Searching for Web Design Inspiration

Sources to help inspire and fuel your next web design project

Lightbulb drawing
Lightbulb drawing.

Being a web designer can be a very challenging career choice. One of the hurdles you will face is the fact that you have to be creative on-demand. If you are tasked with the responsibility of designing a new website for a client and are given a timeline and budget to work within, you must find a way to produce results within those constraints. It does not matter whether or not you are feeling creative at that moment, the work needs to get done and you need to find a way to get it done.

If you’ve been designing websites for any period of time, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself returning to the same solutions that have worked for you in the past. This is often a by-product of having to be creative on-demand. Over time, however, this can cause your work to start to looking very similar and it can drive you to grow bored with your creative output.

As web designers, we must continually find inspiration to keep our work fresh and to help us create even when we may not be feeling particular creative. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that web designers can find that all important creative inspiration.

Gallery Websites

The most common resource that web designers use to seek inspiration is online galleries that showcase other web designs. These galleries and awards websites feature excellent collections of websites from some of the best designers in the industry. The problem with these sites is that since so many other designers use them for a creative push, the resulting designs that come out of that inspiration can begin to look very similar.

This problem of “web design homogeneity” is something that many leading designers have bemoaned as of late.

The fact that websites are all starting to look the same is inevitable in some ways. As best practices are established for things like responsive design or web typography, they will start to shape the way sites are created and similarities will arise.

The challenge is to use these best practices and inspiration sites to create something new and unique to your project, as opposed to a copy of exactly what everyone else is doing. Ultimately, gallery websites are best used as one source of inspiration that can be tempered by some of the other sources covered in this article.

Some popular website gallery and awards sites you may want to check out are:

Designer-Centric Communities

Another very popular source of inspiration can be found on designer-centric social communities. The “designer show and tell” website, dribbble, is a great example of this kind of community.

On dribbble, designers can share “shots” of what they are working on. Many of those shots show only a glimpse of a larger design, which can help other designers be inspired without seeing an entire layout or design (and risk copying it too closely).  Small samples of color combinations, typography, patterns, and other design elements can be easily found on this site, helping to get your creative juices flowing for your own work!

Behance is another site where designers can share their work by creating portfolios. Other designers can review these portfolios to find inspiration and see what others in their industry may be creating.

Printed Materials

Inspiration for website designs should not only come from other websites. There is a wide world of wonderful design outside of the digital space that can inspire you and help you think about different ways to approach your web designs.

One of my favorite design inspiration stories was a project I did for a commercial real estate company named MG Commercial. The company’s colors are red, white, and black and during the design process I was inspired by a comic book series that used a similar palette (Grendel: Black, White, and Red).  In that comic, the content is presented in black and white while red is used sparingly. This approach gives the red so much more emphasis when it appears on a page. I used this same approach on the site, going with a very monotone palette and using red exclusively for linkable content.

Full color was reserved only for property images, which also made those stand out on the site as well. In the end, the client loved my approach to their new design - and approach I may not have come up with had I not looked beyond the digital space for inspiration.

Printed design, from books to posters to magazine ads to fine art and beyond are all perfect sources of design inspiration. Keep a folder of any pieces of printed design that you find particularly inspiring and go through that folder when you are working on new designs.

Everyday Objects

The world around us and the design of everyday objects and interactions offer a myriad of sources of inspiration. From the typography you see on signage to the way that a piece of equipment or some kind of interface works, these can all inspire you in your work.

If you see something particularly inspiring, take a picture of it and add it to your folder of inspiring printed materials.  Like the way an interaction happens with some physical object?  Shoot a video and use it to inspire you to create new ways that people can interface with your work. Keep these sources of inspiration handy and return to them whenever you need to tackle a particularly challenging new project or need a dose of creative inspiration.

In Closing

Being creative on demand is not easy, which is why many designers fall back to what they have done in the past. This is a great starting point, but by seeking inspiration from a variety of sources, you can ensure that your past wins will help inform your future work while not forcing that work to be a simple copy of what has come before, but instead it will be something even better.

Edited by Jeremy Girard on 1/7/17