The Inspiration Collector

Reading Time:

The Inspiration Collector

We all collect in some sense but it’s why we collect and what we collect that gives those collections meaning. I have been a collector all my life. As a kid, it was rock collections and comic books. Later it evolved into guitars and band stickers. As an adult, I still collect things but now my focus has moved to books and board games.

Recently I read a great little book by Austin Kleon called “Steal Like an Artist (10 things that nobody told you about being creative)” it’s 140 pages that due to its use of illustrations is more like 70 pages and then due to its small size is more like 45 pages… really we're talking about a long blog post here :)


One of the things that the book speaks about that I wanted to mention quickly is the practice of collecting inspiration to influence your creative work. I realized when reading this tiny chapter that I have been doing this practice all along without being aware of it, but when speaking to my wife about it the other night she told me that it’s not common for us as people to be so intentional about why we collect things. She said

“Most people collect just because”

That got me thinking about my habit, specifically when it comes to collecting inspiration for creative work. I think this is an important topic and I will explain why.

Why Collect?


Have you ever liked something but couldn’t put into words why you like it? Yes, we have all had that happen to us in some way shape or form. A movie, a photo, an article of clothing… it just strikes a chord in you. There are a lot of reasons to collect inspirations for your creative endeavors but none more important than the unexplainable reason of “just liking it”.

The truth is that when you really get down to it, you collecting a matchbook, or patch, or sticker, or magazine for it’s ability to inspire you doesn't need any other purpose. Don’t feel the need to rationalize it or explain it, just be OK with saying that you like it and let that be it. These things that you collect have a way of presenting themselves “how they are needed” and “when they are needed.”

What to Collect?

  • magazines
  • posters
  • stickers
  • handbooks
  • handouts
  • art
  • stamps
  • pins
  • buttons
  • packaging
  • anything with a logo on it
  • and anything else that makes you smile and say “That’s awesome”

Collect anything that catches your eye for more than one second and isn’t nailed down. (I am by no means encouraging stealing or hoarding, be selective but be willing)

How to Collect

Here is the real nitty gritty of the process. How do you collect all this stuff? The term “Swipe File” refers to a specific place where you store physical or digital goods that you have swiped form places.


The above photos show designer Aaron Draplin and his “Cluttered” Design Space. All I see when I look at those photos is a man who has the inspiration game on lock down. A few tips for storing physical inspirations.

  1. Organize it (otherwise, your a dirty hoarder and you need to get help)
  2. Keep it clean (Don’t be gross, take the time to take care of your library)
  3. Limit it (Make a certain amount of space and hold, only let the best in)


  1. Use the services you're already on (don’t download some fancy program just for that, use Instagram if that's what you use daily)
  2. Organize it (just like above, don’t become a digital hoarder)
  3. Don’t Limit it (That’s the beauty of digital, the cloud is the limit)
  4. Check them often (otherwise you will never use them)

Use anything you want just use it consistently, religiously, and with a rhyme and reason…. Happy Collecting



Leave a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Contact Me