Look No Further for Inspiration

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

The Inspiration Store—Places to Tantalize Your Imagination

The inspiration for your successful corporate communications can be found in the least likely places. Indeed, most creative people probably do not produce their content while sitting at the corner Starbucks and typing away on their tablets or laptops.

As a result, I have compiled a list of some unlikely retail stores which can spark your imagination:

Rolls of silk in shopFabric stores are great places to find interesting continuous patterns and textures. Buy a yard or two of fabric, scan it, and digitize it and then manipulate it using a photo-imaging program. Thrift stores also have quirky clothing with printed patterns that could also be used for the backdrop behind mastheads or pull quotes. Paisley patterns can make interesting graphical elements for elegant invitations. Just make sure that the fabric or garment you select does not have a copyright.

The samples of collection ceramic tileTile stores have some of the best patterns around. Pieces of tile can be very organic and can provide unusual twists of color. Tiles arranged in rows can also create a unique checkerboard square pattern that can be used behind mastheads, on covers of reports or for border treatments.

Bookstores are a wonderful resource for new graphical ideas. Look at book covers.  Indeed, the art needs to sell the book.  Generally the cover art is really effective in grabbing one’s attention in just a few seconds. Take notes and makes sketches.  These will come in handy later.

Flower shops can provide unique color combinations along with interesting organic shapes. Buy a few exotic flowers and take some close up photos of the petals or inner center shapes. These can provide interesting graphical shapes for logos, illustrated patterned textures or photo backgrounds.  (See SuccessfulCorporateCommunications.com blog post, Color Me Pink.)

Plums and fresh apricotsGrocery stores are a great place to takephotos of foods and nuts and other bulk items. Indeed, the produce aisle offers an array of delicious fruits and vegetables.  These can also be used as great backgrounds for mastheads or pull quotes or simply as stand along graphical images. (See Successful CorporateCommunications.com blog, Open Your Refrigerator and Head to the Salad Bar.)

Bakeries are a great place to photograph sweets. Think of how captivating a backdrop of fresh bread or tart pastries might be in your food or cooking newsletter.  Where’s the milk?

Nurseries offer great opportunities to snap some quick shots of plants. Leaves and greenery makes for great graphical elements in any page layout.  (See SuccessfulCorporateCommunications.com blog, Leaf It Alone.)

Electric GuitarsMusic stores are great places to get reference material for music newsletters, elegant invitations or concert program brochures. Sheet music can also be blurred and screened back in the layout, but be careful of copyrights.

Hardware stores and lumber yards offer a wide variety of nuts, bolts, brass plumbing connectors as well as tubes and pipes. Take close-up shots of brass connectors and the ends of sprinkler (PCV) pipe stacked in a box. Stacked lumber also makes for an interesting visual. These retail establishments provide a great opportunity to discover exciting new patterns and shapes.

Bike stores are nice places to photograph bike tires, wheels and bike gear. Take shots of the gears, pedals, spokes and tire treads. You’ll love the graphical shapes that can add a new dynamic to your client’s newsletter.

Just a suggestion…

Look around you.  Open your eyes.  See what you see.  You’ll be surprised at how much rich content is right in front of your nose.


If your company needs an innovative newsletter, annual report, elegant event invitation or just plain creative consulting, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit westdesign.com.

Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundreds of publications for both print and online purposes.