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Inspiration Toolkit

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In the new year I’d like to put together a go-to toolkit I can use for inspiration.

Some of the items on this list might be trickier than others as we head into the second year of the global pandemic. But here goes the list just the same…

Keep a Design Notebook

This notebook can look anyway you choose. It can be digital or paper. Good apps for digital notebooks include Evernote or Good Notes. I personally like to keep a paper notebook or journal. If I have digital images or files I want to gather, I usually pin them to a Pinterest board for safekeeping.

A physical notebook allows me to sketch and doodle. You can of course do this in Good Notes too. I’ve been experimenting with using Procreate as a journal / sketchbook. I’ll report back later if it comes to anything where I’ll share how I used it.

Getting back to how I keep a physical notebook as a design tool, it really is just about anything. Notes, lists, ideas, brain dumps, sketches, doodles and more. Similar to a Bullet Journal, I like to keep the first few pages blank and use them as a table of contents. By numbering every page or every other page, I’m able to find things more quickly as the notebook fills up. However, I keep a separate notebook for quotes I’d like to save so they are easier to find.

Reference Books

Whether you collect them or just borrow them from a local public library, some reference books can be amazing sources of inspiration and reference material. Chocked full of everything from animals, insects, history and space, the sky is limit as to visual inspiration you can have at your fingertips. I’ve created a Pinterest board of some that look really interesting.

The Public Library

There is something about physical books. Right? I like my Kindle for sappy romance novels that would just be tossed or placed in my soon-to-be-launched Little Free Library after reading. But there is something about books (and magazines) that you can leaf through. But there is only so much room for physical books!

So I’ve decided to check out my local public libraries and give them a visit at least every month. I’ll dawn a mask of course and bring plenty of sanitizing spray. Some sections I’d like to focus on are the children’s books and non-fiction books like gardening for inspiration and drawing reference.

Old Magazines

Similar to visiting the library, old magazines can be a great place to find inspiration. But unlike the library, you can tear and cut out the images and pages. One thing I like to do is a “collage session” where I go through a few magazines and without thinking about it, tear out any image or text that appeals to me. This has to be done quickly so as to not filter out your initial response. With the pile of chosen images, I’ll glue them together to see if any connections or relationships occur between the disparate images.

A Big Bulletin Board

One step further from the haphazard collage created above is the use of a large bulletin board that is always in session. Images can be constantly added, moved around, removed and regrouped. Note to self: always take a photo BEFORE you add, remove or move anything because it can be interesting to go back weeks later to see if any connections or inspiration can be made that I didn’t see the first time.


Of course I can’t forget “old faithful” Pinterest. Pinterest needs no explanation for most of the people out there. Like most of you, I like to pin images of illustrations, art, artists and “things” that inspire me; I group them into sections and boards so they are easier to find. But I also like to keep secret boards of ideas I have and pin seemingly diverse images onto the board to see if I can push an idea further in directions I originally hadn’t thought of.

Thrift Stores and Flea Markets

Like the library, sometimes it’s nice to see actual things instead of photos of them. It’s also nice to make connections and find inspiration amongst the juxtaposition of those things that are typically artificially create for an Instagram image. The junkier the flea market the better. Flea markets are also great places if your style is retro or vintage.

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Hi, I'm Kerry
Hi, I'm Kerry

...of Curiously Designed. This blog documents my journey as I figure out how to finally pursue a long-held dream of being a working illustrator and designer.

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