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Design Studies: Images & Objects

A guide for undergraduate & postgraduate design students on finding, evaluating and referencing academic and image sources related to the design areas.

Where to find images


It's important that you look for images in the correct places (don't just do a Google image search!) to make sure that the images you find are high-quality and easy to reference. Below are some recommended sources to find images. 

Image databases


The Library subscribes to several image databases with high-quality images that you can search for. There are also free databases online which have a range of images you can search. 

General image databases

Discipline-specific image databases

Museum collections


Museum collections are a great place to search for images, especially if you're interested in photographs, artwork, artefacts, objects or drawings. 

You can search the websites of different museums depending on what type of style of image you're looking for. 

For example: 

  • MOMA if you're interested in modern art
  • Maritime museums for nautical images
  • Art galleries for paintings & photographs

Below are some suggested museum collections that have extensive online collections covering a wide variety of image types. 

Images in other sources


Some of the best places to find high-quality images is within other sources like books, journals and magazines. Since those sources are already published works, they are more reliable and much easier to reference. 

Searching for images in books

Search in the Library Catalogue for books.

You can search your image keywords, or search for a famous artist, designer or architect to see books with collections of their works. 

Under the 'Details' section of the book record, check the 'Format' of the book to see if it has pictures (indicated by the abbreviation 'ill.'). Some books also tell you if the pictures are in colour.

Book details showing Format section indicating "ill (some col.)"

You can also browse books. The Library books are organised using the Dewey Decimal System.

Check out the Wikipedia page on Dewey Decimal Classes to find out where books on your topic would be.

Exhibition catalogues


Searching exhibitions is another way you can find images. Exhibitions often have a common theme, and this can be useful if you are looking for a particular type of work. Many exhibitions produce an exhibition catalogue which contains images & descriptions of all the works on display in an exhibit. 

Exhibition catalogues are classified as books. To find them, search the Library Catalogue. 

What to search: 

  • "exhibition catalogue" (+ any additional keywords) 
  • Search Subject = Exhibitions (using the Advanced search)