How do you organise design inspirations/files?

Hi everyone!

I’m looking for a way to organise a large collection of reference/assets/ ALL IN ONE place on MacOS would be a plus if it could work on Windows too!

I’ve tried Pixa, Ember, Pixave but it seems to be discontinued.
I like Pinterest and Dribble but saving the pictures for reference is always painful it took too much time and the quality arent always the best.

Would love to see if there’s any tips or tool recommendations for organising them ALL IN ONE place? thanks in advance!

Adobe Bridge. I have a folder called Reference, then subfolders for about 100 different design elements: catalog covers, catalog order forms, table of contents, newsletters, social media graphics, powerpoint graphics, company logos, etc. A good thing about Bridge is that it’s easy to create a contact sheet from a selection of images. My clients are always asking about what their peers are doing, and it takes me a minute to put together contact sheets. Easy way to impress them.

Additionally, you can use Bridge to add keywords to batches of images, which makes it easier to find specific images on your computer.

I’ve never understood Pinterest. Usually, when I need inspiration for a project I research the project and competitors for the thing I’m working on.

I don’t understand why anyone ‘scrapbooks’ designs for inspiration later on.

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Same here. I have a huge scrapbook I use on a project by project basis. The internet.

For me to keep go-to examples for project inspiration approaches design from the wrong angle. It means you are being driven by style, rather than the problem at hand. Each project demands individual research.

Of course I have books, favourite sites, etc, which I find inspiring and some objects which are generally inspirational. For example, I have three original pencil drawings from Linotype of some Baskerville glyphs. Truly amazing level of beauty and skill. I never look at them without being humbled and inspired in equal measure. Do I use them for direct project inspiration? No. They fall into the Morris view of surrounding yourself with the beautiful or useful.

Have spent some time trying to find an effective platform to sort these files too, to no avail. Ended up creating a folder where I would dump these images which I think are special.

For me, gathering and managing such an archive would be a complete waste of time—time I don’t have in the first place.

Just the other day I ran across a small box. Inside was one of my reference photo morgues from the early 90s. I gotta say I was pretty darn good at taking photos of TV screen images back then, LOL (references for Fan Art “commissions.”) Plus there were a whole lot of modeled hands and feet, tree branches and cat pics, all in foreshortened views - poor old Boots was a very patient kitty!
Other than the photos of Boots, they all went in the trash.

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Way back when mastodons roamed the Earth near the end of the last ice age in the 1980s, many of the illustrators I worked with kept extensive morgues of reference materials. When they ran across a good painting of a saber-toothed tiger or giant ground sloth, they’d chip it off the cave wall and hide it in a hole in the ground under some rocks.

Fast forward to the 2020s, and that’s no longer necessary. The internet makes hundreds of pictures of giant ground sloths just a click or two away. Sometimes if I see something I really like and want to save it, I’ll still squirrel it away under a rock somewhere, but that’s not often.

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Nice comment, Just-B. Good advice, too! I used to keep a photo morgue as well, but since I was doing far more than just design (such as creating entire print and broadcast ad campaigns), I often used other methods, such as flipping through magazines or playing “dictionary roulette”, picking random, unrelated words and seeing how I might create something new out of association.

For example, I once needed to create an ad for a local upscale restaurant for a magazine that would be sent to all the incoming participants of conferences to be held in my city, most of whom were from out of state or out of country. As I was flipping through a magazine I noticed an article about SAAB Aircraft Engines (made in France), and I thought …

Hmmm, if I went to a foreign country or even a different state outside of the southern U.S., they would think I talk funny (because of my accent and vise-versa). That immediately led me to thinking how food has an accent. And BINGO!—my mind formed the Headline for the body copy, which was — “(Client Name) Great Food With A Kentucky Accent.” — Ta, da!

I agree with you, @PopsD. I’ve always found that, for lack of a better word, non-linear thinking processes produce some of the most creative solutions to challenging design problems.

In addition to the techniques you just mentioned, sometimes, for me, it’s just a matter of intentionally shifting gears to get one’s mind thinking differently. For example, when I’m trying to come up with a conceptual solution to a design problem, I’ll ride my bike, walk to Starbucks in the middle of the day, thumb through some old design annuals, or just lie down on a sofa like Don Draper and daydream about something completely different. Sitting things aside and not thinking about them until the next day often works too.

The point is to let (or even force) one’s mind wander off the path a bit rather than proceeding along in the rut that keeps us from exploring new territory and allowing novel juxtapositions to occur. Sometimes, ideas come fast, but in those instances where that doesn’t happen, what you and I have both described typically works — at least for me.

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Thank you everyone for the reply!! I know my way sounds a bit old school in 2021 trying to organise all the reference :laughing: but it gave me a sense of security while doing the sorting either way nothing is wrong as long as we continue to be creative :slight_smile:

Just want to share my findings for those who are old school like me you can try the management tool: raindrop or Eagle
I found both of them to be pretty intuitive and friendly!

Raindrop supports mobile/desktop which is a plus, beautiful interface and easy to bookmark what you find online, easy tagging, support most documents, you can also do teamwork too!

Eagle mainly does desktop only but the rich features are mind-blowing!
Especially for its extension and image annotation/tagging. I can organize, search and browse through hundreds of items whether bookmark or files ALL IN ONE PLACE! yay! for designers you may also be surprised by the rich formats it supports.
I’m very pleased.

However, the downside is that it requires some space in your computer tho this may be solved by external hard drives or sync with cloud services.

anyway, thank you again! may everyone finds your own way of organising :slight_smile: :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

WOW, can I relate to that! When I was just starting my new advertising agency in 1982, I had the chance to win a huge client (a Mall located in St. Louis, MO) and needed to come up with an ad campaign. Being stuck, creatively, all morning, I hopped in my car and started driving around the circular by-pass surrounding my city. I let my conscious mind get occupied with the driving process, while my sub-conscious started working on why people shop Malls with a “fashion” oriented market position and BANG!—out of the clear blue I came up with a slogan I could develop a complete ad campaign around—“The Compliments Will Keep You Coming Back!” Needless to say, I won the account which at the time was one of the top four clients on my roster (both broadcast and print) and kept them for over seven years.

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