Finding Inspiration

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Finding InspirationInspiration is the spark that fuels creative work. As a graphic designer and a musician, I know how easy/difficult it can be to find that spark. I don’t see inspiration as an object to be sought out in old books or in dusty corners of the internet. It’s something that needs to be found within, nurtured, and applied to your everyday life. The good thing is that inspiration comes from just about anywhere as long as you keep your mind hungry for it, and allow your experience and taste to guide you.

That being said, here are a few places that really put me in the mood to be inspired. Hint: If you’re looking for ideas for your next album package design, these are some great resources!

On the web:
Music venue websites: Music is one of my biggest inspirations, so finding new music is both a pleasure and a regular part of my job. The best place to find new music is through your local music venues. Any decent venue will have a full schedule listed with links to band websites and myspace pages. Here in the Philadelphia area I have ten venue websites that I regularly check out to see who’s cool in town and coming through town.

If you’re looking for a quick fix, Filter Magazine offers selected indy rock show listings and news for 16 cities.

Grain edit: I am a big fan of mid-century design, and Grain Edit offers consistently great examples, articles and interviews about modern design history and who’s making inspiring work today. You’ll find over 100,000 show posters for some 98,000 bands just waiting to be oogled at. Gigposters are a highly creative medium and a very useful tool for bands, so both designers and bass players can find something cool there.

The Book Cover Archive: Book covers differ from many album covers because they often have a very strong conceptual approach. They don’t need to have pictures of the authors on them, so they do a better job of visually describing the content inside. My approach to album cover design is very similar, and the variety and depth of designs shown at the BCA is enlightening.

FFFFOUND!: This is a visual bookmarking site that mixes interesting, provocative design, photography and more in a continuous feed.

Logopond: Lots and lots of logo designs.

Out and about:
Record stores: Yes, record stores still exist, thank heavens. After I hit up the venue websites, I update my shopping list and make a monthly pilgrimage to my favorite record shop (AKA Music, 2nd & Market in Philly) to find new titles and look for things I wouldn’t have found elsewhere.

Music venues: You see where this going, right? To be inspired in the music industry, you have to be involved with it. I love going to concerts and letting live music be a strong source of inspiration. I know I’m inspired when I leave a show energized and ready to go make something as cool as the show I just saw.

Thrift stores: Inspiration is almost everywhere, but lived-in and lived-with objects have a life and energy all their own. I love finding ways to re-purpose and re-imagine things that have been tossed aside. Old books, records, vintage toys, textiles, photos, frames and kitsch art are always on my radar.

Driving: I spend a good deal of time sitting in traffic, and for that reason my rusty 1997 VW Golf is a great vessel of inspiration. Whether it’s the signs and designs of businesses on my route, or the music that emanates from my tired stereo speakers, I always look for bits of unique and fun images and ideas. I once made a set of 25 prints entirely from 10-second drawings I made while sitting at red lights. I sing along to the radio (while alone, thankfully) and it gives me ideas for new songs.

Everyone has a different ritual to keep their minds and hands fresh. Some friends and other people I know have described inspiration coming from cooking, from dreams, the New York Times crossword, parking lots, random internet destinations, and more.

Where do you find inspiration in your life? And what do you do with it? Let’s hear it.

Article by Kevin Mercer, Art Director

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