There’s a certain feeling that you get when you step into an art gallery or see an exhibition for the first time.
Inspiration: it makes your eyes wide and your brain start ticking. Most importantly, it’s a powerful force to drive new ideas.
If you’re looking for inspiration for a graphic design project, there’s no better way to motivate yourself than to see good design in action.
Between imagining the technology that’s pushing us into the future and challenging the boundaries of visual communication, designers are an integral part of a fast-paced world that’s changing all around us.
We wanted to share with you our pick of awesome designers that inspire and excite us to keep our creative juices flowing.
We love finding new talent! Is there anyone we missed that you think should be added to this list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
01. Aaron Draplin
Hailing from Detroit, Aaron Draplin is a self-taught graphic designer who discovered his talent during a snowboarding stint at the age of 19. After spending two years on the slopes reading a bunch of books about design, he scored his first design gig creating snowboard graphics, marking the beginning of a prolific career in design.
02. Erik Marinovich
“There is a blue-collar work ethic to lettering—it’s repetitive and takes a long time to complete, but when you’re finished…there’s something concrete to show.” Driven by a tactile approach to type, Erik Marinovich is a San Francisco based lettering artist and the co-founder of the popular Friends of Type blog.
03. Richard Perez
Richard Perez creates illustrations that make your imagination smile. With a mix of high profile clients such as Google and Facebook to more niche names such as indie pop band Death Cab for Cutie, Perez’s authentic style makes no excuse for status.
04. Lauren Hom
Lauren Hom is a Brooklyn based designer and letterer known for her bright color palettes and playful letterform. When she’s not creating designs for clients such as TIME Magazine and YouTube, you can find her selling your ex-boyfriend’s tears, or lettering for lunch around New York City.
05. Violaine & Jeremy
Whimsical worlds and classic pastel color palettes are neatly packaged in the works of French illustration and graphics duo Violaine Orsoni and Jeremy Schneider, better known as Violaine & Jeremy. From intricate illustrations and crisp magazine editorials to corporate branding, the talents of this imaginative French duo span far and wide. Follow them on Behance for regular visual delights.
06. Frank Chimero
With a book under his belt and a pen frequently in his hand, Frank Chimero’s musings on design make for great commentary. As well as regularly writing and speaking about design, Chimero heads up Another, a fluid design studio focused on the middle way that joins “digital and analog, art and commerce, reach and resonance.” Most recently they translated online publication The Great Discontent’s iconic interviews into a bi-annual print publication.
07. Sean McCabe
When Sean McCabe launched his series of courses on hand lettering, they grossed six figured within the first three days. For the type-curious, this exhaustive series on everything from compositional hierarchy, custom type logos, digitization, selling, licensing, and design contracts is truly one of the most unique and enriching on the web.
08. Alex Trochut
Working between his hometown of Barcelona and Brooklyn, Alex Trochut’s designs are known for taking the modern notion of minimalism and flipping it on its side. Working with high profile clients such as Absolut, Coca Cola and The New York Times, Trochut’s self professed motto: “More is more” drips richly from his work.
09. Viktor Hertz
Viktor Hertz is the creator of The Noun Project, perhaps the most beautiful and resourceful collection of icons on the web. Having a self confessed soft spot for pictograms and other simple shapes and objects, he creates icons posters and logos for clients such as Ikea, as well regularly working on imaginative personal projects.
10. Lotta Nieminen
Not many 29-year-olds can boast running their own New York-based design studio with clients like Hermès, Google and New York Times. But then again it’s no small feat to make it onto Forbes’ 30 under 30 list and take out an ADC Young Guns award. Check out Lotta Nieminen’s portfolio to witness her mastery of crisp forms and striking color palettes.
11. John Maeda
Echoing his belief that the goal of technology is to simplify our lives, not make them more complex, Maeda is a major thought leader in the field of digital design. In the past, Maeda has worked as a professor and head of research at the MIT Media Lab in addition to his role at RISD. Recently, he became a Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers – a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley and now chairs the eBay Design Advisory Council.
12. Mike Perry
Ask Mike Perry why he designs and he’ll explain it’s because he wants to mesmerize and awaken you through his constellations of line, form, shape, color, idea. Working as a designer and artist across books, magazines, films and newspapers, Perry’s creations illuminate the pages and walls upon which they appear.
13. Llew Mejia
“Textiles, fashion, folk art, wallpaper, and all types of candy.” Llew Mejia is an astute example of a designer whose interests bleed effortlessly into his work. The creator of beautifully colored, textured illustrations for clients such as Adidas, Reebok and Element skateboards, Mejia is an upcoming designer to look out for.
14. Timothy Goodman
What happens when two good friends with opposite relationship problems find themselves single at the same time? When those two friends have as much audacity and talent as Timothy Goodman and Jessica Walsh, the result is a breathtakingly honest, visual masterpiece: 40 Days of Dating.
The story, which began as a blog, can be discovered across numerous beautifully designed, heartfelt pages in the recently released book by the same name.
