20 Uncommon Sources of Creative Inspiration

Bored with Behance? Seen everything on Comm Arts 1,000 times? The next time you’re looking for inspiration for your design, advertising, or marketing project, check out a few sources from off the beaten path to get your creative juices flowing.

The World of Fashion

Cutting-edge fashion synthesizes culture and history, often while pushing the boundaries of engineering. Here are a few contemporary designers who are also considered creative geniuses.

  1. Late British designer Alexander McQueen pushed the envelope for form and function in fashion: the iconic knuckle-ring clutch and Lady Gaga’s famous armadillo boots are masterpieces of industrial design.
  2. Avant-garde Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo is loved for her sense of whimsy and elaborate construction. Believe it or not, this look that Rihanna sported at the 2017 Met Ball is one of the designer’s more accessible pieces.
  3. You could describe Rick Owens’ signature style as “maximal minimalism,” but his clothes demonstrate how far you can go just by playing with proportions.
  4. Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen takes an architectural approach to fashion design, often creating her own textiles. She’s even collaborated with famed architect Rem Koolhaas on 3D printed shoes.
  5. The Mulleavy sisters (otherwise known as Rodarte) tend to polarize critics, but they’ve won fans with their painstaking handiwork and intellectual approach to fashion.

Retail Stores

Even though it feels like everything is online all the time, 94% of all retail sales are made at a physical store. And the retailers who want to keep it that way are pulling out all the stops to attract and engage their customers.

  1. You’re probably already studying Nike’s ads; why not dig a little deeper and be awestruck by what they’re doing that’s breathing new life into retail?
  2. Rebecca Minkoff’s New York flagship store takes personalization to new levels and aims to be the future of retail.
  3. Grocery stores aren’t very sexy, but the national chain Kroger is integrating cutting-edge technology that delivers personalized pricing and offers to cement the value of brick-and-mortar shopping.
  4. High-end appliance retailer Pirch has created an in-store experience that makes shopping for ovens and refrigerators whimsical and fun.
  5. Take a trip to your local Apple store and just poke around. The design is equal parts art, science, and magic, offering up a uniquely immersive experience. The New York store has been named one of the world’s most beautiful shops.

Board Games

Board game design is like an elaborate exercise in creative problem-solving. While the humble board game can’t come close to matching the innovative bells and whistles of their digital counterparts, playing a game (and studying the packaging) can help get you out of a creative slump.

  1. Saturday Night Live is a board game. Who knew? With its vibrant colors and iconic images, you might even buy it for the packaging alone.
  2. Over the years, you’ve probably seen Cranium a million times at Starbucks, but it’s worth checking out, especially because it was designed to foster creativity.
  3. Take a look at these 15 reconceived chessboards, and imagine how you could breathe new life into the traditional way of doing things.
  4. Creativity is often tied to ego, so why not make something where you have no expectations? Sagrada is a competition to build the best stained glass masterpiece.
  5. It’s more of a parlor game, but a few rounds of Exquisite Corpse, the collaborative game where people take turns blindly assembling a story or an illustration, can get you excited about collaboration.

If all else fails…

  1. Go to an immersive theater event—imagine being one of only two audience members in an elaborate, six-hour production.
  2. Find a museum with interactive or hands-on exhibits. Think the International Spy Museum in D.C. or the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia.
  3. Sit at a train station and people-watch.
  4. Listen to your favorite music in the dark.
  5. Go back to the source of what made you want to pursue a creative career in the first place.

Above all, when you’re stuck or uninspired, keep your mind open. Be receptive to, and ready for, new ideas and inspiration that may come at you from anywhere. To avoid mental inspiration ruts altogether, regularly expose yourself to new things — even things you don’t think you’ll like. It’s all about nudging your brain into unexpected territory and continuing to expand your own internal creative inspo database.

Lisa is a Creative Circle candidate and seasoned advertising copywriter who lives in Los Angeles. Her background includes both in-house and agency work on Fortune 500 and global accounts in the consumer and healthcare/pharmaceutical fields. She excels at words, fashion, and cats. If you want to work with Lisa, contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.


  1. Sarfaraz says:

    Mate, you have a endowment. A talent to write highly wonderful articles and on a very ordered basis. I must say that this is a rare talent and you are really making full use of that talent. Good to see that.

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