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  • Where do designers get materials?

    For my college design classes, we are to keep a "morgue file" of interesting design and typography that we can find. To help with mine, I've ordered as many free samples as I could from printing companies, as well as a few paper swatchbooks (which are pretty awesome).

    As I've been collecting things, I've always wondered how most real-life designers get their 'samples' for a lack of a better term. I mean like are there some resources I don't know about yet to obtain interesting pieces for inspiration or to get a feel for a certain material? Or do you just find them as you go about your days?

    I know that might seem like a weird question, lol. I've just only been able to find digital resources and I'm very interested in the physical resources as well.


  • #2
    There's a difference between a Morgue file and a sample file.
    A morgue file is a go-to for ideas. It isn't necessarily a filebox of stuff either. Mine contains a collection of junk as well and it all lives in a cabinet in my "home office" (read cellar workspace).

    My illustration morgue file is filled with cuts from old magazines. Closeups of hands especially as I always seem to need a reference to draw them accurately. But also full of poses, pictures of animals, buildings, trees, plants...anything I find inspiring or think is cool. I used to get magazines from the recycle bin at the dump but even some of the silly catalogs you get in the mail can be a good source for poses.

    While Samples may be a source for ideas, you need to keep them more under control and more current. You also have to have some idea of the cost and size limitations of the material/paper. My sample file at work takes up the underside of a 4' x 8' table – but I work with a LOT of different materials besides papers. I have a swatch wall on the inside of my office closet door for all the fabrics/vinyls/etc we print on. I have a box full of acrylic chain sets, another box full of board substrates, a shelf filled with sample prints of weird and hard to find things. And I'm not a designer.
    Part of my job is to stay current on all the current large format printing processes available out there.
    Last edited by PrintDriver; 12-26-2010, 03:39 PM.


    • #3
      I've never heard of a morgue file, so I definitely learned something new!

      I don't have all the resources like PrintDriver (though I wish I did) but I have a blog that I try and keep up every week where I find things (whether virtual or physical) that I find inspiring. I find most things inspiring, including some of the gift card giveaways they have because I love to look at the photography and the writing for inspiration. Also, any magazines are inspiring (especially the advertisements).

      I don't do this, but I know someone that has a camera with them and they snap pictures of things that are interesting as they go about the day. When you get home, you could look at the pictures and see if one of the pictures or something in the pictures inspires you.


      • #4
        Actually, the best place to get sample-type stuff is at trade shows. Go to print shows, sign maker shows (if you're into logo design, why haven't you gone to at least one?), designer shows (if you can afford them). Even though the seminars are usually informative, if you can't afford the full ticket, it usually only costs about $30 to get onto just the demo floor.

        When I go to the SGIA show I send home two or three boxes/tubes of samples. There's usually a FedEx outlet inside or very near the venues for just that sort of thing so you don't have to lug them on the plane.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Abbster22 View Post

          I don't do this, but I know someone that has a camera with them and they snap pictures of things that are interesting as they go about the day. When you get home, you could look at the pictures and see if one of the pictures or something in the pictures inspires you.

          Ive been trying to get in this habit myself. Ive been an SLR guy for a while and never could do this without feeling like a creep With cellphones today, it makes it a lot easier. I recently took an hour every couple days and took pictures of some typography I found around town.


          • #6
            DT566-I confess that the question is a tad confusing to me. Materials specifically? Or inspiration? Each have a plethora to offer. Limited only to your imagination and the printer's capabilities.
            Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.


            • #7
              I never knew what a "morgue file" was I did wonder where the site got the name from. They have free user submitted pics by the way


              • #8
                I thought morgue file meant a client rejected piece that you collect up in case you can reuse these bits for future works. No point reinventing the wheel if it's already been partially built and not used for anything else. That's what I assumed was based on.
                It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh


                • #9
                  A morgue file, as per the grand Wikipedia:
                  A morgue file originally was the paper-folders containing old files and notes that were kept by criminal investigators, and old article clippings kept by newspaper reporters, in case they became of later use as a quick-reference.
                  In modern usage, its scope has expanded to cover many post-production materials for use of reference, or an inactive job file. The term is popular in the newspaper business to describe the file that holds past issues flats. The term has also been used by illustrators, comic book artists, designers and teachers.
                  Anyway, to answer a confusing question, I'm looking for a place where I can get physical resources. Whenever I google something along the lines of 'Graphic Design Resources' I mostly just get things like photoshop tutorials or vector graphics when I want things like swatchbooks or matte samplings of real-life things.


                  • #10
                    In addition towards my last post, these websites show awesome design by students. I want to be able to design packaging for fun and the process of learning, but I don't know what materials to use, or how to get access to them.




                    • #11
                      Originally posted by deepthinker566 View Post
                      In addition towards my last post, these websites show awesome design by students. I want to be able to design packaging for fun and the process of learning, but I don't know what materials to use, or how to get access to them.
                      When I answer a question like this I sometimes have to wonder what kind of monster gets let loose in the world. Please, if you are going to print onto anything that you've never done before, call your printer before you even begin designing.

                      The internet is your friend. What are you looking for? Real raw materials like board stock and bottles? Or ready made boxes. Uline is a good resource for all kinds of boxy like things. Any big art supply house can get you the stock you need if you want to fold your own. If you want printing on foils and such, find a sign shop with a Gerber Edge printer or other type of similar thermal printer that prints to metallic paper and vinyls. Sign shops are more apt to do one-offs but remember they will probably have a minimum order charge.

                      Check out
                      Lots of resources there.

                      The thing about trying to enter a specialized field is there are just some things you don't learn on your own. If you want to go into package design, take some Industrial Design classes or do your time working with/for someone who does this. Same goes for Logo Design and sign work, Trade Show and Corporate Events, TV, lots of things. There really isn't a book out there that's going to help you (other than maybe a dedicated textbook for ID that I haven't found yet). There are a few trade resources but you have to know what to do with the materials they list.


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