I once had a design professor who told me to keep a scrapbook. To rip out ads from magazines, cut out fonts from books, take pictures of places that influence me, but I never did it. I never took the time to look at what was all around me and only relied on my faded memory of the things that once inspired me. I was always too eager to open photoshop and put my first thought into an already doomed composition.


As I got into the design profession I started to gain a wider perspective on the mechanics of client projects. Without even knowing it, the scrapbook I should have been keeping evolved into a desktop folder called, “Ideas”. As a I stumbled through the interwebs, I would start taking screen-captures of things that grabbed my eye and added depth to my imagination. Once a project was awarded to me, instead of running to my design applications, I would take a step back and start looking at this folder that had accumulated a spectrum of elements that sparked new ideas. I realized that this form of digital scrapbooking was an effective device to start the creative conversation. Most of the time these screen-captures would show up in mood boards to present to clients and gain an understanding of what elements inspire them. Or, when the creative process hits a wall, a lot of times I will look through my folder and a solution usually presents itself.

It should be noted that I’m not copying anyones work or ripping things off the internet and placing them in my designs. The elements I collect are a visual resource that feeds creativity and inspires new ideas. A lot of times it’s very hard to verbally express an idea; but to be able to present these elements and show your audience a cool font or color palette with different textures, they’re able to gain access to your vision.

Today my “ideas” folder has over two thousand items and close to ten years of trends. Keeping a digital scrapbook is something I encourage any designer to practice. There are even apps today such as SpringPad and Pinterest to help organize the elements you collect. The things you collect could be as simple as a texture from a photo on flickr or a new movie poster from Joblo.com. It really doesn’t matter what it is, but the sum of the relationship of these pieces are most likely the foundation of your next idea. The great French film director Jean Renoir, was quoted by Syd Field saying, “If you paint the leaf on a tree without using a model your imagination will only supply you with a few leaves; but Nature offers you millions, all on the same tree. No two leaves are exactly the same. The artist who paints only what is in his mind must very soon repeat himself.”

Designers, do you also use a digital scrapbook? Let us know what you use!