Five of the Best Websites for Graphic Design Inspiration

You’ve been there, sitting in front of your computer—late at night, maybe—with a hard deadline looming and the as-yet unfulfilled promise of three layout options hanging over your head. You need some inspiration, perhaps served with a side of distraction.

Here are five fantastic web sites that I’ve turned to for ideas, and, diversion.

The University of Texas Harry Ransom Center Movie Poster Archive

best websites for graphic design inspiration

With over 10,000 vintage movie posters in the collection—from obscure titles to those of well-known classics—the Ransom Center Movie Poster Archive might be the most complete collection of cinema ephemera extant. The bulk of the assemblage comes from the former Interstate Theater Circuit that, at one time, “consisted of almost every movie theater in Texas,” and, the posters are free to download and print for non-commercial use. The greats—like Saul Bass—are represented, as is the work of countless anonymous artists. Either way, there’s a ton of great design available here.

The Newberry Library Digital Collection

The Newberry Library, a private humanities research institution in Chicago, is a treasure trove, and, was a frequent hangout for me when I was in design school, just down the street. In the past few years, they’ve made available a huge amount of material on their web site. The Ephemeral by Design collection includes type specimens, vintage ads, and, some truly amazing letterheads.

The Public Domain Review

websites for graphic design inspiration

The Public Domain Review bills itself as an online Wunderkammer—a “cabinet of curiosities”—so, while it’s not a dedicated graphic design resource, the Review is a wonderful rabbit hole to stumble in to. The Art of Book Covers (1820–1914) and the highly innovative data visualizations of W. E. B. Du Bois’ Hand-Drawn Infographics of African-American Life (1900) represent just two of the excellent design-related online exhibits that the PDR offers.

The AIGA Design Archives

The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) is widely regarded as the premier graphic design professional association in the U.S., and, while I let my own membership lapse long ago, I still rely on their online resources and local events. Their Design Archives feature contemporary work of note, along with older materials, and, the collections are searchable by color, year, format, or keyword. Two excellent collections currently featured are 50 Books | 50 Covers and Graphic Explanations: Charts, Diagrams, Graphs and Maps. Maybe it’s time to finally renew that membership.

The Letterform Archive

The Letterform Archive is a San Francisco-based nonprofit with a collection of “over 50,000 items related to lettering, typography, calligraphy, and graphic design, spanning thousands of years of history.” The Letterform Archive is the one resource listed here that requires a membership for full access, but, it’s unique in that it’s become the repository for the archives of Emigre, arguably the most important type foundry, and, graphic design publication, of its era. As a graphic design student in the late Nineties, this, and LA’s upcoming exhibit Design in the Nineties, make a membership worth my while.


ABOUT Ryan Bahrke

One of Wordsmithie's senior designers, Ryan has more than 15 years of experience in creative direction and management, working with companies like Google, Quantcast, RSM, Navigant, Starbucks, and Ace Hotel. Ryan is the principal of Auslander Creative in Denver.


Nine Tips for Writing (for eLearning and other content) with Authority

Whether you’re crafting new content so your audiences will bite (and hang on), creating eLearning training programs for your internal teams, or adding more energy to your client’s existing projects and online communities, you’ll want to boost your credibility with every word you choose.

Keeping the conversation going is mission critical as you build team cohesion, ensure info comprehension, or promote new squads of brand ambassadors. And, even more importantly, people need to believe what you’re asking them to take on. They need to know that their content source is credible, ethical, and reliable. Consider these tips to make sure your written messages—and you— are just that!

#1: Be consistent in your messaging. Stay focused on brief chunks of content so audiences won’t get distracted or lose the main thread of the information you’re imparting.

#2: Be objective with a neutral tone throughout your content presentation. Sure, you can (and should!) showcase passion and interest in your writing to keep your audiences interested but you probably don’t want to incite a riot by being controversial when you’re just trying to get your eLearning community to understand new material. 

#3: Be clear by offering simple directions for online tasks including chat or discussion prompts, exercises, and case studies. When organizing written material, consider offering section (or chapter/unit) agendas and recaps for added learning tools that spark interest and help people retain info.

