Finding Design Inspiration

design

Finding Design Inspiration  

  • Art Nouveau: A popular style around the turn of the 20th century (roughly 1890 to 1905) that fell out of style as the modernist movement took hold. The style is defined by violent curves (often called “whiplash” motifs), and dynamic, undulating, flowing lines. It was one of the inspirations for the psychedelic art movement of the 1960s. A great example of Art Nouveau architecture is the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest.

  • American Craftsman: Also known as American Arts & Crafts, it was popular in the late 19th century through the beginning of the 20th century, and still enjoys revivals to the current day. It emphasized locally crafted wood, glass, and metal work, and combined simplicity with elegance. Great examples can be in numerous Craftsman-style bungalows across the United States.

  • Prairie School: Prairie School designs, which were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, generally include a lot of horizontal lines, a desire to blend with the surrounding landscape, and discipline in the use of ornamentation. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park, Illinois home is a great example, as is the Woodbury County Courthouse in Iowa.

  • Art Deco: A popular design movement between 1925 through the 1940s. It was seen as glamorous, elegant, modern and functional at the time. The City Hall of Buffalo New York and the spire of the Chrysler Building in New York City are both prime examples.

  • International Style: A major style in the 1920s and 1930s, at the beginning of the modernist movement. A strict set of design rules is one of the key components of international style. Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier and The Glass Palace (in Heerlen, The Netherlands) are both great examples.

  • Mid-Century Modern: A design style developed between roughly 1933 and 1965, and is a further development of both Frank Lloyd Wright’s principles and Bauhaus architecture. More organic and less formal than international style. Prominent proponents included Joseph Eichler and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco and the Concourse building in Singapore are both good examples.

  • Postmodern: An international style movement that started in the 1970s (with roots as far back as the 1950s). It’s not as formal as international style and has more ornamentation. The Bank of America Center in Houston, TX is a good example of postmodern architecture.


There are a wealth of places to find inspiration from architecture and interior design, both online and off.

The Real World: There are likely a number of architectural gems not too far from where you currently live or work. Look up at the buildings that surround you on a daily basis and take in their forms, shapes, details, and other defining characteristics.

Magazines: Magazines like Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, Veranda, and a number of others can be picked up on almost any newsstand in the U.S. Other countries are likely to have either international versions of these or their own variations.

Design Blogs: There are tons of design blogs that cover architecture, including Inhabitat (which focuses on green design), A Daily Dose of Architecture, and Eye Candy.

Architecture Books: Most major bookstores have tons of architecture books (usually coffee table books) in their bargain section. You can often get excellent volumes with tons of photos for less than $20.

DeviantArtDeviantArt has a fantastic photography section to browse. You’re likely to find a higher proportion of “artsy” images here than on Flickr, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your particular project.

Coffee Table Books: Major bookstores tend to have tons of large-format, “coffee table” books in their discount section. These are often full of images of all kinds, and can be picked up for next to nothing. Used bookstores are another good source of this kind of book.

Flea Markets: Check vendors at flea markets for unique, vintage photographs.

EtsyEtsy is the premier online handcrafts shop. It’s populated by hundreds of thousands of artisans from all over the world, and has some truly extraordinary talent. Be sure to browse their showcases, treasuries, and The Storque (their blog) for some of the best picks.

Craft and MakeCraft and Make Magazines are both great sources for finding handcrafted items. They’re both filled with tutorials and examples. Craft tends to lean a bit more toward traditional arts and crafts (with a twist) while Make is more technical and scientific-focused.

CraftsterCraftster is a great blog and community filled with examples, inspiration, and tutorials. It’s aimed at hipsters and has more edge than most traditional crafts blogs.

Local Artisans Guilds and Craft Fairs: Many areas have either an artisans guild where you can view crafts from local artisans, or have annual craft fairs (often associated with the holiday season, though others hold them in the summer). These can be a great place to find inspiration. Taking photos can be a great way to capture whatever inspires you, but make sure you ask before shooting pics of anyone else’s creations (crafters can get very possessive of the things they create).