Sunday, April 5, 2009

Need inspiration?


Creativity is fun. Creativity is exciting. Creativity is joyful. Unfortunately, creativity does not always show up on demand. So what to do when you've got a great but vague idea for a background and need that extra little something to take that idea through execution?

Truth is, inspiration is all around you. From the way the rays of the sun shine through the leaves of the tree outside your window, to the way the magnet got knocked askew on your fridge, any visual can be that trigger that sends your imagination soaring. But for those times when you're really stuck the web is a treasure-trove of inspiration, if you just know where to look.

Want to design something fresh and new? Grasping for ideas to even begin designing a layout? Why not see some great examples of what's already out there. A great first stop is one (or both) of the sites that aggregate the best of Twitter background design: Twitter Background Gallery and Killer Tweets. Here you'll find examples of how to effectively break the grid for a Twitter background while making it work within the parameters of Twitter. Scrolling through the galleries you'll also get a feel for which areas of the design to concentrate on most, as well as some themes and styles for your potential design.

When I'm on the hunt for inspiration my next step is usually looking at more generic background ideas on one of two sites: Deviant Art's Wallpaper section has such a huge range of subjects - from tech to goth to pop culture - that something inevitably catches my eye. The stock website iStock Photo is another great resource. Do a photo/illustration search on "background" and you'll come up with some wonderful examples, from simple textures to incredibly ornate illustrations.

A selection of the wallpaper designs available on Deviant Art

By now you should have a fair idea of the style and rough layout for the background you'd like to design. It's at this point that I usually turn to some of my favorite Photoshop and Illustrator tutorial sites for ideas on how to create specific elements for my design. There are so many great effects that can be created with these two programs, I know I've barely scratched the surface of what's possible. These sites will provide you with not only ideas on what to do, but step-by-step instructions on how to achieve the effect you seek (err ... as is the purpose of tutorial sites, I suppose). Some tutorial sites that are great resources are: Abduzeedo, Color Burned, Tutorial 9, Photoshop Lady, PSD Fan, PSD Tuts, Vector Tuts, Vectips and Veerle's Blog.

End result of one of the great tutorials on Veerle's Blog

Now you've got the know-how, but what about the tools? The sites mentioned above are generally also great resources for various Adobe freebies - brushes, styles, actions, patterns, swatches. However, there are some other great resources that should not be overlooked. Check out Brusheezy, Vecteezy, My Photoshop Brushes, Deviant Art's Application Resources section, and Adobe's own Exchange and Kuler (a great resources for browsing, creating and downloading swatch libraries that can be used in all Adobe applications).

Still can't quite put your finger on that color/texture/pattern that's itching the back of your brain? One mustn't overlook the importance of more generalized design blogs. These sites that pull examples of great design from a wide variety of disciplines - interior, industrial, fashion, graphics, photography and more. Seeing a range of seemingly disparate things put together just might be that last element that polishes off your creation. Some of my personal favorites for inspiration are 100 Layer Cake, Design*Sponge, Decor8, and Oh Joy!

An example of 100 Layer Cake's idea board - great for adding details to a "feel"

Hope these resources help you materialize what you're seeing in your mind's eye. Most importantly: have fun designing!