Illustration by Bhavya Minocha
One of the most difficult parts of being a designer is when you receive a brand-new project but have no idea how to get started. Other times, you may be able to start, but halfway through, you hit a designer’s block and waste time staring into your computer monitor, discouraged and hoping that the right idea will just magically pop into your mind.
When you’re stuck in those moments, often times a little design inspiration can go a long way, helping you emerge with new ideas to create amazing user experiences.
That’s why it’s vital for all designers, no matter their level of experience, to maintain a list of places to visit for design inspiration. It is also important to realize that certain sites and physical spaces are better for design inspiration at different points in your UX and UI workflow.
Let’s begin by taking a look at a basic UX and UI workflow, and then discuss the best places to go for design inspiration for each specific phase.
What is a UX and UI workflow?
Each designer’s UX and UI workflow can vary depending on their personal style, the design team they’re a part of, or even the specific project that is assigned to them. For the purpose of this article, consider the following as a UX and UI workflow: brainstorming, research, low-fi design, testing, high-fi design, and prototyping.
Here’s what is involved for each of these phases:
Brainstorming: This can be both a fun and daunting stage for designers, depending on how familiar they are with the project details assigned to them. It is the phase where you start from nothing and collaborate with team members to generate a list of ideas for how to best tackle the problem that you are meant to solve.
Research: As UX designers, you have to ensure that research is consistently happening alongside design for a human-centered perspective. The research phase is where it all begins: where you outline your research plan and discuss what user research needs to be done prior to any actual design work. When done right, effective user research can dramatically decrease your production time while increasing the chances that your design is solving the right problem.
Low-fidelity design: There is no one right way to do low-fidelity design; it really comes down to the preferences of the designers themselves. However, there is one rule to designing in low-fidelity, and that is to make it quick and dirty. This can mean sketches on napkins, notebooks, and whiteboards, or even working digitally with Adobe XD. The important thing about this phase is to not spend copious amounts of time making the design look pretty but rather, drilling down to the fundamental concept or functionality of the design, thus decreasing the amount of time it takes to iterate.
Testing: Once a low-fidelity design is completed, it is time to get feedback. This phase involves scheduling testing sessions with your users to see how they may use your product designs. You also want to ensure that you are actually solving the problem and addressing the pain points they are experiencing. Some forms of user testing to explore are heat mapping and usability testing.
High-fidelity design: This is where you make your designs look nice and polished. It’s also the type of design that can be utilized for a second round of user testing since it often contains interactive elements that give a broader scope of the user experience. UX designers use design psychology to further amplify designs in this phase and to create an improved the user experience based on previous feedback and testing. It’s in this phase that we solidify and evaluate our design’s success.
Prototyping: The final step in the UX and UI workflow is to prototype designs, coordinate and sync your screens, and make it all clickable in order to either conduct further user testing or hand it off to the development team. The goal in prototyping is to ensure that your are building products using human-computer interaction (HCI) methods. This way, you can make sure that designs are improving the user experience and not hampering it.
Now that you have a brief summary of a UX AND UI workflow, let’s take a look at where you can go for design inspiration.
Where to go to find design inspiration
As designers, inspiration can be found almost anywhere but quite often it’s found in virtual sources and from other designers. Having a collection of virtual places you commonly visit is a great way to stay inspired and current on design trends. Here are a few places to check out.
Medium is filled with design professionals who passionately write about things they have learned and experienced throughout their careers and want to share with other designers. If you are looking for advice on effective user testing and research or other design information, this is a great place to regularly visit.
If you want a good balance of inspiration for your low-fidelity designs or even for your research presentations, Pinterest is a great platform to check out. It offers a wide variety of inspiration from fashion to graphic designs. It also makes it really easy to gather and build collections that are specific to different types of design work.
A similar concept to Pinterest is Designspiration, which has an extra focus on design trends. This is a great place to visit and explore a wide variety of design work to gain inspiration for your upcoming and current designs.
The number one platform for sharing design work and getting design inspiration is Dribbble. The platform acts as a place to share and promote your work, and discover and follow your favorite designers. This is a wonderful place to find inspiration for those low-fidelity and high-fidelity designs.
Instagram is no longer just a place to share photos and personal experiences; it has become a home for all types of art. If you haven’t done so already, follow hashtags related to UX design such as #ux, #uxdesign, and #userresearch to get a regular dose of the design work other UX/UI designers are sharing.
How to use design inspiration
Design inspiration does not mean going out and looking for designs to replicate but rather, it means exploring the work of other designers to help inspire some element of your design. It could be something completely unrelated to the project you are working on, but it may still ignite a creative idea for how to tackle an aspect of your design.
Design, both in the real world and virtual, stimulates new and unique ideas. As designers, you’re not trying to just replicate someone else’s design, but get inspired to use specific elements when creating your own designs. Design is a beautiful thing, and the amazing variety is what motivates us when you’re feeling less than inspired.
Some parting design inspiration
Creativity is not simply a switch that can be turned on and off whenever you like. Sometimes you need a little help to get started or to overcome a bout of designer’s block. This is why it is important to know where to go for design inspiration and how to use it in your everyday work.
The best way to uncover and use design inspiration is to gather design elements and ideas, putting together a mood board for UX design. Take a look at the websites and platforms provided above and start putting together a collection your own design inspirations to guide your future UX and UI workflows.