Where to Find Poster Design Inspiration

It’s pretty easy to find jaw-dropping poster designs. They’re at rock festivals. All over Pinterest and Facebook. Not to mention your favorite design blogs. But where do all the ideas for those great poster designs come from?

We talked with three awesome design shops—Hero Design Studio, TOMMYINK and These Are Things—about three recent poster designs. They told us exactly where the poster design inspiration for each one came from and how they stay inspired for the next poster and the one after that and, well, you get the picture.

Hero Design Studio: A Rockin’ Concert Poster 


The work: A poster for a Black Keys concert in Buffalo New York

The inspiration: The city. Before moving to Long Beach, California, the couple behind Hero Design Studio spent years designing and screen-printing posters in Buffalo, New York. And this first-hand knowledge gave them insider knowledge about some of the city’s best landmarks.

“We took everything that’s there and put it in one spot,” says Mark Brickey, one-half of Hero and the man behind the Adventures in Design podcast. “You could never see all this stuff from one place. The poster is more like you’d experience the city on a thrill ride or attraction.” Bonus: The geographic concept was popular with local concert-goers.

On finding awesome ideas: “If you sit down to work on a project and you don’t have 10 ideas that you have to fight down to one, maybe this isn’t the industry for you,” Brickey says. “You should be inspired by everything around you all the time. To be inspired is to be alive in my mind.”

Quick inspiration hit: Brickey suggests asking, “What have I found in the world that I’m excited about?” In fact, living an interesting life may be the best inspiration of all.

TOMMYINK: Craft Beer + Extinct Wildlife


The work: A poster for Rhinegeist Brewery’s seasonal beer, Saber Tooth Tiger Imperial IPA.

The inspiration: It’s all in the names. Rhinegeist means ghost of the river and Tommy Sheehan, the man behind TOMMYINK, thought Saber Tooth Tiger was an incredible name for a beer. “I wanted to create something that would bring back the dead,” he says. “This saber tooth tiger skull seemed like a perfect fit.”

For the overall look and feel, Sheehan found inspiration in the hand-drawn, one-color sensibility of old boxing t-shirts. He also researched saber tooth tiger skulls before he dug into illustrating one. Originally, there were beer hops inside the skull, but that design proved too busy, so he moved the hops to the side.

On finding awesome ideas: “It’s just really natural,” Sheehan says. “I try not to try too hard. An image will just pop up and I’ll write it down.”

Quick inspiration hit: Pay attention to the things that stick in your brain. A CNN article about a British WWII plane discovered in the desert inspired Sheehan to create a whimsical poster with a fighter plane and heart balloons for a music festival. He couldn’t stop thinking about that pilot, who had exited the plane after landing, and what might run through your head if you were trying to escape the desert.

These Are Things: Time and Travel (But Not Time Travel)

thesearethings-2014calendarThe Work: A 2014 adventure calendar in the form of a poster.

The Inspiration: A poster doesn’t always have to just be a poster. “We like to explore the utility of the poster,” says Jen Adrion, These Are Things. In this case, she and her partner Omar Noory combined a calendar with a fresh take on their popular modern world map image. The result is the 2014 adventure calendar.

It’s the perfect excuse to start planning the upcoming year’s travels and spruce up your environment. “We like to switch out the artwork on our walls,” she says. “I love chance to start a new year with a colorful calendar on the wall.” It’s also a practical business move. Retailers often ask the pair if they have a calendar, because it’s such a wonderful gift offering.

On finding awesome ideas: “We make a specific point to get away from the computer when we’re seeking inspiration,” Adrion says. “For us, a lot of it is from travel.” A new environment means you’ll notice all kinds of new things, from cool graffiti to weird décor. “It’s effortless at that point when you’re out exploring the world,” she says.

Quick inspiration hit: Try your hand treasure hunting at a few antique fairs. Adrion and Noory love combing them for vintage travel memorabilia, everything from dated maps to gorgeous old airline boarding passes. “We like to look back at that more glamorous age of travel,” she says.

So where do you find poster design inspiration? What’s your best technique for keeping your ideas fresh for everyday design projects?


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