and chefs whose entirely diverse influences spur new creative associations.

The more diverse creative skills and knowledge accumulated, the more dots connect inventing novel possibilities through fusion. Make learning perpetual.

Conclusion

Sustaining constant inspiration is imperative for prolific designers to craft compelling digital templates and graphics that surprise and delight.

Utilize this guide’s framework of online resources, physical immersion, cross-disciplinary influences, ideation processes, critiques, ongoing education and breakthrough exercises to stay continually creatively fueled generating your best work yet over a lifetime.

The world needs great design today more than ever. With so many tools to ignite ideas, the most crucial ingredient remains your passion. Do what you love, and the originality will follow. You’ve got this!

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By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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