A Definitive Guide of Resources and Ideas for Digital Designers

September 17, 2018 | Graphic Design Retainer | By Anusha
Resources for digital designers

Hello, creative/aspiring graphic designers.

We understand the importance of having access to the most current fonts, graphics, tutorials, photography and anything related to design. Design resources are vital for getting those creative juices flowing and staying relevant.

In our blog, we have tried to bring together all the resources that will help to enhance your skills, save your time, introduce you to new things and keep you competitive in this most creative community.

Our all-inclusive graphic designer resource is a bit lengthy. But, we promise, it’ll be worth your time.

Let’s dig in.

Note: We have a lot of links and videos in this post, so bookmark whichever you feel will be handy for you!

List of graphic design principles and elements with examples

If you are a budding graphic designer and just think, “Hey! Design is all about creativity and nothing else”, then you’re wrong. Design from its core has certain principles that needs to be followed. If you can just mix and match a few shapes and fonts to bring a fresh graphic design, that would plainly be a mess and might not work well all the time. It not necessary we follow all the graphic design principles every time, but most of them are sure to be adhered to, in order to create a professional, awesome piece of design work for your clients. Here is the list of graphic design principles and elements we feel are important for a clean design output.

Read the above blogs and try to stick to one set of rules that will work for you. The rules vary from design to design and it’s always better to create your own rules that abide by the above- mentioned principles.

In addition to the above mentioned graphic design principles, we have tried to put together some basic rules that might come handy for any graphic designer.

  • Listen and understand the problem you are going to solve
  • Ask questions to yourself and make a project plan
  • Understand that your design won’t  be approved everytime
  • Put yourself in the user’s shoes. You and the user are different
  • Practice clean design principles for a flawless and spot-on design
  • Be ready for criticism, feedback, and multiple iterations
  • Empathize
  • Make it simple

The above points must be kept in mind before starting a design project. And to be honest, it works every single time.

Abiding to principles not only helps you to organize your project but also helps you to get into the practice of perfection, be it a small or big project.

Afterall, practice brings perfection.

Best color palette and scheme ideas for your next project

Palette is the range of colors you use in your design. Deciding the right color plays a key role in any type of graphic design. Be it a web design, ad design, infographic design, print design, it’s important that we decide the theme and the color palette to exactly match the mood of the graphic we are creating.

Using the right color palette for the right design comes with a good amount of experience. Below are a few websites where you can browse for color palette ideas and use them for your design project.

  • Material design palette: This is an interesting interactive application developed for graphic designers. It helps to mix, match and show a live preview of how the design would look like in a web/mobile screen. You can play with the background color, highlight color and text color along with an optional secondary color..
  • color-hex: Here you can find predetermined color palette and scheme ideas that you can use for your projects. The palettes have been named according to the mood they create on the web-page. This website can be used to determine the color theme of your website.
  • Color Palettes : On this website, you can find enormous images along with their color palettes. This is a step ahead as it will show you how the palette will look together in an image.

Also read: 36 Beautiful Color Palettes For Your Next Design Project

designers-color-palette

designers-color-palette

 

Color palette and scheme ideas generator

Color palette generators are mostly useful when you know what color scheme should be used into your project. These generators are readily available to help you if you have selected a color and want to mix and match,

  • Colormind helps you to place the colors side by side and to mix and match them. The output is generated in a hexadecimal code so that you can copy and use them in the tools you are working on.

colormind-palette-generator

  • Canva helps when you have an image and want to pull out the color palette out of that image. This actually helps when you are working with images and looking for a highlight color to add in that image.

canva-color-palette

  • ColorSpace helps you when you have one primary color and want to play around with that color. The website gives suggestions for the color of your choice like matching gradients and how you could match that color with other colors. It’s interesting to explore more options. In the end, select the right one that fits your design mood 🙂

colorspace-palette-generator

Graphic designer career path

A graphic designer’s role has become inevitable in almost all the digital controlled areas. Right from an associate or a junior level, designers can be placed at various positions. The graphic designer career path is well defined based on the responsibilities and skill development the designer takes through his/her career.

They can be a fashion designer, a teacher /lecturer, Illustrator designer, print designer, UI/UX designer, game designer, social media marketer (yes! you read it right) etc.

Take a look at this chart prepared by Rick Cornett which explains the career path of a designer.

designer-career-paths

Image Source

You can also read 15 Unexpected Career Paths Of Graphic Designers for more information.

Some of the graphic designer roles that comes to our mind are

  • Graphic Designer
  • Web Designer
  • UI Designer
  • Mobile UI Designer
  • Multimedia Designer
  • Instructional designer
  • Illustrator
  • Interactive Designer
  • Visual designer
  • UX Designer

All these fall under beginner, intermediate and expert level category.

Whatever level you are in, it’s very important that you give your 100% and always keep up your learning curve.

Design tools for modern day graphic designers

From product design, ad design, logo design, apparel design, to machine design, graphic designers have always had their place in any business.

A graphic designer is expected to showcase maximum skill and creativity to deliver a quality and unique output.

In the early days, designers used tools like brush, paper, inks, nibs, stamps, moulds to bring the desired output. Now, graphic designers have switched to tools/softwares that have opened the doors to more creative and user-friendly options.

Let’s take a look at some of the tools/software designers can use to wow clients.

