6 Places to find creative inspiration without wifi

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Designers and freelancers in general need a little help staying inspired from time to time. We all have places we like to browse while brainstorming; you never know what’s going to spark the perfect idea for you.

The internet is a wonderful resource for creative inspiration. It gives you access to more information in one place than any other medium.

It also has a huge flaw.

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It’s home to more distractions than any other form of inspiration. Because so many distracting sites are just a mouse click away it takes a lot more will power and focus to stay on track.

To avoid distractions and help you stay focused, here’s my list of places to find creative inspiration, without going on the internet.


There are some really amazing art and design books out there. Flipping through a physically printed book can help get your mind into a relaxed and creative state, while putting you in direct, tactile contact with printed design matter.

Reading fiction has been proven to increase brain function, reduce stress, and increase creativity. All very welcome features when looking for creative inspiration.

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The power of time off and non-client creative work.

A lack of inspiration can sometimes be attributed to general tiredness or being worn out. Don’t forget to take breaks, and don’t be afraid to take extended breaks from client work when possible to focus on other, more personal, creative work.

This is such a powerful practice, that well known New York-based graphic designer and typographer Stefan Sagmeister has actually started shutting down his design studio completely, every seven years, for a whole year. During that year he focuses on travel and completing personal creative projects that are purely for the sake of development and personal growth.

This is a bit of an extreme practice and is likely not an option for most people, but I think the idea is a powerful one. We could all benefit from some artistic exploration, even if it’s just a weekend retreat once a year.


There are magazines for almost every niche out there. Find a good one and you can have a full dose of inspiration delivered right to your door monthly.


This is my personal favourite way to reset my brain when I’m getting bogged down on a project. Nature has an amazing power to refresh and reset our minds. Usually after about twenty minutes of being outside of the house I can’t wait to get back inside and start trying out a few new ideas.

Art galleries

Creativity breeds creativity. Surrounding yourself with other people’s artistic endeavours is sure to get your creative juices flowing. Art galleries and museums tend to be quiet places, perfect for working, so remember to bring a notebook and pen. If inspirations strikes, you can find a bench and start sketching out ideas in peace without waiting to get home.


This one might be a little more controversial. We’re often surrounded by it, and more often than not it gets a bad reputation. However if you look at the core idea, it’s the perfect inspirational material for a lot of designers. Visual art that is based on the form of letters and exciting colour palettes. Typography and colour schemes are part of the fundamentals of design, so pay attention next time your stuck at a railway crossing and the ideas start flying by.

Where do you find your inspiration without getting lost on the internet? Comments go here.

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About Ben Brush

Ben Brush is a graphic designer working and living in Nova Scotia. You can view his work on his website. Find more posts by Ben on his graphic design blog Design Puffin or connect with him on twitter.

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  1. Can I just add to the list.
    Lunchtime walks to find those holes (not watering ones, architectural ones), that inspire.
    People watching.
    Beach walks where all there is to look at is sand, sea and clouds.
    Good for cleansing the soul!

    Off to the National gallery tonight to See the David Bailey Exhibition, with sketch pad in hand!

  2. Love these thoughts! When I need time away from graphic design and clients, I totally find it in books, journals, chalk pastels and music. Great tips!

  3. This could not have come at a better time. I am in a spot right now. I can build websites for clients up the wazoo…however I am in a redesign mode for my own company website..nothing has been harder. I found myself going with ideas I have implemented… layouts that others already do. Why? because they follow best practices…often SEO sound. However after a walk around some city streets in downtown Chicago I took notice of some really old painted billboards on the side of Brick Buildings… pictures were worth 1,000 words. I was inspired… and now on my way to hopefully… convert my own site to a non-digital influenced website.

    But here is a question… why is it so easy to develop for others, but so hard for ourselves? I have seen so many developer websites…that look god awful…but they put out AMAZING work! Why can’t we apply our own genius to our own sites?

    • Michael I know that feeling well.

      I think the combination of being your own toughest critic, and the difficulties of writing a creative brief on yourself instead of someone else can make it a lot harder.

      I’ glad you found the inspiration you were looking for!