#4: Be compelling and pose intriguing, relevant questions that enable a deeper dive for those who want it. Critical thinking is cool!

How to measure engagement? Your audiences can easily talk with one another (and you) via chat and discussion forums, as they collaborate via interesting team tasks and group projects.

#5: Be relevant in all that you write. If there’s not an immediate practical application, then audiences are going to be stretched to see how the material benefits them, and might ultimately lose interest. When compelling content taps into real-world problem-solving that people can use in their work and daily lives, they’ll stick with it.

#6: Provide a unique POV. When positioning new material or taking on old issues,add a creative touch to inspire others. Illustrate your due diligence in fully researching the topics up for discussion or review by offering something fresh to consider. When you demonstrate that you’re invested in the material, you’ll give your audiences reasons to stay invested, too.

#7: Draw upon other field experts by using their quotes and examples that support the points you’re trying to make. This type of evidence gathering goes a long way.  

#8: Get visual. Provide more than mere words by includingfacts and data via infographics like tables, diagrams, graphs, or photos. Different learning types need different stimuli.

#9: Spark engagement through action-oriented asks. This one’s actually more than just language, but your words can creatively guide action. Choose language to clearly frame things to do immediately with the content provided. Use bold and vivid descriptions so people can see what you’re asking, and can visualize results. How to measure engagement? Your audiences can easily talk with one another (and you) via chat and discussion forums, as they collaborate via interesting team tasks and group projects.

Credible crafters of compelling online content = you got this


ABOUT Eve Connell

Eve spends most billable hours writing, editing and helping professionals of all stripes with communication skills and leadership development. With degrees in French literature, philosophy, and linguistics, she also enjoys helping businesses and entrepreneurs develop their brands. Fancying herself a successful worm rancher, singer and flower arranger, Eve also lends her talent and expertise to several non-profit arts and educational organizations.


Five Ingredients for Copywriting Success: Tips and Tricks of the Trade

Much like baking, copywriting mixes a little art and a little science to yield the best content.

Much like baking, copywriting mixes a little art and a little science to yield the best content. And, like baking, using the right ingredients is fundamental to your success. Generating a compelling message starts with the words you choose: they should effectively persuade, connect, or inform. To successfully create content that reaches your target audience with the intended outcome, here are a few more ingredients to include when working on a copywriting recipe.

Stick to the point
Say what you need to in the most concise and clear manner possible. It can be tempting to elaborate on complex ideas, but keep in mind that less is more. According to copywritertoday.com, readers spend an average of 37 seconds on an article. Most audiences— especially those using social media platforms— want information that grabs their attention and is served in small bites.

Make sure your copy is visually appealing
Can your content be summarized with a quick 10– 15 second scan? If not, it might be visually cumbersome. For short- to medium- length content, the reader should be able to consume the information and digest it through various visual cues. The use of statistics (in a sea of words, numbers jump out), infographics, and subheadings will help your reader quickly navigate the content.

Generating a compelling message starts with the words you choose: they should effectively persuade, connect, or inform.

Build a connection
When creating long-form content, draw your audience in by sharing personal accounts and anecdotal stories . Research shows that these personal connections bring in more site traffic and lead to higher reader engagement. Readers will begin to look forward to the information you provide. If your content platform permits it, encourage users to share their own experiences and/or opinions. These exchanges create a sense of community, as well as loyalty for your organization and brand.

Keep your copy consistent with your brand
It takes a lot of time and energy to create and maintain a particular brand. You’ll want to ensure that your content is aligned with it. Be it a slogan, tone, or overall organizational philosophy, it should be reflected in your copy. Is your tone more casual? Make sure your blog posts and social media correspondence matches that. An organization’s brand is its identity, and that should be reflected throughout all aspects of written communication.

More keywords, less jargon
Copywriters need to be knowledgeable about the latest SEO and algorithm updates. In order to optimize your online exposure, your copy shouldn’t be overloaded with technical phrases and jargon. Focus on getting to the heart of what you need to communicate with clear, plain text.


