This past week, I’ve found myself involved in multiple conversations about keeping and organizing inspiration folders. I have a fairly elaborate, yet strangely simple system that I’ve been using for a few years that some people seem to be interested in. I think all designers keep a folder like this to some extent so thought it might be helpful to break down my system here for those that are interested.
This is a different kind of post than usually appears on the blog, but I think it fits into the overall arc I’ve established here as it can be a factor in doing your best creative work. And let’s face it, we’re all nerds here. We love peeking under the hood to see how something works and finding better taxonomies and systems. If posts about technology, organization, taxonomy, general nerdity aren’t your thing, you can stop right here. But, if you are into that sort of thing or are simply looking for a better way to organize your inspiration folder, then hop on in. It could be a long ride. Ready? Let’s go!
The Tools I Use
I’ve long had a fascination with workflows. I love reading how creative people do their work—what tools they use and how those tools help them out. I tend to juggle my time between class work and freelance projects, as well as the usual couple of personal projects I’m working on. When in school, I find it even more important to keep it all organized to make sure everything gets done when it needs to. I thought it may be of interest to highlight the four main. tools I use to achieve this on a daily basis.
It’s interesting to note that all of these tools are web based. While in school, it’s important for me to access these from various locations throughout the day. Between my iPhone and online services, this can be possible. Background synchronization could be one of the best things about the internet. I haven’t thought about travel drives and local files in months. The cloud is the future!
Anyway, here are the tools I use to stay organized, control time management, and generally make sure everything gets done.
“And the work is: Only Collect; that is to say, collect everything, indiscriminately. You’re five years old. Don’t presume too much to know what’s important and what isn’t. Photocopy journal articles, photograph archives; create bibliographies, buy books; make notes on every article or book you read, even if it’s just one line saying “Never read this again”; collect newspaper clippings and email them to yourself; collect quotes; save your ideas for future papers, future projects, future conferences, even if they seem wildly implausible now. Hoarding must become instinctual, it must be an uncontrollable, primal urge.”
—From Rachel Leow’s article on being a good historian.
Every [good] designer I know keeps an inspiration file—photos, images, illustrations, designs, etc—full of things they come across on a daily basis so when those moments of creative block hit, a quick flip through the file will spark some creative juices and at the very least, jump start a project. I noticed an interesting trend lately while going through my own folder and that was that I’m saving less and less “graphic design” and much more things outside of the field—photos of cars, shoes, quotes, etc. The wider your reference is, the easier you’ll be able to pull ideas and you’ll become a better designer.
Rachel goes on to talk about the importance of organizing your collections so when you go back to them months later, you won’t be surprised or confused about why something is included. Evernote makes this a breeze for me. I clip images online all day long and drop them right into Evernote, tagging them based on standard criteria such as “illustration” or “graphic design” or “photography” and then more specific tags like “mid-century” and “black and white” and “collage.” Now when I want to go back and find something, I can usually find it with in minutes.