21 Ways To Get Visual Ideas


When you’re stuck, in a rut or brain drained, it’s hard to be creative on demand. Here are some resources that may give you ideas and strategies for approaches to visual design.

You may find inspiration for designing an entire course, a title screen, a job aid or a way to make an abstract concept concrete. Please share your favorite inspiration resources in the Comments section below.

1. Graphic Design Portfolios

Look through the portfolios of designers and artists at these sites, which serve as platforms to showcase creative work and collections.

2. Magazines

Browse online and print magazines to observe the layout, typography and ideas used in advertisements.

3. Design Museums

4. Advertising

visual-ideas25. Retro Design

Certain audiences and content lend themselves to a retro or vintage look. Study examples at these sites to see the attributes you can use for a retro look.

6. Information Graphics and Visualizations

Real infographics (not infoposters) could be used more frequently to facilitate learning. Perhaps you’ll find a solution to your problem by viewing the wonderful variety found at these sites.

7. Animation

Even if you don’t plan on creating motion graphics, animations can show effective ways to visualize concepts.

visual-ideas38. Poster Design

9. Stock Photo Sites

Search stock photo sites and image galleries for concepts that have you stumped. You don’t necessarily need to buy or use an image. This is a way you can see how others are visualizing a concept in ways you hadn’t imagined. It’s a good starting point for ideas to flourish.

10. Typography

There’s so much to learn about type. Before you use it as a dominant graphical element, check these sites for inspiration.

11. “Best Designed” Websites

12. Visual Design Books

Start a collection of visual design books that have lots of examples for inspiration. Buying used books through online stores reduces costs.

visual-ideas413. Photography

14. Comics

Most people appreciate that storytelling through comics appeals to many learners. It’s also a more complex style than meets the eye. Here are some sites to check out the visual language and storytelling features of comics.

15. Interactive Graphics

16. PowerPoint & Keynote Slide Decks

visual-ideas217. Album and CD Covers

18. Label Design and Packaging

19. Book Cover Designs

20. Children’s Books

21. Playing Card Design

Some learning games lend themselves to playing card activities (physical or digital). Here are ideas for designing the cards.

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  1. Jennifer Kennedy says

    Great ideas! I’ve recently started a Google Doc where I keep all of my inspiration. So, if I’m searching around the net, I take a quick screenshot and add to the doc — just for future reference.

    And, you can take design ideas from loads of different places — I was just inspired by the Loews Hotel website to add text to my photos!

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Leslie says

    Hi, Connie

    Thank you for putting together this AWESOME list of resources! I’ll definitely be digging through these over the next few weeks.

    Re: Google Docs / clipping / Evernote … I’m a HUGE fan of OneNote (which most people have on their computers and never use!)

    All the best,

  3. Jane Bozarth says

    A couple more:
    Good stuff, Connie! Thanks. Here are a couple more ideas:

    1. A friend recently sent around an online quiz that was basically free-association, with the provision that answers be only nouns: “What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word idea…motivate…safety…, etc.” Afterward she said she was using the results to get ideas for visuals for an eLearning program.
    2. I know you (Connie) share my interest in sketchnoting I’ve been working on teaching myself to sketchnote and find looking at other’s work to be really useful. It’s helping me to expand my “visual vocabulary” particularly in thinking of images to represent concepts. Google will get you lots of good examples; I especially like the entries for the “Sketchnotes Challenge”.

  4. Vince Sutherland says

    One of my all time favorites for design concepts has been The Zen Garden (http://www.csszengarden.com/), which started out as a competition to see how to effectively use CSS in web design. The creativity is astounding and has so many good ideas / concepts.

  5. Joe Kirby says


    Good newsletter.

    I use google images all the time as an aid to visualization. It is a great way to get ideas, and saves me a lot of time.

    For stock photos with rights for use, Wylio is my go to site.

  6. Connie Malamed says

    Great addition, Vince! I used to frequent Zen Garden back in the day, but haven’t been there in a long time. Can’t wait to check it out. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Jenny S. says

    Awesome list Connie! I can’t wait to share this with my team.

    I appreciate everyone else’s additional sites and ideas for inspiration.

  8. Gayle Stone says

    Thank you for this information Connie! I am returning to elearning after a few years, and my main concern is about presentation and graphic design. So this is just what I wanted!

    Cheers for this


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