In this post I wanted to share my top secret (or not so secret; you decide) design tools and resources that I use to trick (unintentionally) people into thinking I know something about design!
These range from tools that are helpful when planning and creating a ‘brand’, designing a website, creating original content, and even planning out more complex design systems. You know what though? Everyone deserves to have these at their disposal, and I’m just here make sure you do.
1. Make your ‘Emblem’
One of the hardest things about design is picking the right colours and fonts. So it makes it so much easier when instead of thinking up different colour palettes and font combinations yourself, you can simply pick one.
This is where ‘Emblem’ comes in. Simply open up the web app and either upload your brand logo (if you have one already) or type in the name of your business/blog/brand and it’ll provide a wealth of colour and font combinations for you to pick from.
You can scroll through options as long as you like, till you see something that stands out for you. At that point you also have the ability to preview how that will look for your brand on a website, social media, and more.
You’re also given the ability to modify and change colours as you see fit, try different variations, and even play around with patterns and fonts till you find something you truly truly love (and they provide a preview which displays the changes you make back to you instantly).
The only issue here is that they actually want you to download all the stuff you just spent all that time picking out in a nice little $9 a month package, or for a one off payment of $15. You can go ahead and pay to get a whole bunch of great stuff, but if you don’t need the extra stuff like the patterns and CSS (like me) you can just make a note of the colours #hexidecimal codes, the fonts you chose and move on.
2: Put illustrator in your pocket with Canva
The next tool I want to introduce is one that I’m such a huge fan of and have been using for years to just play around with graphic design. Canva’s value prop is that it enables anyone in the world to become a designer, which is exactly what this post is about. So. Fitting huh?
Basically Canva is a incredibly simple to use (yet also powerful) design tool, in the vein of Adobe Illustrator if you could run that in your web browser or on your phone. Canva] allows you to easily create graphics for your blog, social media, website, and other advertising efforts by providing a range of fun templates that you can directly edit, or if you wanna be creative, lets you create your own from scratch.
One of the most helpful things about canva is that it also provides default templates in the right sizes for Facebook headers, Twitter headers, etc. That way you don’t have to look up what the latest sizing requirements are or play around in some other editor to get the size right. Simply select from one of their existing templates and you’re good to go.
That’s not all though! The fun part is once you actually get into the creation or editing of your new graphic. Canva’s interface is so intuitive and easy to use, you’l feel like the most creative person out there! Canva makes it easy, you can simply drag and drop any element around the page and with it’s use of gridlines to help you align or center them, move them up and down layers, change colours, fonts, and more, you’ll feel like you were made for this.
I’m not even done yet, even with all that Canva provides a number of great images, clip art, and text layouts that you can use in your projects.. wait for it.. for free! You can also upload your own images to use in your projects pretty easily. There are some templates, images and clipart that do cost a bit of money, and you’re not able to export images with transparent background unless you start to pay, but for all the free tools they offer, they are 100% the best design tool out there for you.
3: Get all the stock photos, icons, videos, everything
But where would we be without our much needed photography to make it look like we’re a real company with real people and all that runs in between? For example, some of my favourites..
- Man looking frustrated at computer
- Women laughing with salad
- Business man holding coffee
- Mother and daughter smiling
- Pregnant woman and her teenager son outdoors
Anyway, you get the point, and the point is that stock images are an important part of every real designers life, and if you don’t have the photography skills, or friends, to make your own, or the cash to buy them, well. You. Are. In. Luck. Here we come across another one of my favourite resources. The Stocks!
The Stocks is an aggregator of all the best royalty free stock image websites on the internet, and by best I mean, best. Not just ‘every’, because there are some aggregators out there that just surface up the worst, worst, worst, stock photos I’ve ever seen.
You’ll also notice that The Stocks doesn’t only provide you with royalty free images, but also a wealth of other exciting options, like colours, icons, videos, mockups, and fonts. As a real designer, all of these things are going to be incredibly useful for you, so you’re gonna wanna take note.
Icons, for example, are an incredibly easy way to make yourself an eye catching and exciting logo. It doesn’t matter that its from a free source, nobody else would have thought to use something so incredibly obvious and beautiful as a logo before because they’re all too busy trying to make something unique. Just look at ‘Peach’ (obviously, emoji make awesome logos too).
4. Learn some design and UX stuff
As a designer you not only need the right tools, but you need the right words. Words like ‘pop’, ‘pizazz’ and ‘balance’. The best place to learn these things is from design course. That may sound like it requires time, effort, or money, but I’m here to tell you otherwise. Actually it still requires a bit of time and effort, but no money!
Thanks to the guys at that awesome place we mentioned before, Canva, you can take a bunch of fun and interactive design lesson to teach you how to use Canva, but also teach you some basic design knowledge on topics covering
Not bad, eh?! If you want to go even further though, into that dark scary design place, and actually become closer to the real thing than just pretending to be the real thing then I shyly recommend UX Apprentice.
UX Apprentice also covers off a number of different topics and also lists out some great resources that you can use, particularly for prototyping. Although they actually recommend Balsamiq for prototyping, and while it’s cool. I recommend my personal favourite mockup tool ‘mockingbot’.
MockingBot; a Chinese startup actually, based out of Beijing, is a free, simple, easy to use prototyping tool that offers a web and desktop app that lets you create (mobile) mockups using a drag and drop interface and then lets you export them to web as interactive prototypes. High class! You’ll be able to impress all your friends.
Woo. Now you are a pro!
That’s it. Now you’ve pretty much got everything you need to make people think you’re a designer. Lucky you.
Stayed tuned for my next post on where to find your ‘inspiration’.