This is a guest post by Shawn Scammahorn – he runs his own one-man web and graphic design studio, Es Developed. He’s had the privilege of working with national brands, financial institutions, as well as mom-n-pop shops.
As designers, we’re bombarded by designs showcased in web design galleries. Most of the time, however, these showcase the same types of designs over and over again.
Design trends are fine, but what happens when you’re stuck in a rut and are looking to try something a little different? Where do you turn for fresh ideas?
Try switching mediums and pick up a magazine. And while you’re here check out as well Inspired Talks – Mags on a Plane
Pick Up a Magazine
You can find an amazing amount of inspiration and ideas just by thumbing through a few pages of a print magazine.
Don’t be afraid to venture outside your normal comfort zone. Picking up an issue of This Old House can give you just as much inspiration as a copy of Esquire or PC World.
There are several benefits that come from looking to magazines for inspiration.
Become a Better Designer
Looking for inspiration in magazines makes you think because you’re taking something from a different medium and reworking it so you can use it in your design.
Also, it forces you to think about why a certain design works. This helps you understand the principles behind good design and keeps you from just copying the design verbatim. In turn, you can reuse what you learn on future projects.
Become Drawn Into Your Client’s Niche
Sure, you can spend a few hours researching a client’s niche online; learning the terminology, tools of the trade, and so on. But you might be surprised how much quicker you’ll understand your client’s field by just flipping through a couple magazines that deal with their trade.
Understanding how your client and their audience thinks will help you create an appropriate design for their project in a much shorter time.
Improve Your Typography Chops
With CSS3 gaining more and more support in browsers, there are also more fonts being released that can be embedded for use on the web.
Yet, if you’ve been a web designer for a while, you may have trouble expanding past the ol’ web-safe fonts.
Designers who work in print have have tons of type choices for years. See how they work with their limitless choices of fonts. You might find some interesting choices and font pairings in the process.
From covers to article titles to info-graphics, there’s plenty to inspire you typographically.
Find Interesting Layout Ideas
The web still has some catching up to do when it comes to page layout. While some designers are starting to experiment with magazine-style layouts, for the most part, we still tend to think in terms of columns, boxes and grids.
Magazines can be a great place to look for new and creative ideas for laying out a site.
Discover New Color Schemes
Keep your eyes open for unique color combinations. These can often be found in article graphics and front covers.
Sometimes the best color schemes come from a beautiful photograph.
Pick magazines that appeal to a similar group of people as your target audience
There are a wide variety of audiences that magazines try to reach. So some magazines will feature styles that would be inappropriate for certain sites.
Designing a site for a furniture store? Try Fine Woodworking or Better Homes and Gardens.
How about a software company? Try a tech-based magazine.
An e-commerce store? Try a variety of mail order catalogs.
Step Out of Your Element
Many sites showcased in design galleries are portfolio sites for other designers. Try picking up a magazine you would never normally read. You might find it surprisingly refreshing.
Still stuck in a rut? Find some old vintage magazines and supercharge your brain with some authentic retro inspiration.
Pick magazines that have strong typography.
Strong typography is important in print and just as important on the web. Often times if you start a design with strong typography, the rest of the design comes together almost magically.
While most popular magazines have decent typography, thumb through some of them and look for magazines with consistently well-chosen type. Also look for a variety of styles.
It Doesn’t Have to Cost an Arm and a Leg
Newsstand prices are pretty high compared to subscription rates. Once you find a few quality, well-designed magazines, consider subscribing. Then each month you’ll have fresh inspiration delivered to your door.
Another option is the library. Most libraries contain a decent enough selection of magazines that can be viewed for free.
If you’re looking for vintage magazines, rummage and garage sales are a good place to look.
Kick Back and Be Inspired
Instead of relying on the usual web design galleries for inspiration, grab a pile of magazines, lean back, and let your creative juices flow.