Ten Essentials to a Great Resource Library


“Resource Hoarder” would probably be my official title if anyone inspected hard drive space as closely as one tends to physical surroundings. Last I checked, my thoroughly-loved resource folder was a whopping 40 gb, and I swear by every single kb of it! It’s saved my butt countless times through designing for clients, and I’ve even burned it all to a portable drive as a gift to a select lucky few.

It’s an absolute necessity for anyone who works in a creative field, so here’s the must-haves for any resource library, regardless of style and taste.



1) Inspiration 

SUCH a resource! I have a roving eye when it comes to design, I like so much of so MUCH how could I not want it all together? I really love having my inspiration folder in my resources because it helps me when suggesting ideas to people I’m working with, but also provides me with a wider range of ideas to play around with. Just starting out wanting to “look through stuff” can be a task within itself! Start looking through inspiration, and it will give you the center to focus on. It’s a more efficient use of your time (and bonus ! a step IS looking on blogs collecting said inspiration!), and a better way to create stronger concepts from multiple sources.


2) Fonts

I don’t think I can say it enough, I have a serious font addiction. There are few things worse to me than only being restricted to font choice. (I paid my dues in college, Univers!) So over the course of a small forever, I’ve collected an outrageous number, and we’ll leave it at that. I justify this pack rat instinct of mine by claiming that I’m prepared for any number of typographic problems– it’s definitely true. The defining factor of whether or not I’ll keep/download/buy a font is whether I can imagine using it in any sort of context. If you can see a voice or purpose in those letters, I’d keep it. Because you never know. Yeah, I have what-if disease when it comes to typography.



3) Textures

The cherry on top of the sundae has got to be textures. So completely versatile, it all depends on the application, any additional effects, and the purpose of use to tweak it from dirtastic grunge to worn & homemade. I rarely discriminate when I come across a great set of high resolution textures, because what something IS and how it looks when applied abstractly over a poster or a business card can be something completely different. Textures provide a wonderful tactile depth that brings that special ‘something’ in a design.


4) Patterns

This is the other treatment you can try for bringing in some specialness. Pattern is a great way to add visual interest to any piece. As varied as textures and color palettes, it’s a great idea to collect multiple sources– this way you’re prepared for whatever tastes are thrown your way.


5) Color Palettes

Sites like Kuler and COLOURlovers make collecting color palettes super easy. Both sites let you download .ase swatches which upload right into illustrator for easy viewing, and you can also create your own sets/swatches as well. I try to name the snapshots and screen captures after the feeling the palette gives me, it makes it easier for me to recall why I pulled it to begin with.


6) Vector Illustrations

This amazing time saver is great if you like drawing in illustrator, or  just need a stash to hold all of your stock. Keeping unused vector doodles around keeps them fresh in your mind, and easily recyclable for any appropriate projects. Or you may need to grab a few icons for a web project. Vectors are another great & versatile tool in your designer’s tool box.


7. Reference/High resolution Stock photography

These are really great to collect for a wide variety of reasons. One of which is great reference is super hard to find, the other.. well, great collage materials are hard to find too. If you have a camera, start taking photographs. You can be the supplier of the majority of your resources– textures, the basis for photoshop brushes, reference for your vector illustrations, and so on. If you don’t have a camera, make friends with photographers. Collaboration partners are amazing resources– but these resources have to be nurtured as well as used!


8. Photoshop Brushes


Possibly the most ubiquitous resource on this list to be found for free on the internet, photoshop brushes are a really great trick to have up your sleeve. The rule of moderation absolutely applies here, but the numerous effects of brushes are so hard to ignore! You can use them as stamps, you can draw with them, play around with masking, manipulate them as texture, the iterations are truly endless. Things can get really crazy in the brush palette, so I like to save groups of brushes as ‘sets’. Doing this creates an organization in itself, but you can also save sets for different projects/clients, making it very easy to access the type of brushes you’ll need for various effects.


9. Illustrator Brushes

These have less variety than the photoshop brushes, but can create wonderful effects to strokes created in Illustrator. My favorite set creates pen and ink looks, but there’s also a huge variety out there. What I love about using illustrator brushes is it’s a prime example of a small detail making a huge difference. Play around with the different effects, thicknesses and angles and it can make something look seriously professional in a matter of seconds! These really do feel like cheating, but you get great effects with little time.. so you COULD say cheating, I say uber efficient!


10. A dash of random

I say this element is a great addition to any folder– but specifically a resource folder. Why? Because randomness, or the unexpected, shake you up. Shaking you up breeds more creativity, freeing you to play with all of your lovely little resources you’ve just collected. I have scans 1960’s yearbooks, folders dedicated entirely to sewing projects, others to cooking, but all of them linked to creativity. The most important thing about building a resource library is to focus on bringing together any and all things necessary for you to feel well equipped creatively, whatever those tools are. Start collecting here and there, and before you know it you’ll have a vast wealth of randomness that makes you laugh, gets you to think, and hopefully makes you create!


To help you on your hoarding, here’s some great sites I lose plenty of hours while ogling:

















2 thoughts on “Ten Essentials to a Great Resource Library

  1. Hey, well done on the article! Very interesting. My resource ‘folder’ consists mainly in wacky books I collect–I most recently acquired a very old Laura Ashley home decorating book, full of lovely frilly decor and hideous wallpapers which are very inspiring. I also seem to take a lot of photos which has proven invaluable–I usually have to hand just what I’m looking for! Thanks for the tips. I just had a lovely time stocking up on a few new fonts in the vein of my current typographic obsession. x

  2. thanks! I never realized that people would find what I naturally do interesting (go figure, right?) Hoard it up, whatever inspires you 🙂

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