It’s so common these days for designers just starting out to plagiarise others work. It happens and there will always be uproar on social media about it. There are ways to avoid such scenarios. Look for inspiration away from designers you admire, otherwise you’ll end up copying their style without truly finding a style that works best for you and your projects.
Here are a few of the best places, in my opinion, to get the inspiration needed when creative block sets in.
When I first started my journey in the niche of vintage design, Flickr presented itself with such a vast library of old advertising, typography and illustration. Though many use it for photography you’ll be amazed at what hidden gems you can find. Want to design a 1950s motel or diner sign? Trust me; you’ll unearth so many different combinations of lettering and shapes with realistic character that nobody else’s work will be on your radar.
This works very similarly to Flickr in that there is such a wide scope of inspiration out there. Basically Pinterest is the 21st century version of an old school mood board you used to create in design classes in school, only it’s much easier to refer to than a piece of paper. There’s no limit to what you might find, and the inspiration doesn’t have to stop at just graphic design; feed your creative needs outside of the box and look at topics such as interiors and food – not all inspiration has to come from something related to what you’re working on. Plus sometimes, it’s nice just to look at something other than fonts and colour spectrums.
Still relatively new to the social media scene, the Flipboard app allows you to create your own magazine full of articles, images and things that inspire you from around the web. Rather than focusing on the design process and looking at images of work you like, reading articles about things that inspire others can help you step out of your own niche and branch out of your comfort zone.
Indeed the old school approach, but there are many great graphic design books floating around that can really help you develop a style and keep you motivated when you feel creatively drained. Looking to get into the tshirt business? The Threadless book is a must read, as is Jeff Finley’s bible Thread’s Not Dead. If you want to crack into the music scene with some obscure statement posters Gig Posters volumes one and two should be your first point of call. Just because we have the internet for inspiration, it doesn’t mean we have to use it. Go old school, and pick up a book. Things look better in print than on screen anyway.
Now stay with me here, your family and friends should be one of the biggest inspirations you have. Learn from them and bounce ideas around with them too. They may not understand the fundamentals of design but if you get on with them you’re likely to have some similarities in design taste to help you out when you feel stuck and unmotivated. It’s important to get away from the screen when you need inspiration; go for a walk, grab a coffee or hit the gym – just get away from your work. The worst thing to do when you need inspiration is to become attached to the computer screen – this is when we fall into bad habits like looking at designers we admire and next thing you know, you’ve ripped off someone’s original hard work.
If you still can’t get inspired chances are you’re creatively and mentally burned out. When you hit this dead end you’re in tricky place. Take some time off and start designing for fun again – try to remember why you love what you do in the first place. Hopefully all of the above will remind you when you forget.