"At a conference recently, I heard Dan Cederholm from SimpleBits talk about inspiration. He showed a bunch of different techniques he uses, including how he uses Photoshop's mosaic filter on an image to blow up giant pixels representing the basic colors in the picture. He uses those as pallets for the design work he does. Very cool.
Inspiration can come from process, but it can also come from the most unexpected places. For example, when we were designing the data-over-time visualizations for Google Analytics, we were totally stuck with bar graphs. We'd iterated dozens of times, scoured the web for examples to steal, and had tried just about everything. The result felt muddy and chartjunked..."