Alleviating Designer’s Block: One Web Designer’s Quest for Inspiration
We’ve all been there before, staring quizzically at a blank canvas, wondering what our first move should be to get the creative process flowing. Realizing that there are an infinite number of ways to approach such a challenge the most difficult part is often just figuring out which creative route to take. So what’s the best way to go about this? How can you beat the block and get the ball rolling? It’s easy. Seek out inspiration and it will come.
As a web designer I find myself extremely fortunate to be living in a time where I can instantly access an endless amount of information at any given time. In a matter of minutes I can browse through dozens of web design inspiration portals, graphic designer portfolios, font foundries, typography galleries, stock photography collections and web development blogs. The right resources are out there and they are abundant – you just have to know where to find them. Below is a handpicked collection of trusty tips, tricks and resources to aid you in your daily search for design inspiration.
1. The Groundwork
Although you want to get the creative momentum going ASAP, you must first look at the basic requirements for a website. So before even opening Photoshop or Illustrator or surfing around for ideas, sketch out a rough wireframe of where all the different user interface elements are going to lay on the page. Identify the main calls to action and make sure they are prominently positioned. This initial baby step will serve as the blueprint for creating your finalized inspired work of art. If the traditional pencil to paper route isn’t for you, online wireframing tools such as Balsalmiq, Mockingbird, or Mockflow can come in handy.
2. The Inspiration Hunt
Start with the Competition. Visit the websites of your or your client’s competition to determine what each is doing right and wrong and what could be done to improve each. Additionally, this will give you an idea as to where the bar is set design-wise within an industry or niche while also encouraging you to think of ways to raise it. Behold the Best of the Best. There are some simply amazing galleries on the web showcasing the world’s top designers. Viewing the sheer beauty of these stunning accomplishments always gets the creative wheels turning. Don’t believe me? Stop by www.thebestdesigns.com, www.awwwards.com, behance.net or www.creattica.com and watch your inspiration level soar to new heights.
3. Getting Down to Business
Now that the juices are flowing and you already have the page layout sketched up it’s time to start stylizing.
Let’s start with color. Sometimes color schemes will be dictated by a client's preexisting branding guidelines but often you’ll have to come up with your own. While Adobe’s Kuler resource offers a multitude of popular color schemes submitted by other Adobe users can be helpful in a pinch, I often return to the above design portals to get a feel for what colors work together. Find a combination that you find aesthetically pleasing and ask yourself if it evokes a mood that coincides with your site’s message. Once you find something suitable, just remember Picasso.
Now it’s typography time and depending upon your level of endurance, another shot of inspiration may in order. Stop, take a deep breath and feast your eyes upon the unrelenting beauty that is TypeEverything. Scroll to your heart’s content and you’ll soon remember that the possibilities are endless. For a more web-based font affair, head over to MyFonts.com where you can actually purchase all the hot, trending webfonts that adorn the pages of the aforementioned web design galleries. Or you can go the free route – And although there is a consensus among designers that most free fonts are poorly designed and should be avoided, a few have made the cut over the years. The prestigious Smashing Magazine has blogged extensively about quality free fonts and offers a wealth of useful information.
A single striking photograph can often act as an inspirational catalyst in a web design project so it's key to have multiple stock photography resources at your disposal. But beware, the old adage “you get what pay for” also holds true in the photo department with few exceptions. While pay/membership sites like istock.com and shutterstock.com will have more than enough to satisfy all your stock photo needs, it is also worth checking the free site StockXchange. It may take a little more time digging around, but there are hidden gems to be found.
There it is – the trusty toolkit has been laid out before you – and with any luck, maybe you caught a tiny streak of inspiration along the way. We all know the process of designing a fresh, inspired website can be challenging so knowing where to turn for help is vital. I hope these suggestions have been useful and will empower you to triumph in all future battles with the blank canvas.