Finding Inspiration on Craigslist

You can find a lot of things on Craigslist – a car, a sofa, a slightly-used copy of of Super Smash Bros. Melee for Nintendo Gamecube, maybe even true love. But did you know that you can also find abundant design inspiration there?

Much has been written about the pros and cons of constantly seeking out inspiration as a designer. Some say that the continual search for creative spark in other’s work will make our own work stale and derivative, simply parroting the prevailing design trends. Others counter that there is truly nothing new under the sun, and everything comes from something else, the trick being to take inspiration from something and make it your own.

I tend to fall into the latter camp, maintaining a sizable Evernote notebook of web clippings that have struck me as particularly interesting. I don’t, however, limit my inspiration mining to the typical places like Dribbble, ffffound, and Designspiration. One of the more unusual places I find things that inspire me is Craigslist.

I discovered by accident that Craigslist could offer the designer inspiration, while perusing the ‘Antiques For Sale’ section in search of furnishings for our circa-1845 home. I found that old advertising signs and product packages provided a wealth of typographic and illustration inspiration. An Art Deco camera suggested pattern possibilities that I had never thought of. Victorian furniture showed me that ornament need not be fussy. Craigslist turned out to be an inspiration rabbit hole that I can easily disappear down for hours at a time.

I find that the inspiration that I take from Craigslist is more removed from the original source – I am more likely to use things I find in new and unexpected ways, than I am to simply repurpose with small changes. That tends to yield much more fresh and original work. If you find yourself in need of a creative nudge, and the usual sources just aren’t doing it for you, give Craigslist a try. From Early American, though Victorian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Streamline Modern, Midcentury Modern and beyond, it’s like a virtual museum of visual and product design.

Here are a few things I found on my local Craigslist ‘Antiques For Sale’ section in about twenty minute’s time that inspired me.

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