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English Language Resources: Art and Design Resources

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Art and Design Research for ELL

Browsing for images and inspiration is such a key part of your work as an artist of designer. If you’re new to visual research in an English-speaking environment, here are some tips to get started.

Use research guides: OCAD U Libraries has both an Art Research Guide and a Design Research Guide to help you get started with finding secondary sources.

Know your search terms: The Getty Art Vocabularies provide terminology and other information about the objects, artists, concepts, and places important to various disciplines that specialize in art, architecture, and material culture. These vocabularies can help you locate information in other libraries and databases.

Go beyond Google Search: While Google Art Project is a great resource, you may find your search for inspiration more effective if you focus on more special collections and particular resources. 

You're looking for... Where to look
Works of Art

Books, Catalogues, Galleries and Museums, Databases, Directories and Encyclopedias

Examples: National Gallery of CanadaArtists in Canada DatabaseOxford Art Online: Timelines of World ArtUniversity of Michigan Image CollectionsArtstor Digital Library

History of Art

Textbooks, Course Reserves, Bibliographies, Dictionaries, Timelines and Encyclopedias

Examples: Getty Museum’s Bibliography of the History of Art, The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art HistoryArtencyclopediaDictionary of Art Historians


Magazines, Books, Exhibition Catalogues, Archives, Collections, Galleries and Museums

Examples: Gallery 44: Centre for Contemporary PhotographyCanadian Photographic Institute at the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Souvenir View AlbumsCity of Toronto ArchivesGraphics Atlas from the RIT Image Permanence Institute

Architecture, Maps, Crafts and Objects

Magazines, Books, Museums, Archives, Catalogues, Special Collections, Databases, Design Agencies

Examples: Royal Ontario MuseumOntario Crafts CouncilToronto Public Library Maps and Special CollectionsCanadian Centre for ArchitectureCanadian Museum of History Resource Centre, Cooper Hewitt Object CollectionTeaching History with 100 Objects at the British MuseumInuit Art Foundation and QuarterlyIndigenous Artifacts at the Museum of Mississauga

Logos, Branding and Typography

Magazines, Books, Online Collections, Archives, Associations and Societies

Examples: Abc typography: a virtual type museumThe Advertising and Design Club of Canada’s ArchivesThe Alcuin Society Book Design AwardsAzure MagazineCanadian Design ResourceGraphic Designers of CanadaCanadian PackagingCelebrating Canada’s Craft Beer Cans


Books, Biographies, Autobiographies, Memoirs and Archives

Examples: Dictionary of Canadian BiographyOxford Dictionary of National BiographyHistorica Canada, CBC's List of 15 Canadian Memoirs You Need to Read


Topics in Visual Plagiarism

Everyone has heard about plagiarism in connection to their written work but as an art and design student, you also need to be aware of issues connected to visual plagiarism such as copyright and cultural appropriation. If you're unsure about visual source use, check with your instructor or attend the WLC workshop on Academic Integrity. 

Beyond the AGO

We are fortunate enough in Toronto to have numerous specialty galleries and museums that focus on one culture, period, or type of material. There’s nothing like seeing objects in person and exploring the city to feel inspired for your next assignment. 

Library Call Numbers for Visual Research

The OCAD U Library, along with many other university libraries in North America, uses the Library of Congress Classification. Here's where you can find materials and books on art and design grouped together according to their subject matter. Browse these shelves to save time while researching and to find materials you never would've pulled out otherwise.

Call Numbers


Visual arts






Drawing, design and illustration




Print media


Decorative arts


Arts in general




Handicrafts, arts and crafts