I suffer from occasional migraines (sometimes they are debilitating). Over the years, I’ve found that the only two activities that can rid a migrane (aside from taking an Excedrin) are playing the piano and graphic design. Per the title of this blog post… I’m going to focus on design. When I design, time seems to stop.
A good friend of mine, Dan Rosen, once told me that “magic is in the details”. I’ve taken this to heart and today, this has become a core value of our Unreasonable Manifesto. When paid attention to, when we care about the pixel as much as we do the page, and when we cherish the word as much as the paragraph, I have a belief that your customers, your teams, your friends, and your users will notice the difference.
The good news? Today it is simpler than ever to create exceptionally designed websites, info-graphics, pitch decks, and products. Having now designed well over a dozen websites (including this one), I’ve learned that great design is not about coming up with an original idea from scratch. Instead, you can build upon many of the resources and ideas that already exist in the world. And, when you combine them in new ways… you are able to do great things quickly. This post is not dedicated to tips on how to design well and how to finesse a pixel into perfect placement (we’ll do that later)… Instead, this post exists to give you resources that have already done that for you. If you leverage the resources below, you will be shocked at how quickly you can come up with beautiful designs for your startup, company, campaign, or event.
1. Choosing the right font.
dafont.com. They have over 17,000 fonts, many of which will blow your mind, and they are all free and easy to install.
2. Finding the perfect color palette.
There are a number of sites that will help you select color palettes. These two are my favorite:
- Kuler.com. Kuler has thousands of pre-set color palettes (click here) and they have a brilliant interface to help you make your own color palettes (click here).
- Colourlovers.com. This site has thousands of beautiful and uniquely designed color palettes. Great inspiration!
3. Textured backgrounds (a trick of the trade).
Toptal’s Subtle Patterns. A good friend of mine, Evan Walden, recently shared this resource with me and I’m in love. The site has hundreds of patterns to give anything you design texture and life… and it’s 100% free.
4. Deciding which video player to use.
vimeo.com.This is my personal opinion, but I think everything looks more beautiful in a Vimeo video player than on YouTube. I highly recommend using Vimeo for all your video uploads.
5. Iconography matters… use this resource.
thenounproject.com.This is one of my favorite sites on the web right now. It contains an icon for nearly every noun in the world. This site is truly an incredible gift and the database of icons continues to grow each day.
6. Building websites.
- WordPress.org & Square Space. Today, 18% of the websites on the web are built using WordPress (I think it should be closer to 90% though). With WordPress you can build a beautifully designed website, that comes with a template, in a matter of hours (instead of months). Take for example this very website, we are using a WordPress theme made by ThemeZilla. The theme cost us about $40 and we ended up putting maybe 20 hours of custom design work into it ourselves (i.e. It only took us 20 hours and $40 to build this website… If we would have done it on our own, it would look half as good and would have taken months… thanks ThemeZilla!). For an even simpler interface that is also beautifully designed, check out Square Space. We built Unreasonableatstate.com in hours with their platform. From my experience with it, Square Space is great for very simple content centric websites (i.e. not complicated platforms). WordPress is much more flexible and powerful and has a much larger user base / base of templates.
- Themeforest.com has a library of over 7,000 WordPress templates (many of which are outstandingly beautiful). Nearly every website we have built for Unreasonable companies has been built upon a theme found on ThemeForest (UnreasonableMedia.com, UnreasonableGroup.com, UnreasonableCapital.com, UnreasonableInstitute.org…etc. All of these sites are built on templates found on ThemeForest… of course, we did end up customizing them extensively).
7. Creating business cards.
Use this link. They have over 6,000 business card templates.
8. Making pitch decks.
9. Designing your logo.
99designs.com & CrowdSpring.com. These sites will put tens of thousands of graphic designers on creating the perfect logo for you. On average, if you request a logo to these communities, you will get over 100 logos back that are customized to your needs. What is most amazing though is that if you don’t like any of the logos, you pay nothing. The BBC paid $1,800,000 for their logo. Nike paid a student just $35 for theirs. I recommend you follow in the footsteps of Nike and pay $10 – $100 on one of the sites. (Of course, if you have the time and creativity, you can just draw your own logo from your heart for free).
Mail Chimp. There is not a platform for making, monitoring, and designing newsletters that compares to Mailchimp.
Update: In order to utilize many of these tools, you must learn the basics of design on Photoshop and or Adobe Illustrator. I used to work off of both platforms but recently decided to just get really good at one of them… for me, I chose Photoshop. Whether Photoshop or Illustrator, if you master at least one of these programs you will then be able to edit any of the resources above to come up with truly beautiful and “custom” designs based off of the best platforms out there. The only other update I’d have is that the new YouTube channels are pretty nice. I’m still a big fan of Vimeo from a designer’s perspective, but the new YouTube channel format isn’t too bad (click here to see our new YouTube channel)