How to use graphic design platforms like Dribbble and Behance to develop visual design creativity

If you’re a visual designer, you probably already know about websites like Dribbble, Behance etc. They are often referred to as the go-to platforms for designers who want to see what other designers are doing and how (and why) they’re doing it.

Designers submit projects, concepts and free-time exploration work to these digital spaces, where they can get back feedback, praise and even a job in return. So when it comes to creativity and generating new ideas for your own projects, they can become a goldmine because they offer a wealth of starting points.

We recently spoke to Paco Fernández — visual design lead at Fjord’s Madrid studio — to see how he uses these platforms for personal and team inspiration and to get some tips for budding visual designers on how to make the most out of them.

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Discovering visual design inspiration

Platforms like Dribbble and Behance are what we visuals refer to as the ‘classics’: pretty much any visual designer who is serious about his or her craft is on them and probably has some work exhibited there too. As a result, when you’re looking for ideas, these two come particularly recommended as a ‘Ground Zero’ – a great starting point.

Behance and Dribbble are great places to browse through a bunch of different creative designs from around the planet. Not only that, you’ll find a diverse range of creative applications of visual design that goes beyond standard web and mobile interfaces. From icon design to more abstract graphic art — it’s all there, and more!

On Dribbble, for example, an upload by a designer is known as a ‘shot’, and only designers who have been invited to the platform to upload are allowed to do so. This kind of semi-curative, exclusive approach to the membership keeps things under control and keeps the quality high. So, when I’m browsing for ideas and inspiration, I know I don’t have to sift through piles of poorly executed or irrelevant work (to put it politely) before getting to the good stuff!

Keeping up to date with current visual design trends

As a designer of any craft or discipline, whether visual or otherwise, it’s always a good idea to keep your eye on what’s going in the world. By that, I don’t just mean the design itself; visual design trends can be based on culture, geography or even history (time period) etc.. All of these can be fantastic sources of inspiration and even game-changers when you’re really stuck for ideas.

It’s also great to keep up with trends if you’re focusing on developing an innovative mind. Knowing what’s being done and what has already been done can highlight the gaps where you can experiment and do something new.

And if you constantly find yourself asking questions like: ‘How are people using white space in web interfaces these days?’; ‘What color palettes are popular right now?’ Or ’Is this style of gradient out-of-date? - the answers, after a little bit of digging around, are all right there!

Get motivated to learn new stuff

For me, perhaps the greatest value proposition of big graphic or design platforms is that, thanks to the internet, they are developed and updated by the second. What that means is that every time you log on, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something new, which is fantastic for creativity.

One of the things that I often find gets in the way of being creative as a visual designer is a lack of freshness — similarly to other creative crafts (just ask writers)!

Even as a design lead, I constantly find things that I either I didn’t know how to do or hadn’t even thought about doing. These discoveries are not only the seeds of creativity but also the sharpener for your creative tools and your visual design skills. Finding something you haven’t tried before or don’t know how to do motivates you as a designer to keep learning which, as a creative professional, is a lifelong journey and should be a personal goal, at least in my opinion.

Save things that inspire you for later

On Dribbble, you can create what are known as ‘buckets’. These are basically collections of shots that you like from other designers, which you can categorise and organise according to how you organise your personal cerebral library. So when you’re working on your next project and thinking about colours and layouts that you wanted to try, you can refer back easily to your ‘Colour’ and ‘Layout’ buckets and see things that have caught your eye in the past instantly, saving you a lot of time when it comes to the creative process.

An extra space in which to show off your creativity

Two of the most important tools to have in your toolkit as a professional designer — especially as a visual designer — are your portfolio and your résumé. As a team lead, Dribbble has been an invaluable resource for tracking down international design talent. Here at Fjord, some of our visual designers have a arrived here as a result of a conversation on Dribbble.

It’s also a good way to see what you’re lacking in your team and where and how you as a mentor can help your current design talent develop their skills.

For a visual designer, portfolios usually take the shape of a personal website, which in itself is another opportunity to show off what you can do. You could even argue that it is more important than the résumé because it’s the proof of your ability to apply the skills you say you have. Dribbble, meanwhile, gives you an easy-to-use, ready-made template and audience, alongside the ability to quickly and directly receive comments and feedback on your work.

Conclusion

Whether you’re starting out or you’ve already got quite a bit of experience as a visual designer under your belt, keeping an idea on what your professional peers are doing will never do you harm — on the contrary, in fact. The availability of what are essentially social networks for designers, places where they can show what they can do and, at the same time, learn how to do something more or something even new is something to be appreciated and taken advantage of.

And when it comes to creativity and ideas and giving yourself context for what you create, the likes of Behance and Dribbble are excellent starting points. Of course there are many other sources of inspiration (our Triggers Graphic Deck) being one of them!) and we will list some of the more obscure and specific ones in a future post on this topic.

For now, why not give Dribbble or Behance a try and let us know how it goes by sharing some of your work — or even any questions you might have about the creative process for visual design with us via our social media channels.