Finding (and organizing) your inspiration

I’ve come to realize that the hardest person to design for is oneself. Luckily, for the overhaul of my personal website, I had a little help.

Anytime I see something graphic or design element that strikes me as interesting, I bookmark it or save it to a little folder on my computer that serves as a digital inspiration board. Usually any new design project begins with a few clicks through the folder, which, at last count, contained 333 files collected over the years. Before I redesigned my own site I pulled a couple of images from the folder and set them aside for inspiration. Here are those actual images:

   
   

And here is the final design:

I came up with a million different designs in my head and ultimately stuck with a comic book theme, but you can clearly see the influence of the selected images in the design. I later realized I had also been subconsciously inspired by the billboards for the new Indiana Jones movie that have recently popped up around the country.

Keeping your own personal inspiration board, whether it be digital or a collection of torn out magazines or photos, is a great way to get the design process going. I often use the screenshot tool FastStone Capture (downloaded when it was free) to create a quick snapshot of something on the web that is in the vein of my own design aesthetic. I also use del.ici.ous to bookmark Flash-based, multimedia or interactive sites (and, incidentally, ideas for blog posts.)

If you don’t have your own personal inspiration collection just yet, there are many sites that will stir up the creative juices, including screenfluent, Beautifully, dafont.com and the previously mentioned inspiredology.com and Smashing Magazine.

What inspires you? Is it a website, a photograph or something else?