ABOUT Arris Shabaglian

For more than a decade Arris has worked as a freelance writer, editor and communications consultant. She has also taught university level courses on the art of communication, public relations and journalism. Arris is a Pinterest addict who loves a good night’s sleep and a nice cup of coffee. She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three kids (hence the need for a nice cup of coffee).


Building Better Branding Through Online Community

Whether you’re promoting your own brand or a client’s, keeping your team interested in the project Slack channel, or sparking more engagement in your org’s online training program, the common denominator for success is: COMMUNITY.

Build with the best intentions

Building community in a way that feels (and is) authentic could seem either easy or daunting, depending upon on your particular POV, level of social media savvy, or brand fandom experiences. Yeah, sure, there are already plenty of people out there telling us how to be the best brand ambassadors in the universe. Some of these guiding principles for brand and community building are spot on, while others seriously miss the mark.

But creating an online environment where you and your people (clients, employees, customers) can authentically engage, is actually quite intuitive (or should be).

Authentically connect, and the people will come

1) Give people a reason to be there. When it’s clear why people should show up to your conversation’s platform, and also clear what there is to gain from participating, they will do just that. And that “there” needs to be where real, meaningful conversation is happening on the regular.

2) Be consistent with your content and focus. Keep fairly tight parameters in mind when launching prompts. If questions are too vague, people won’t know what to offer to the conversation. If discussion topics cast too wide a net, people will drift away.

3) Inspire information exchange. One sure-fire way to drive conversation is to invite people to share what they know with each other, rather than you serving as the sole content expert. Most of us enjoy being helpful, sharing resources, and directing others to content that we’re excited about. Help facilitate that energy and see what happens naturally.

4) Make people feel special. We tend to respond positively to content that makes us feel included in something cool, something that not many people have access to. That’s the type of exclusivity vibe that helps us stay engaged. It directly taps into the “what’s in it for me?” approach. And it works.

5) Help solve problems. Sure, we like to be helpful to others, but we also like to be helped. If the conversation addresses needs directly, clearly, and simply, people will clamor to get in on it – especially if it’s practical information we can use right away.

6) Promote others. It’s really important to offer shout-outs to those who inspire within the community you’re growing. The good news is giving others praise is about the easiest thing we can do.

7) Connect people. Along with recognizing the achievements of others within your group, it’s really cool to connect like with like. Someone in the conversation has a question about futures planning? Hook ‘em up with the person offering that kind of strategic consulting. Watch new ideas get some serious loft.

8) Be responsive. There will be a point when you’re not able to devote the time needed to respond to every question or comment. But you must do so when you’re gaining traction on your community’s social media channel, and certainly must in your in-house training program. Reply to questions. Redirect interest and enthusiasm to new conversation topics. Connect people to other people and resources. “See” and engage with your participants.

9) Start small. Guess what? You already do most of these things in your daily life as a human and in your role as a professional. Use what you already know to create online conversations and communities that matter. Plant one small seed and see what happens. When you act intentionally, that’s when the REAL transpires.

What great brands do you follow for the community they’re building/have built? #questionandanswer #branding

ABOUT Eve Connell

Eve spends most billable hours writing, editing and helping professionals of all stripes with communication skills and leadership development. With degrees in French literature, philosophy, and linguistics, she also enjoys helping businesses and entrepreneurs develop their brands. Fancying herself a successful worm rancher, singer and flower arranger, Eve also lends her talent and expertise to several non-profit arts and educational organizations.


You Want Creative? We’ve Got Creative

Scratch the surface of anyone in the marketing content world, and you’ll find a would-be novelist, poet, screenwriter, or historical researcher-writer. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult for these talented individuals to deliver excellence during their “day jobs,” and still successfully pursue their dreams.

At Wordsmithie, we pride ourselves on fanning, not stifling, our people’s creative fires. Which is why, we believe, that the work we deliver—while always business-appropriate and tailored toward each brand’s individual voice—has that little extra something from being crafted by the different, fresh, and innovative minds of fulfilled creative individuals. It’s the mark of people encouraged to do their very best—both in their vocations and their avocations.