  4. LIBRARY: “If you walk into the light the shadows will always be at your back.”

  5. I’m trying to take Fridays to re-juice (just started this in January). I sleep in, maybe do a few hours of client work, and then the rest of the time is mine. I want to work towards writing more music/recording, and oil & watercolor painting. But for right now, I’ve been going to movies and some different shops.

    • A lot of designers and freelancers tend to be workaholics, which can be pretty bad for creativity and inspiration.

      Good on you for making an effort to take time away from work Cathy!

  6. Although this is an otherwise nice list, I’m disappointed that you guys would suggest graffiti as a source of inspiration. My opinion is that very, very seldom does graffiti capture the true form and function of typography. More often than not, it’s illegible garbage and symptomatic of serious societal problems. Graffiti is vandalism. I spend a ton of my own time in our community combating it by reporting it, photographing it, and in some situations, painting over it myself. “Graffiti art” is only art when you have permission to paint it; otherwise, it’s one of many similar crimes that costs tax payers in the US millions of dollars a year. This type of glorification only serves to support those who choose to vandalize public and private property to the detriment of all.

    • I knew when writing this that graffiti would be a controversial option, but I stand by it for a few reasons. I understand the legal concerns, but its value is a lot more far reaching than that.

      In some form or another graffiti has been around since Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire. It’s not so much symptomatic of serious societal problems, as it is a symptom of society itself.

      Because of its subversive nature, graffiti often contains messages from the marginalized, underrepresented and otherwise unheard sections of society. People who feel they have no voice are some of the most important people to listen to.

      The current model of letting those with money control the visual messages of our cities (billboards & advertising) is inherently unhealthy. People without means often have more important and legitimate things to say than those with money who have something to sell us.

      On a more personal note I learned almost everything I know about type, spacing, information hierarchy and balance from being involved with graffiti. It has helped me a great deal in my professional work. and dismissing it all as “illegible garbage” is a bit short sighted in my opinion.

      Graffiti is one of the only forms of art born in modern America, rather than expropriated from other cultures, and we should value it for that reason. It’s an expression of the culture we created. That gives it a great deal of value.

  7. Absolutely yes. I will add that visiting historical places is another way of boosting creativity. By the way I used to go to a hill station restaurant for this purpose :))

    • Tanvir,

      You couldn’t be more right – historical places usually have absolutely fantastic design style (patterns, principles, architecture, color, etc.) that can inspire. Sometimes I wish I lived in an older country so that I had more access to ancient ruins and cathedrals and castles. But when I do get to visit, I’m just float around awe. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!


  8. Yvonne Hsu says:

    I listen to music and read modern mystery novels. Also, I solve puzzles/play games. Some are better offline than others, as in board games, crossword puzzles, etc. There is no substitute for curling up on the sofa with a book and a cold or hot drink. My computer/tablet rule is: “No Food or Drink allowed nearby.”

    The best thing about puzzle books vs. online puzzles is that you can solve puzzles in intervals. Example: spending 15 min. or so on a crossword puzzle, then setting it aside and getting back to it an hour later for another interval. This gives me more time to think about the answers, which I can’t do online as I do not want my computer to be on all day.

    • Yvonne,

      I’m a big puzzle person, too – jigsaw puzzles, word puzzles, logic puzzles. I find that using the “solver” portion of my brain allows a break in creativity and a subconscious solving boost so that I’m refreshed and maybe even have a new idea when I get back to work.

      Thanks for sharing!


  9. Thanks for sharing these great ideas. Love them. I think everyone, whether he/she is a designer or not, wants a break from their work and want to recharge themselves with either wandering or by reading books. I too love solving puzzles as it helps in diverting your mind from the work you are doing although only for a small time but it works.

  10. I really love your article on picking up creative inspiration without necessarily coming online. However I’m based in Africa (Nigeria), the Internet appears to be our only link to global creative trends most of the alternative creative inspiration resource you outlined (apart from Nature) are far fetched here. Books are not available at all or at most very expensive, not many galleries are available.

    Please it will be a favour of great magnitude to me if you could send me a few list of internet sites that could be helpful when looking up ideas. I mean addresses of sites creative designers in the U.S check up when trying to get inspiration for various jobs. I am an advertising designer but currently work part time in a faith-based studio. Thanks ahead.

    ‘Niyi Ladipo


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