Creative Block? 5 Places to Find Design Inspiration

Lulu DK for Schumacher

Lulu DK for Schumacher

Imagine opening up a box of Ikea furniture, only to find that there are no instructions in the box. You’d feel pretty lost with no visuals, right?

I feel the same way when it comes to starting a new collection of brain feels a little like a baked potato and I have no idea where to start.

After teaching so many classes over the years, I’ve seen my students deal with the same issue, usually expressed by a blank stare after I tell them they can start drawing now.

Basically, it helps to have a starting point.

I spent a little time thinking about what I usually do to get past this block, and I wanted to share a few things that I've found useful when deciding what to design. Here are my top 5, and let me know if you have any other ideas in the comments!


1. Pinterest

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image credit:

When in doubt, Pinterest. When I’m searching for visuals and compare my Pinterest search to just a Google image search, Pinterest content usually wins hands down every time.

I also like using it because if I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking for I can pin my images to a board and then get a really good sense of the direction I'm going in.

I pull a lot of inspiration from architecture, tile designs, and wallpaper, then blend shapes to make it my own, but you can search any type of image. Here are a few search terms to get you started brainstorming:

vintage fabrics

art deco patterns

beachy patterns

geometric patterns

abstract shapes

repeat patterns

minimal designs

2. Take a walk with your sketchbook

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image credit:

Living in the bay area, I’m lucky to be surrounded by beautiful Victorians with endless amounts of colors and design inspo, but even doing something as simple as walking outside and into a new environment can help spark creativity.

Get out of the house...try and walk through a new neighborhood or somewhere you don’t go to often. Look at patterns in nature or wherever it takes you.

3. Window shop

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image credit:

I find fabric stores and paper stores particularly inspiring. You could also try clothing shops or home decor stores. Window shopping is a great way to see tons of different patterns in different scales and applications.

I mean, earlier today I was at a sports shop and saw a bike jersey that was completely covered in a silly taco pattern. It got me thinking to what other kind of silly patterns I could create.

4. Channel your favorite place to travel, or your dream vacation

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

I’ve been hearing amazing things about Lisbon, Portugal, yet I still haven’t been. Multi-task by planning your next trip, search for fun places to visit, and google (or Pinterest!) images of local culture and design to start getting inspired.


5. Look to see what other textile designers (or other designers in general) are creating

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*To clarify* by no means am I suggesting you COPY (eeek), but sometimes I can learn a lot just by seeing the different styles others are exploring, looking at their color combos, and other details. Sometimes I’ll see a pattern that reminds me of something completely different, and that is enough to get me sketching.

Occasionally I'll get into a rut, creating patterns with the easiest repeat possible just to get it done. Looking at other people's work inspires and challenges me to push my creativity out of my comfort zone.

These are just a few ways that usually help me jump start my brain when I get stuck.