As well as personally recommending the book as perhaps the most enriching weekend reading you could wish for, the project is hugely indicative of the design duos’ boundless creativity.
In addition, Goodman can be credited as a designer, illustrator, lecturer and art director. Currently he runs his own studio, working with high profile clients such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Time. With projects ranging from logo design and editorial to skateboard decks and office murals, Goodman’s portfolio is a playground of ideas
15. Chuck Anderson
At just 18, Chuck Anderson traded college for freelance. The result? NoPattern. A creative agency that allowed him to work with client such as Microsoft, Nike and Reebok while most other people were finishing design school. Check out his portfolio to indulge in his vivid, colorful work or hear him here interviewing designers that inspire him.
16. Dan Cassaro
A self professed get-the-hell-outa-here New Yorker, Dan Cassaro’s works have received accolades from The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal and more. Cassaro focuses on type, lettering, logo design and powerful 70’s rock and roll in his beat-up Brooklyn studio.
17. Dana Tanamachi
Brooklyn based Dana Tanamachi spends her days in her boutique studio creating custom typography for editorial, lifestyle, food, and fashion brands. Tanamachi’s love of working with her hands is evident in the delicate details of her work.
18. Dave Foster
“A powerful visual presence is necessary for any message to survive amongst the noise of today,” proclaims Dave Foster, describing the motivation behind his work. Putting Australia on the map one letter at a time, Sydney based Foster draws typefaces and lettering for design studios, type foundries, brands and individuals around the world.
19. David Carson
A byproduct of the surfing sub-culture of southern California, Dave Carson started experimenting with graphic design during the mid 1980s. After working for an impressive portfolio of surfing mags, Carson became known for his “dirty” type which adheres to none of the standard practices of typography and is often illegible.
20. Jacob Cass
If you’re thinking about becoming a graphic designer, Jacob Cass’ proactive attitude will inspire you. Originally from Australia, Cass now heads up his own design agency Just Creative and has worked for creatives such as Disney, Nintendo and even Jerry Seinfeld.
Just Creative also doubles as a popular blog, which has an abundance of valuable design advice, and provides a refreshingly transparent perspective on the creative design process.
21. Alex Center
According to his website, Alex Center once met rapper 50 cent who told him: “You must think you’re pretty special.” His response? He got nervous and instantly started sweating. In Fiddy’s defence, not an outrageous claim for Coca Cola’s young, insanely talented lead designer. With an impressive portfolio of work behind him, Center heads the design vision and strategy for global brands including Vitaminwater, Smartwater & Powerade.
22. Jason Santa Maria
Jason Santa Maria is the founder of Brooklyn-based design firm Mighty, a Senior Designer at Vox Media, author of On Web Typography and a co-founder of A Book Apart, a charming collection of short books for web designers. Bookmark Santa Maria for regular commentary on everything typography and web design.
23. Jessica Hische
Ornate drop caps, delicate embellishments, whimsical illustration and bold text illuminate graphic designer Jessica Hische’s style. Her charisma bleeds into her work for clients such as Wes Anderson and Penguin Books.
24. Jessica Walsh
Two years after starting work at New York Design Studio Sagmeister Inc, Jessica Walsh was made a partner at the age of 25. Despite her young age Walsh has fiercely earned her stripes, receiving various celebrated distinctions including Forbes “30 under 30” and ADC’s “Young Guns”.
Check out her raw, color drenched work (with plenty of ‘tude) in her recent (aforementioned) project 40 days of Dating, in which she dated her good friend Timothy Goodman for 40 days and published the experience as a visually rich book.
25. Jon Hicks
Jon Hicks quite literally wrote the book on Icons: “The Icon Handbook”. He’s widely known for his work on the Firefox, Mailchimp logos, as well as recent icon projects for Spotify and Skype.
26. Dan Cederholm
Dan Cederholm is a co-founder of Dribbble, the vibrant web community bookmarked on just about every designer’s computer. Cederholm describes himself as “a longtime advocate of standards-based web design”. To find out more about his attitude towards web design, check out his recent book: Sass for Web Designers.
27. Joshua Davis
Joshua Davis is a designer, artist and skateboarder. Most notably, he was one of the first people to offer open source Flash files on a website called Praystation.com, which he later offered to the public. His love of technology and attention to detail is woven into the intricate details of his work.
28. Joshua Smith (aka Hydro74)
Best recognized by his soulful typography, intricate illustrations and bold characters, Joshua Smith is an Orlando based designer, otherwise known as “Hydro74.” Smith’s work is original and gutsy without exception.
29. Kelli Anderson
From interactive websites to layered, experimental wedding invitations, Kelli Anderson’s talents are eclectic are they are skilled. You can find her cutting, drawing, photographing, printing and coding, or at Pratt teaching art history in the Summer.
30. Khoi Vinh
After leaving his post as Design Director of The New York Times Online, Khoi Vinh didn’t wait long before exploring new horizons. Today, he’s currently Vice President of User Experience at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel.
31. Louise Fili
Loise Fili has an appetite for good design. Responsible for the studio by the same name, Fili’s work specialises in food packaging and restaurant identities.
