If you must succumb to mindless iPhone scrolling while waiting for the bus or trying to fall asleep, you might as well try to get something out it. Plus, the best ideas often come to you when you're not thinking about work or your to-do list at all. If you need a burst of creative inspiration, Instagram could be that spark.
The platform hit 400 million active monthly users last fall, bypassing Twitter. It's no longer a platform where amateur photographers slap filters onto photos. Innovative creators and brands also amass millions of Instagram followers; the inspiration game is a big business.
While the photos and videos filling many Instagram accounts delight and entertain with beautiful composition, celebrity selfies or raccoons that think they're dogs, others find unusual ways to use the medium and give your brain something to chew on.
So give your thumb some exercise and check out these creative and thought-provoking Instagram feeds that can inspire your own work.
Visual artist Christoph Niemann has illustrated everything from New Yorker covers to Google doodles. He has his own illustrated column in the New York Times, also titled Abstract Sunday. Niemann's Instagram posts often provide clever commentary on our urge to be plugged in 24/7, featuring tech gadgets in unusual situations. His feed is a collection of sketches, doodles, animations and finished artwork.
In this Instagram feed, author of Brain Pickings Maria Popova curates quotes from her blog. Every blog post is chock-full of interesting nuggets of insights on topics of creativity, learning, life, love and more. Popova is a fanatic reader and absorber of information, and she culls what she's learned from books and interviews with inspirational creators, authors, musicians, artists and very smart people. If you find difficulty finding the time to read her epic Sunday newsletter all at once, Popova's Instagram feed is like Brain Pickings "light," providing a few excerpts and highlights throughout the day.
Does it ever like your phone is your entire world? It is for Anshuman Ghosh, too. Challenging the perception of what's real and what's not, he creates mini iPhone-sized screens with paper. He proves that you can be creative with even the smallest of canvases.
If we could easily return to our carefree childhood selves, we'd all be oozing with creative ideas, right? @2sisters_angie might be the next best thing. In this feed, Angie Keiser captures the imagination and creativity of her 6-year-old daughter, who she calls Mayhem. Her form of expression? Dresses made out of paper. What started as an idea to have a little fun became a full-blown obsession for both mom and daughter, whose materials include construction paper, tissue paper, wrapping paper, gift bags and whatever sorts of other paper they can get their hands on. The elaborate paper dresses are inspired by those that appear on red carpets and ideas from Mayhem's own mind.
For a jolt of wanderlust and adventure, scroll through the official Go Pro Instagram account. You can essentially travel the world through all the photos. It's also genius marketing for their waterproof video cameras, because most images are submitted by users (though others are by official GoPro photographers.) The colorful, action-packed photos showcase not just the product's versatility, but also inspire a new perspective of our awesome planet.
Go behind the scenes with the design studio that Wired, Time and Fast Company taps for editorial illustrations. David Schwen has also produced creative campaigns for startups (if you can even call them that anymore) Uber and Warby Parker. His Instagram feed often features 15-second stop-motion films featuring both client work and passion projects.
It's easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and demands of everyday minutia. There's no easier way to snap out of it with Nasa's official Instagram account, which takes you straight to space. Every single photo is so strikingly... wait for it... out of this world. Catch globular clusters, planets and moons, astronauts on the job, you name it. Plus, each caption is hyper educational with lots of info describing what you're seeing and why it matters. Can't get enough of space on Instagram? Check out @marscuriosity for photos from Mars Science Laboratory and @nasagoddard for snapshots from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Carolyn Borlenghi is on a mission to help everyone unleash their creativity. In fact, she is a self-proclaimed creative spirit guide. When somebody says, 'I'm not an artistic person,' I take that as a challenge," she told the Instagram blog. "Just like you exercise your body to get stronger, you have to exercise your creativity." Many of Borlenghi's photos are a family affair and feature her children as subjects. She captures goody, unusual, and sometimes just downright normal photos that give you pause and make you smile a little.
Jonathan Lo finds beauty in the most mundane of spaces and objects -- from sidewalks and stairs to tissue boxes and coffee cups and a little bit of everything in between. Lo is also a big fan of capturing beautiful geometric shapes and lines. @happymudane will add a happy jolt of color to your feed with vibrant photos that are never dull, despite the ordinariness of their subjects. For me, this feed is a reminder check my tendency to always be heads-down in my work and become a more active observer in the world around me for inspiration.
Ted2013 fellow Safwat Saleem says many of his professional projects take a while to finish. He uses Instagram to challenge himself to make something quickly first thing in the morning or right before he goes to bed. "It's often a way for me to clear my head and make something out of whatever's been on my mind that day," he said on the Instagram blog. "Making something quick without obsessing over the details feels pretty good." Saleem's feed is an excellent reminder that even if you have just a few minutes a day, you have enough time to create something.
Unsurprisingly, Instagram's own feed is an excellent curation of top accounts that share beautiful visual storytelling. Many are selected from users who participate in the on-goging Weekend Hashtag Project, in which Instagram invites users to capture a specific theme each weekend and use its own hashtag (#WHPfirstlight, #WHPthisislove, #WHPvibrant for example.) Follow @instagram and you'll soon enough you'll find plenty of other accounts to follow that will inspire your creativity.