Offline Sources for Design Inspiration

Web designers have plenty of online resources available for design inspiration. There’s no shortage of CSS galleries out there to help you by displaying some creative and high-quality work, but offline sources of inspiration can provide new perspectives and encourage you to stretch your boundaries further than you have before. Looking at other websites for inspiration can only take you so far, and sometimes you’ll enjoy taking in the design concepts used in other mediums.

Design inspiration can come from just about anywhere, and in this post we’ll take a look at a number of the best places to look. There are several links and resources included in the post to demonstrate how inspiring these sources can be and to make the post as useful as possible. However, don’t limit yourself to just visiting these links or you will be missing the point of offline inspiration. Look to some of these sources and see what you can find to be applicable to your web design projects.


Designing for print is obviously much different than designing for the web, but there is plenty of inspiration available in magazines. Magazine are often very creative and many of their design concepts can be applied to web design. Additionally, the page page layout, pictures, and advertisements throughout the magazine can be extremely helpful as well. Visit a large bookstore and check out the magazine rack. You’re sure to find something you like.

Magazine Rack
Photo from Tokyofortwo.

The website of the American Society of Magazine Editors has a collection of the 2007 best cover winners.

Dick Cheney

Another collection on the ASME website shows the top 40 magazine covers of the last 40 years.

New Yorker

YourCover has a list of the top 15 covers since 1960, but disappointingly the images do not link to larger versions.

CD and DVD Jackets

CD and DVD jackets design are critical to the sales of those products, so there is a great deal of effort that goes into creating the best looking product possible. As a result, you’ll see a lot of ideas and design elements that can be used in web design. There are so many stores that sell CDs and DVDs that this type of inspiration is very easy to find any time you need some new ideas.


Sleevage is a great website that is dedicated to album art. It’s very easy to search and browse through the gallery.


Inspiredology recently compiled an exhaustive list of the 99 Best Designed Album Covers.


Devlounge produced a similar list of 21 Album Covers for Inspiration.

21 album covers for inspiration

COLOURlovers has a collection of album covers from 2007 Grammy Award winners, plus they included the color swatches used in each of the designs.

Madona colors

MegaSearch is a search engine for album covers. It can be a great tool if you know what you are looking for. SlothRadio, and FindMyCover are similar search engines. AllCDCovers has a search engine, but it also provides some other useful features such as browsing through popular searches and downloading covers.

While you’re looking around for design inspiration, why not take a short humor break and check out this collection of the worst album covers ever.


There are tons of different types of posters that can be used for inspiration. Movie posters are often a great source. Next time you’re at the theater, take a closer look at the posters that are being displayed.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Movie Poster Addict is a site dedicated to, you guessed it, movie posters.

No Country for Old Men

GigPosters is a pretty cool site for music fans. It has posters from shows for an unbelievable number of bands.


Movie Poster Awards has a ton of posters that you can view.

Galleries of Posters:

Premiere created a gallery of The 25 Best Movie Posters Ever.

Billboard has a similar gallery of The 25 Best Rock Posters of All Time.

Eloquation has a nice collection of 10 movie posters.

Cinemacom has a large gallery of vintage horror and sci-fi posters through the 1940s.

Movie posters aren’t the only ones that can provide inspiration. Smashing Magazine compiled over 50 Breathtaking Typographic Posters.

FilmSchoolRejects has the Ten Best Movie Posters of 2007.

Movie Poster Addict has collected 79 Years of Best Picture Winners in Posters.

Movie Poster Addict has posters from the 2007 Key Art Award Winners.

Here is a Flickr gallery of 19th Century Circus & Magic Posters.


Not all newspapers use a boring layout and design. Some of the more creative newspaper designs can be very applicable to web design. Newspapers also have to find ways to fit a lot of content onto a page, and some of these layout techniques can be used by websites.

The best online gallery of newspaper design that I have seen is Smashing Magazine’s Award Winning Newspaper Designs.

Award-Winning Newspaper Design

Newseum provides quick access to todays front pages of 561 newspapers from 52 countries. is a blog that focuses on newspaper design. has a similar focus.

See some of the best front pages at BrassTracksDesign.



Billboards are designed to draw attention and make a quick impact, something that is also important in web design. If you live in a city, chances are you see billboards everywhere you go.

Photo from Fatty Tuna.

Billboardom is a blog that focuses on creative and funny billboards. has a collection of some of the most creative billboard designs you will ever see.

Business Cards

Occasionally you may see a business card design that stands out for some reason or another. Some of the same design concepts in business card design may be applicable to web design as well.

Faveup is a design inspiration gallery that includes business cards.

At Freelance Switch, Collis Ta’eed put together a collection of 18 Smokin’ Hot Business Card Designs .

Business Cards

Creative Bits has their own collection of Cool Business Card Designs.