32. Michael Bierut
Michael Bierut’s impressive resume includes a 25 year term as a partner at the New York office of Pentagram and a role as a Senior Critic in Graphic Design at the Yale School of Art.
33. Simon Prades
Simons Prades works as a freelance illustrator for clients in editorial, advertising and film while teaching drawing and illustration at a German University. His love of experimental arts and fluid approach to new design styles add a charming sense of character to his work.
34. Mike Monteiro
Mike Monteiro’s attitude towards design oozes from the pages of his recent book Design is a Job; a love letter to hard work, self-awareness, and the importance of a good tailor.
35. Nicholas Felton
Proving infographic design can be an art, Nicholas Felton applies his meticulous design style to create charts exploring the complexity of our daily routines.
36. Roanne Adams
When the New York times named Roanne Adams one of six of “New York City’s outstanding up and coming design professionals”, they were certainly on to something. Her work takes elaborate ideas and brash color palettes and grooms them to create works that are immaculate and crisp. Adams is now the Creative Director and Founder of award winning branding studio RoAndCo.
37. Scott Hansen
Scott Hansen is a multidisciplinary artist living in San Francisco. He records music as Tycho and creates visual work as ISO50. Self taught and working autonomously, Hansen’s work embodies a sense of artistic purity which contributes to his authentic persona.
38. Seb Lester
Known for his prominent type designs, book cover designs and calligraphic prints, Seb Lester’s passion for letterforms are an impressive testament to just how beautiful words and typefaces can be.
39. Shepard Fairey
A former student of Rhode Island School of Design, Shepard Fairey is the co-owner of design firm Black Market. Recognized as a street art great amongst the likes of Space Invader and Banksy, Fairy is best known for his Obey designs and the Obama Hope Posters. In his spare time, Fairey exhibits at local galleries and is an avid skateboarder.
40. Stefan Sagmeister
Crazy and brilliant: two words used with an equal amount of affection to describe Stefan Sagmeister’s work. Widely recognized for his unorthodox, provocative designs that tweak the status quo, his designs are rooted in disorienting images and self-defining aphorisms. These days you can find Sagmeister working alongside fellow NYC designer Jessica Walsh as they head up Sagmeister & Walsh.
41. Steven Heller
From writing obituaries for prolific designers to working as senior designer, Steven Heller wore many hats during his long and acclaimed career at the New York Times. In addition, Heller has authored, co-authored, and edited more than170 books about design and co-founded the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he currently lectures.
42. Tina Roth Eisenberg
Tina Roth Eisenberg is a New York based, Swiss born and raised graphic designer. Over the past nine years she started numerous side projects that have organically turned into businesses: a collaborative co-working space called Studiomates, a global, monthly lecture series called CreativeMornings, a simple to-do app called TeuxDeux and Tattly, a designer temporary tattoo shop. Tina is often referred to as Swissmiss after her popular design blog which is also the name of her Twitter handle.
43. Jon Contino
Jon Contino’s illustration style is a unique blend of old and new world aesthetics. Working with brands such as Nike, Jack Daniels and New Balance, his modern and minimalistic approach to design has left its mark on retail brands around the world. For more Contino, check out his personal menswear label CXXVI Clothing Co.
44. Tom Muller
Tom Muller’s work is the stuff that wide eyed design students’ dreams are made of. Bold, ambitious and with plenty of ‘tude, Muller’s color drenched designs can be seen adorning comic book designs, arthouse film posters and slick technology startup branding.
45. Debbie Millman
Debbie Millman is best known as the host of the Design Observer podcast Design Matters. When she isn’t interviewing design luminaries, Millman is directing design as president of Sterling Brands – where she’s worked on the redesign of over 200 global brands including Nestle and Pepsi.
46. Erik Spiekermann
Erik Spiekermann is responsible for 12 FontFont families, including FF Meta, FF Info Display, and FF Unit. With a long list of accomplishments including founding Germany’s largest design firm MetaDesign and receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the German Design Council – there is no doubt Spiekermann is a true graphic design great of our time.
46. Allan Peters
Most notably, Allan Peters is responsible for rebranding Target’s core brand imagery and designed the iconic Threshold logo, which was the cornerstone of the largest rebrand in the retailer’s history.
48. David Airey
Working from his studio in Northern Ireland, David Airey specializes in building visual branding identities. Between a number of branding books and three popular design blogs, Airey is a great reference for branding inspiration and case studies.
49. Craig Ward
Occasional artist, sometime author and a contributor to several industry journals, Craig Ward is known primarily for his pioneering typographic works.
50. Brian Hoff
Design that speaks for itself: Brian Hoff’s web design projects are beautifully annotated on his website.
Over to you
Pick up a camera, take a drawing class or test out your graphic design skills for yourself! If you’re feeling dry on inspiration, there’s often no better way to motivate yourself then to follow the people changing the world with great design.
With a world full of talent to explore, we’re sure to have missed some great names in this list. Do you have a favourite designer? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!