Inspiring Design for Higher Ed

Inspiring Design for Higher Ed

I ran into an interesting problem the past weekend.  While planning a new site, I realized that I was just totally tapped for good ideas for a new site design that would pop and be happy and dynamic.  By nature, I am no designer, and I readily admit that.  I am, however, good at taking a look at things others have done and adapting it to my own needs.  So yeah, okay, I basically steal.  But hey, if it works, why reinvent the wheel, am I right?  This got me thinking about higher ed, naturally, and so I asked the Twitterverse where some of you draw your best design inspiration from when working in higher ed.  So, in no particular order, here were some of what I thought were the best.

  1. Pattern Tap
    This is a personal favorite of mine.  It’s less good for whole layouts, but great for looking at collections of designs for particular site elements.  It’s also not higher ed specific, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a ton of stuff we could draw in to our own sites.  Users can also generate their own collections and share them as well.

    patterntap 300x178 Inspiring Design for Higher Ed

    Pattern Tap

  2. eduStyle
    Easily a top hit for everyone in higher education, and well deserving of a spot in a good designer’s toolbelt.  A great place to find out what designs are really catching people’s eyes, and which ones are dropping the ball (happy to see our site is running +13/-3 currently).  Also, keep your eyes open for the results of the 2nd annual eduStyle awards, being announced at eduWeb in a couple months.  Voting for the People’s Choice award starts the first of May.  Follow @edustyle for announcements.

    edustyle 300x183 Inspiring Design for Higher Ed

  3. EDU Snippets
    Our own Nick DeNardis is behind this little monster.  In the vein of PatternTap, it focuses on elements of higher ed websites, and like eduStyle, allows rating of those elements and how successful you think they are from a design and usability stand point.  Sign up to get a daily feature, and stay tuned as he roles out additional features in the future to make it a more robust tool.  Worth keeping your eye on.

    edusnippets 300x183 Inspiring Design for Higher Ed

    EDU Snippets

  4. CSSRemix
    CSSRemix features a simple, straightforward site gallery full of dynamic and modern layouts and designs.

    cssremix 300x180 Inspiring Design for Higher Ed


  5. CSS Import
    Much like CSSRemix, CSS Import is basically just a gallery of web sites with nice templates.

    cssimport 300x182 Inspiring Design for Higher Ed

    CSS Import

  6. Design Meltdown
    Taking a page from the Pattern Tap book (or maybe vice versa), they focus on galleries of elements.  More robust than Pattern Tap, they are also a little more cumbersome to use.  Plenty of great samples though.  They’re also on Twitter, @designmeltdown.

    designmeltdown 300x173 Inspiring Design for Higher Ed

    Design Meltdown

  7. Smashing Magazine
    This German blog is a fantastic resource for articles on everything from templates, to design, typography, and beyond.  Even though it’s a little different from the sites listed above, the quality of the information they provide makes them really stand out as a must read resource.  Follow them on Twitter at @smashingmag, and keep an eye out for their upcoming book.

    smashingmag 300x183 Inspiring Design for Higher Ed

    Smashing Magazine

There you have it, a quick hit list of seven places to dig in to the next time you need a little extra brain juice (sweet, delicious brain juice). I want to thank everyone who made suggestions and contributed to the discussion, you’re all great and helped make this post possible. There were also some neat suggestions which I didn’t mention that weren’t directly web related, like,, and the book Presentation Zen for creative presentations.  Be sure to share any resources you find helpful below in the comments too, in case I didn’t mention your favorite.

cc Inspiring Design for Higher Ed photo credit: lilit

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This post was written by:

Michael Fienen

Michael Fienen - who has written 64 posts on .eduGuru

Michael joined Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS (NOT Pennsylvania, they spell it wrong anyway) in 2006 and is currently the Director of Web Marketing.  He is also CTO for the interactive map provider nuCloud. Web development's role in interpersonal communication is a principle focus of his efforts to improve and enhance higher ed web commodities.  He is an active supporter of the dotCMS community, accessibility advocate, freelance consultant, frequent speaker at web events, and general purpose geek who wears many hats.  Read his complete bio.

2 Responses to “Inspiring Design for Higher Ed”

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    Lucas Linney Says:

    I just came from looking for a good page on Bing and came to this site. I have to say these templates are great. Thank you for mentioning them in your blog post. I will be sure to bookmark this site and return again.



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