Retro Recomendo: Design Archives

Recomendo - issue #394

Our subscriber base has grown so much since we first started seven years ago, that most of you have missed all our earliest recommendations. The best of these are still valid and useful, so we’re trying out something new — Retro Recomendo. Once every 6 weeks, we’ll send out a throwback issue of evergreen recommendations focused on one theme from the past 7 years.

Sign up here to get Recomendo a week early in your inbox.

Design inspiration

If you are looking for an illustrator or looking for inspiration for your own design, Dribbble is a fine place to start. Enter a search term and you’ll be presented with a grid display of work by dozens or hundreds of contemporary designers. You can save your favorite images to any number of “buckets” for later perusal. — MF

Public domain art

Artvee is where you can browse and download high resolution copies of classical and modern art that is in the public domain. It’s free and you can do whatever you want with it. Some of my favorite stuff on Artvee is the art from illustrated books. — KK

Movie Poster Archive

I used to buy books for visual references, but nowadays websites can serve up fabulous collections of visual materials. So instead of buying a big coffee table book of old movie posters I go to the Harry Ransom Center Movie Poster Collection. Housed at the University of Texas at Austin it displays 10,000 movie posters from the 50s, 60s, and 70s in America for free. Many amazing designs. — KK

Visual style replicator

The coolest thing I’ve seen in many years is Same Energy. This is a beta-version of a visual search machine. You give it an image and it returns more images that feel exactly like the one you started with. Some images may be the same subject, some may be the same lighting and coloring, or some have the same visual style. It works uncannily well. I can start with a piece of furniture, or a fabric design, or an album cover, or an Instagram travel photo, and I’ll get an endless mosaic of images with the same energy. Like Pinterest, I can select one of the offerings and then get more images similar to that one, and so on. Unlike Pinterest, I can also create a collection of images and use that to train an AI to find images that share qualities of the whole set. I find I could spend hours watching the endless results recreationally, like staring into ocean waves or a campfire. It’s also a brilliant design research tool, a stunning creative prompt, and a total inspiration. — KK

Vintage sewing patterns

Vintage Patterns Wikia is a website where you can search through pages and pages of sewing patterns from the past. A lot of the patterns are available and for sale on eBay or Etsy and if they’re not, you can add your contact information to the wiki page in case it becomes available in the future. I found a $2 robe pattern in great condition through the site. — CD

Internet Archive Design

Wowee Zowee! The Internet Archive Design is an amazing library of inspiring graphic design documents. It bills itself as “a digital archive of graphic design related items” which includes old font catalogs, logo handbooks, cool brochures, design yearbooks, visual display, handbooks for design machines, and graphic style guides. I’ve found amazing treasures here, which I use to hatch my daily art. All are free to peruse, but you need to register a free account in order to “check out” some in-print publications from this online library. — KK


© 2022