It is always helpful for artists—and the rest of us in the plebeian masses—to turn to some of the most influential creatives for inspiration. This is especially true for design. Designers can imagine and execute original and precise creative visions that can truly change the art world.
1. Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh made history by becoming the first Black American artistic director of Louis Vuitton in 2018. Abloh was an innovator in fashion design and had what he called a “3% approach,” which meant that he created new designs by changing 3% of the original.
Abloh has been influenced by pop art and includes ironic winks in his work, such as the receipt rug he made for Ikea or the Air Jordan 1 for Nike, which features a large zip tie on the laces.
2. Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel completely changed women’s fashion in the early 20th century by making practical and stylish clothing for women. Simple feminine pieces such as women’s trousers, the little black dress, and tweed jackets can all be attributed to Chanel’s work to liberate women’s fashion.
3. Chip Kidd
Graphic designer Chip Kidd, who currently works for Knopf, an imprint of Random House, is probably best known for his iconic book cover designs. One of his most famous covers is the design for Jurassic Park, which was not only used as the cover for the novel but was incorporated into the film adaptation’s set design as well.
4. Christian Dior
If you want to explore mid-twentieth century design, including Christian Dior in your research is a must. In 1947 Dior debuted the “New Look,” which revolutionized women’s fashion during the post-World War II era.
5. Herb Lubalin
Herb Lubalin was an iconic typography designer who collaborated with Ralph Ginzburg on three of his magazine publications. You can easily identify Lubalin’s work when you see his dramatic and eye-catching fonts, such as ITC Avant-Garde.
6. Edith Head
When you see a picture of Edith Head you may think you’re looking at the Pixar character Edna Mode—with Head’s round glasses and short hair, many wonder if she was the inspiration for the cartoon character. Head was an award-winning costume designer who worked with stars such as Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor.
7. Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood played a major role in shaping the style of the early punk rock scene in the United Kingdom. Westwood’s designs are rebellious and sexy, and she was regularly responsible for dressing members of the Sex Pistols.
8. Jamie Reid
On the topic of British punk rock artists, Jamie Reid is a renowned graphic designer who explores anarchist themes in his work, including album cover art for the Sex Pistols. His distinct style includes newspaper letters cut out and layered over images, evoking a ransom note.
9. Emory Douglas
Emory Douglas was the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, and his moving artwork has had a profound impact on how we think about and approach protest art. His use of bright colors and thick lines to create poignant and memorable imagery is an inspiration when thinking about how to make activism art.
10. Diane von Furstenberg
Diane von Furstenberg has made some significant contributions to the world of fashion design, but her most crowning achievement is the invention of the wrap dress. While it may be hard to imagine now, there was a time when this simple and chic clothing item wasn’t hanging in everyone’s closet.
11. Sindiso Nyoni
Born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Sindiso Nyoni stands out among famous graphic designers currently working. Sometimes going by R!ot, Nyoni is an award-winning artist who has worked with major brands and sits on the South African Mint Advisory Panel, as well as several art judging panels. Nyoni is an activist artist who uses his work to bring attention to Africa’s most pressing issues.
12. Christian Siriano
This influential designer won the fourth season of Project Runway and now dresses some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. When it comes to inspiring design, Christian Siriano’s work quite literally inspires the viewer and gives them hope for the future.
Christian Siriano is an innovative artist who is interested in dressing a broad range of bodies, and some of his most recent well-known work includes Billy Porter’s black velvet 2019 Oscars gown and Lizzo’s VOTE dress from 2020.
13. Aaron Douglas
One of the most famous fashion designers of all time, Giorgio Armani is known for his well-tailor suits with clean, crisp lines. In terms of inspiration, look to Armani to consider what it means to find elegance and class in a precise form of simplicity.
Also, Armani is known for being the first major designer to ban models with a BMI below 18, challenging the fashion industry to reconsider its approach to health and body image.
14. Olivier Rousteing
Olivier Rousteing is famous for being the youngest creative director in Paris since Yves Saint Laurent and currently leads the fashion design label Balmain. Rousteing can harness his digital savvy to work with major fashion icons like Kim Kardashian and Gigi Hadid, coordinating his famous “Balmain Army” of influencers.
15. Marc Jacobs
Marc Jacobs, originally from a small town in New Jersey, has grown to become one of the most influential fashion designers in the world. After studying at Parsons School of design he became one of the youngest designers ever to win the Perry Ellis Award for New Fashion Talent.
His brand is known for its tongue-in-cheek pop culture references and is credited with the rise of the grunge aesthetic of the 1990s.
Being a good designer requires intense precision and attention to detail, as well as an ability to come up with big, innovative ideas. The names included on this list are just some of the talented creatives who have influenced how we think about clothing, images, and communication.
Whether you want to learn the art of fashion design or find the perfect outfit for a job interview, these artists can serve as great inspiration for how to think like a designer and change the way people see the world.