This is something I’ve been doing since college, but I didn’t have a cool name for it until recently. I was reading Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon (a quick and fun read that I highly recommend) and came across his mention of keeping a “swipe” file. In the book, Austin recommends keeping a folder on your desktop in which you “swipe” (aka take a screenshot of) anything you come across that inspires you. Logos, color palettes, typography, anything that makes you go “wow”.
Keeping a file like this gives you a great starting point when you’re working on a project and you find yourself struggling for ideas. You don’t have to just stick to stuff you come across online either, you can snap a pic of something cool on your smartphone when you’re out and drop it into the file later (it helps if you keep the file in “the cloud” so you can access it from multiple devices).
So, if you’re not keeping a swipe file bursting at the seams with design inspiration, give it a shot! I guarantee that it’ll come in handy the next time you run into creative block.
“One of the surest of tests is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.”
– T.S. Eliot