Business Cards

Tutorial Blog has also gathered some Creative Business Cards.

Design News has a rather large collection of The Coolest Business Cards – Use of Cool Shapes, Textures, Creativity, and Talent.

Inspiredology has a huge gallery of Cool Business Cards.

Dzine Blog has 27 Creative Business Cards You Should’ve Seen.

Flickr has a nice gallery of business cards.


High quality photography can be one of the best sources of design inspiration. The balance and colors that make a photo beautiful may also be able to help you with web design.

The best places online to see photos include Flicker, iStockphoto, and StockXpert.

Book Covers

The cover of a book has a similar impact on sales as the covers of CDs, DVDs, and magazines. By browsing through the shelves at a book store or a local library you’re sure to find some inspirational designs.

The Book Design Review is a blog dedicated to book covers. Two posts worth checking out are My Favorite Book Covers of 2007 and My Favorites of 2006.

This Flickr gallery has a large collection of book cover designs. is a gallery of book covers.

Art Galleries

If your city has an art gallery, take some time to visit and get inspiration from the art work on display. Paintings, sculptures, and other types of art can be excellent examples of design.

Art Gallery

Food Packaging

Some food products take advantage of very well-designed packages. In Asian culture colorful and creative packages are very common.

Food packaging

Flickr has a useful gallery of food packaging, and another gallery of Japanese packaging .

PingMag has several different collections of Japanese packaging, including Cardboard Box Designs, Snack Characters, and Gifted with Beauty.

Looking for hosting? WPEngine offers secure managed WordPress hosting. You’ll get expert WordPress support, automatic backups, and caching for fast page loads.

37 Responses

Comments are now closed on this post.

  • Chad Mueller, March 11, 2008

    Amazing posts of endless amounts of inspiration, to me there is more offline inspiration then online inspiration, and I think it should be that way. Great posts

  • Vandelay Design, March 11, 2008

    Thanks for the feedback Chad. Yeah, you’re probably right about there being more inspiration available offline. Sometimes we get trapped in our little internet bubble.

  • Grace, March 11, 2008

    I like looking at billboards too. I’ve seen some pretty creative designs. :)

  • Vandelay Design, March 11, 2008

    Thanks for your feedback. Yes, I think billboards can be a great source of inspiration. Too bad you only have a few seconds to see it as you drive by.

  • NJ WebGuy, March 12, 2008

    I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment that getting away from the screen once in awhile is good for us. It’s just a bonus that we can get some of our best inspiration out there in the real world.

    I never thought of billboards, probably because it would be difficult (for me, at least) to digest them at driving speed or remember them later.

    I do have quite the collection of clippings though, that I call my inspiration folder. Those full page ads in the national publications are very expensive, and some truly excellent designs can be found in there.

    I have also brought home items from the grocery store solely on the merit that their packaging jumped out at me, so I could rip off the label later for my inspiration folder.

  • Prashant Vikram, March 12, 2008

    Really nice post, I really like your idea of Art Galleries…

  • Vandelay Design, March 12, 2008

    Thanks for your feedback. Yeah, keeping a folder is a good idea. I always intend to do that but I haven’t actually gotten around to it. Trying to explain that you rear ended the car in front of you because you were checking out the design of a billboard would probably not go over to well. I guess it’s better to pay attention to them when you’re in the passenger seat.

  • imaginepaolo, March 13, 2008

    Great resources.

  • job, March 13, 2008

    Usually i will search for idea to make design in comics cover books. I love comics and i’ve got a few blog about Anime. I find it really useful in designing my blog. Anime have lots of imagination and this will give me idea to no end.

  • Paolo, March 13, 2008

    the second business card image is simply fantastic. thanks.

  • Nastya Manno, March 17, 2008

    Thank you very much for your post! I, too, find a source of inspiration in magazines and billboards

  • david Williams, March 18, 2008

    Its very apt that the offline design sources help a lot in inspiring the designers and turn their imagination into creative pursuits.

  • skip, March 20, 2008

    lots of ispiration of imagination but i do believe that offline source still make big influence for lots of idea.

  • Casino, March 27, 2008

    I never thought of billboards, probably because it would be difficult (for me, at least) to digest them at driving speed or remember them later.

  • Ajeet Homes, March 30, 2008

    I agree with your approach. In fact, I think that the much-hyped web 2.0 is all about applying real world models to the Internet.

  • celebrity forum, April 5, 2008

    I love comics and i’ve got a few blog about Anime. I find it really useful in designing my blog. Thank you very much for your post!

  • salvia effects, April 9, 2008

    Those full page ads in the national publications are very expensive, and some truly excellent designs can be found in there. Amazing posts of endless amounts of inspiration

  •, March 8, 2009

    Amazing site! love the easy layout