Love a good (niche) library

Lately I’ve been poaching desk space from an architecture firm here in SF. I’m at an old wooden table in their white walled library surrounded by historical architecture-centric books, many of which cover local San Francisco Bay Area towns.

I’m loving the environment for getting work done.

Because they do a lot of conservation work they’ve built an impressive collection of historic material for inspiration in their design.


There are many books, but the themes are consistent.

If they were digital things the tags would read “classic,” “architecture,” “1800s,” “urban planning,” “Bay Area,” “California…” I discovered they have a book about the history of my small home town on the peninsula (second from the left), a five minute flick through of which quickly tripled my knowledge about the place I’m from.

Makes me think about the importance of surrounding yourself with (relevant) inspiration and reference material when you’re in a creative profession. In most cases the more niche the better. It’s all well and good to be drawn to a wide range of things that are generally inspiring, but if it doesn’t carry some kind of specific significance to your work and interests, it’s less likely to contain those amazing little catalysts of creativity that the most relevant personal reference collections can.

Some quick tips regarding reference gathering for creative professionals:

Add to your reference collection constantly
If something you see pushes your buttons, take a screen grab or a photo and file it away. Do this consistently and over time you’ll find you’ve got an extensive reference library of your own, complete with your own niche themes. Equip yourself with a good screengrab utility and get good at shuffling photos from your phone or other quick access camera onto whatever device you prefer for storing your library. Make it quick and easy and it will become habit forming.

Keep it meaningfully organized
Organize your collection with folders that mean something to you. Make it easy to add to and retrieve from so that the niche aspect has personal meaning. Taking good care of your library will mean that when the deadlines are tight and you’re in a rush it might take good care of you.

Find the streams of inspiration that speak to you and tumblr come to mind (for design inspiration) to give two examples worth exploring for visual elements. Delicious is an excellent all around place to start as well. Find the sources that carry the most meaning for you (whether they’re digital or not) and tune in frequently to collect and add to your library.

Happy hunting.


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