And Wordsmithie people are very productive in both arenas. Here’s just a sampling of what we’ve been up to on the creative side.

Creativity springs from the very top of Wordsmithie. Laura Bergheim, our extraordinarily busy founder and CEO, has authored or coauthored eight books, including several very delightfully quirky travel books. She’s now working on a new novel.

David Bergheim, Laura’s brother and our chief strategy officer, is also working on a new novel. His first novel, Greenbeaux, about a real clown who runs for president, was named one of the Best Indie Fiction Debuts of 2015.

Alexandra Kenin, a Wordsmithie studio director, is the founder of Urban Hiker SF. Her first book was a smash hit—if you live in or have visited the Bay Area, you may have used it when exploring the city. Urban Trails – San Francisco (2016) will soon be followed up with a book on East Bay urban hikes.

We’re extraordinarily lucky to have a world-class, award-winning poet in our midst. Mike Perrow, senior copywriter, this year released a book of poetry Five Sequences for the Country at Night, about which Forrest Gander has said, “Perrow is a kind of secular hierophant, with a sense of humor and a gorgeous lyric ear that sharpens our listening, tuning us to the notes that are ‘all / the more worth blowing.’”

Jim Leeke is probably our most prolific writer after-hours. A senior copywriter during the day, he’s also published numerous books about computing, technology, and American military history. His latest is Howell’s Storm (2019) about New York’s devastating 1949-1950 drought, and how an official “rainmaker” was actually hired to solve the problem.

Copywriter Lisbeth Kaiser is the author of Maya Angelou (Little People, Big Dreams, 2018), with illustrator Leire Salaberri. This book was Lisbeth’s first, commissioned by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, London, as part of a new series that introduces revolutionary people as young children, to young children. Now Lisbeth is continuing on this exciting road, working on two more books in the series, about Rosa Parks and Emmeline Pankhurst.

Copywriter Carmela Ciuraru published a book on famous writers who wrote under secret names. Nom de Plume (2011) was lauded as “highly intriguing” by Publishers Weekly, which gushed “amid informative, illuminating profiles, Ciuraru successfully ferrets out curious literary charades.”

Khaleelah Jones, Wordsmithie’s social media and SEO lead, has a book on the BBC television coverage of British decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s coming out next year. Entitled Window on the World: BBC Coverage of British Decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s, it is part of the Manchester University Press’ series, End of Empire, and examines the ways in which emerging forms of media dictate the ways in which we consume and digest information.

Fritz Holznagel (with Roger Price) published The Ultimate Droodles Compendium this year, about which Carl Reiner said, “I’m so pleased that Roger Price is being rediscovered by new generations who haven’t seen his work before. It’s brilliant!”

Several Wordsmithie clients have also achieved creative success. Devora Rogers wrote a thoroughly entertaining book called The Spanish Painter that takes place around a fictionalized town based on Cuenca, Spain. And one of our  bloggers, Daniel Milford-Cottam, penned Fashion in the 1950s, Fashion in the 1970s, and is now writing Fashion in the 1960s.

As for myself, my fourth and latest novel, Half Moon Bay (published by Scribners and called a “dark, starkly beautiful and brooding suspense novel” by Kirkus Reviews), came out in paperback in early July. My fifth novel (still untitled!) is almost done. But the big news in our household was that Gideon Raff, the producer of Homeland, is making a movie of my first novel, Turn of Mind, with Annette Bening and Michelle Pfeiffer in starring roles. Shooting begins in early 2020.

Want distinctive and fresh case studies, UX copy, and white papers created by recognized literary artists who have also earned their business-writing stripes? Check out the Wordsmithie portfolio, and give us a call.


ABOUT Alice LaPlante

Alice LaPlante was a Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, and taught writing at Stanford for more than 20 years. She is the award-winning New York Times best-selling author of four novels, and wrote The Making of a Story, the best-selling textbook on writing published by W.W. Norton. Alice also is also a sought-after content writer, strategist, and story consultant for leading technology firms.