7 Ways to Increase Your Creativity in Web Design

Colored Pencils

For all types of designers inspiration and creativity are vital to success. If you read many blogs in the web design community I’m sure you’re familiar with posts of inspirational designs and, of course, CSS galleries . We’re so used to seeing the 100+ CSS galleries that exist to the point that many designers tend to rely on them too heavily.

While it’s productive and helpful to see excellent examples of work from other web designers, basing to much of your inspiration on other sites can lead to a lack of variety and innovation in design. Fortunately, there are countless other ways to improve upon the creativity of your designs. Let’s take a look at 7 of them.

1. Get Inspiration Offline

Most of us spend hours online everyday, that’s just the nature of being a web designer. However, there’s a whole world of inspiration around us that we tend to forget about. Other types of design, such as printed publications and interior design, are excellent sources that can often be translated into creativity online. Nature and the outdoors itself can provide design inspiration. Photography, even clothing, the list could go on and on.

For more on offline inspiration:

2. Flickr Groups

Flickr is not only a great place to store your pictures, it can be an excellent source of inspiration for designers. In addition to having a personal account, you can also join Flicker groups. Each group has a unique purpose, and there are literally hundreds that exist for various aspects of design. By simply browsing through images uploaded by group members you can find all kinds of great and creative work.

PSDTUTS has its own Flickr group, which I highly suggest you visit if you have an interest in Photoshop and graphic design. A few months ago I posted a collection of 99 different Flickr groups to follow for design inspiration. Many focus on Photoshop or graphic design, while others focus on various aspects, such as typography.

3. Experiment with Color

Color schemes make a profound difference on the end result of a design. Personally, I find experimentation to be the most beneficial thing I can do when trying to develop something creative. Often something will look good in my mind’s eye, but when it’s on the screen it’s a different story.

If you’ve got a design that just doesn’t quite seem complete, try experimenting and playing around with color combinations. You may find that something you try will give the design a whole new look that really stands out. For some great color-related info, see:

4. Experiment with Backgrounds

Over the last few years large background images have become more and more common. With a higher percentage of internet users on high speed connections, large images don’t have the same negative effect that they used to have for so many of your visitors. If you’re looking to make a site standout, a creative background image may be just the right thing.

To see some examples of effective use of background images, see:

5. Experiment with Fonts

Much like color schemes, changing the fonts or the typography of a design can make a world of difference. In the case of typography, it’s usually a bit more of a subtle change than if you were changing color schemes. Sites with excellent typography often have a professional, complete look where it’s hard to identify specifically what looks so good.

It’s easy to find yourself spending hours playing around with different fonts, font sizes and colors. For this reason it can be helpful to visit some sites that have a number of fonts on display so you can quickly narrow down your choices. Here are some places to start:

6. Improve Your Photoshop Skills

Creativity and Photoshop go hand in hand. Those designers who are well-skilled in Photoshop can create just about anything, and they’re never unable to come up with something unique or creative. If you find yourself struggling to get your designs to come out the way you want them to, try brushing up on your Photoshop skills.

There are all kinds of books written on Photoshop if you visit your local library or bookstore. Fortunately, there are just as many quality resources online that you can learn from. My personal favorites for Photoshop tutorials are PSDTUTS and Abduzeedo.

7. Start on Paper

I think many of us tend to open up Photoshop or start coding right away. While your design process should be whatever works best for you, give the pencil and paper a chance. Some people are able to be more creative by working in different ways, and paper works well for some designers. Personally, I start most designs on paper to quickly run through a few different layout possibilities. Others use paper to develop more intricate mockups.

For more on sketching and design, see:

What Are Your Favorite Methods?

How do you go about improving the creativity of your designs?

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30 Responses

Comments are now closed on this post.

  • Mohamed Fawzy, April 30, 2012

    thanks , so much
    it’s very usefull

  • Avirat, August 31, 2010

    Hey thatz really a great post, very informative. I would like to use it in my wordpress blog on “Creativity in Web” with your permission. Is it okay?

    • Vandelay Website Design, August 31, 2010

      Full posts cannot be re-published, but excerpts are ok with a link back to the original post.

  • Mothership, August 2, 2009


    I am pretty sure I used to do this as a child; unfortunately it wasn’t as well received as I would’ve liked! I didn’t go as far as some children though, who used to eat the crayons…

  • Chaz DeSimone, August 2, 2009

    Open a box of Crayolas, throw them all into the air, and pick groups off the floor as they landed to create or inspire new palettes. (Reading the color names can lead to creativity too!)

  • Vandelay Design, July 10, 2008

    Thanks for the compliment. Pencil and paper can definitely work for most people. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jack Keller, July 10, 2008

    Love the new Look! Okay, now that’s out of the way. These are great tips, I fell back on the old pencil and paper method when I was under a tremendous “Designers Block”. It helped me let the ideas flow out better, if I had an idea in my mind I’d put pencil to paper and close my eyes to try to replicate it. This didn’t always work but sometimes would lend itself to an even better idea! You have some other great points on inspiration and creativity. I also sometimes just type in random words to Google Images and see what comes up, but the Flickr method is probably better for that sort of thing. Keep up the good work! – Jack

  • Judy Mc, July 8, 2008

    Wow, what a great site and great information, I wish I have read your blog information before redesigning my personal site – now I have to do it over!

  • Mark Abucayon, July 4, 2008

    I like reading this one, I got new ideas here.

  • Wsdcent, July 2, 2008

    Thanks for sharing with us, great tutorial,like it. ways to get inspiration

  • Mothership, June 28, 2008

    I think no.1 is exactly where it should be – no. 1. If we draw inspiration from off line, we can bring what we’re creating on line closer to the real world. There’s also the added benefit that maybe – just maybe – something new that hasn’t been seen on line before will be created.


  • adelle, June 27, 2008

    Great post and good links to check out. Thanks!

  • Shanna, June 26, 2008

    @Matthew.. sessions is great.. check out their POP pdfs.. good tips.. On the main page >> “make your portfolio POP” :)

  • Matthew Griffin, June 26, 2008

    Great list, Steven. Also, I had never heard of the school Shanna mentioned… very cool.

  • One of Twenty, June 26, 2008

    Great Post!

    I completely agree about starting with pencil on paper. I find it easy to sketch a bunch of designs quickly and throw away the ones that aren’t working before spending time in photoshop.

  • Vandelay Design, June 26, 2008

    Another good suggestion. Thanks.

  • Felicity Evans, June 26, 2008

    I find Deviant Art [http://www.deviantart.com] a great source of inspiration. I especially like to download wallpapers, so that I can let it soak in!

  • Vandelay Design, June 25, 2008

    Thanks for your comments on the new look.

    That’s a good suggestion. Something I haven’t tried before. Thanks!

  • Shanna, June 25, 2008

    LOVE the new look. :)

    I often take a peak at the student gallery at sessions.edu <– great for inspiration.