Photoshop

Photoshop is the father (maybe mother) of all the design tools. Adobe Photoshop 1.0 was released in Feb 1, 1990. Right from that day, Photoshop has evolved to serve millions of its users with amazing filter and brush options.

Ps-design-tool

Photoshop can be useful for:

  • Editing photos and videos
  • Digital Painting
  • Designing websites and graphics

Just name it, you can do it with photoshop! The awesome thing about photoshop is the filters and the brush tool. Pick any photo and start with it. Learn what happens with each filter and how each brush behaves.

To master Photoshop, you have to spend a considerable amount of time. More than using the tutorials, it is advisable to get hands-on experience with the tool.

Here is a video that will help you get started with photoshop:

If you are an intermediate, here are some tricks about photoshop that you don’t want to miss:

When it comes to Photoshop, it’s only the passion and thirst that will keep you going!

Happy photoshopping 🙂

Sketch App

Is there anyone who still uses Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator or Fireworks for UI designing?

If yes, then you are amongst the graphic designers who are very comfortable with old tools, but lazy to use the new butterfly that will conquer your creative heart!

Even though Photoshop still rules the world of image editing and digital painting, there are a lot of discussions about why Sketch app is better than Photoshop,

sketch-app-tools

Sketch is widely used by graphic designers who are more into UI designing for web and apps.

It comes with a detailed and beginner-friendly documentation which covers everything you need to know about the app.

Sketch App can be used for:

  • Website UI
  • Mobile UI
  • Online banners
  • Advert designs

Sketch has attracted a lot of graphic designers because of its clean interface, proper gridding, and code friendly designs. You can switch between vector and raster while designing.  You can create artboards of various screen sizes in a single canvas and export it in multiple formats and multiple sizes ( 2X 4X etc) in a single click.

Here is an informative video that explains the basics of sketch:

If you are an intermediate ‘sketcher’, this video will help you take your sketch skills to the next level:

Other tools that graphic designers should not miss

Below are some of the most widely discussed tools within the designer community. You can just have a look at these and decide which one works best for you 🙂

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • CorelDraw
  • Adobe Fireworks (Adobe has stopped rolling out updates for this tool. But it is still the best tool for beginners)

While most of the graphic designers would have already chosen one or a couple of tools for each kind of design work they do, it’s always a good practice to explore new tools and get hands-on experience in them. Learning new tools not only helps you to better your skills, but also helps to increase your creative base. You see a new canvas, new brush option, new UI – who knows your mind will also start thinking in a new way. Most of the new concepts arise from a fresh mind. So keep your mind open and fresh to the good dose of new things in the industry.

Top design case studies and projects

Case studies are the wow factor in a portfolio of any graphic designer. They help the reader understand the problem you faced and the solution you provided.

Below are some of the components that makes a design case study great.

  • The problem
  • The solution
  • Who are the users?
  • What was the design process?
  • What were the limitations?
  • How were the decisions made?
  • How many iterations were made?
  • Comparison of the initial sketch with the final approved design to show how much thought process went into the design
  • How was the design validated?
  • The key issues that were addressed

If your case study has all these sections, then that would sure be a keeper for anyone to refer to.

Here are some case studies from the ‘pro’s in design world

  1. Dan BirmanDan-birman-design
  2. Rachel Schmitz Rachel-schmitz-designs

Explore some more well-crafted design case studies here:

UI and UX best practices

When it comes to UI and UX, there are a few questions that always keeps popping up in our mind. Following are few of them with answers:

What is UX Design / Who is a UX Designer?

UX design is a basic thought process that goes into persona creation, user profiles based on the  user navigation, user behavior to ensure proper working of the website.

When you see a form or a newsletter signer in a website or an application, it should have been a decision of a UX designer. The UX designer decides the positioning and the function of a particular criterion and then passes it on to the UI designer to make it work. It’s the combination of a perfect UI and a well thought UX that gives life to a fully usable website.

When you say usable website, there are a lot of brainstorming and thought process that goes to the UX area like ensuring consistency throughout the website and ensuring proper navigation structure by keeping the brand presence in mind. These are some of the key components that help you build a fully functional application/website.

UX starts with researching and gathering inspiration and ideas. Defining the problem is followed by researching with a clear and creative brief. When the problems are defined and solutions are extracted, the findings are developed using concepts, prototypes or wireframing.

A UX Designer is responsible for

  • The usability of the website/application
  • Who the applications users are and what are they achieving with the app
  • Forms and functions in the website
  • Clear outline of the intended content without confusing the user
  • Consistency throughout the site
  • Understanding what makes the user confused/irate and get rid of those from time to time with proper alternatives

What is UI Design / Who is a UI designer?

UI Design is just what you see in the screen. It can be considered as the combination of the following

  • Clean content
  • Proper placement of images and graphics
  • Forms, buttons, dropdowns, labels, checkboxes, radio buttons, text links etc
  • Behaviour of each element with interactions
  • A consistent flow throughout the website

To sum up, UI is the combination of content, graphics and all the other elements put together in proper alignment to create a balanced and beautiful looking interface.

A UI designer is the one who creates beautiful interfaces that actually works for the users. Usually, the role of a UI designer is to analyze what the user wants, by understanding the customer personas and then designing a layout.

A UI designer is responsible to ensure that all things are in place. The role of the UI Designer is to decide,

  • Content: What is the size of the heading and the paragraphs? What is the color of each element in the layout?. What is the line height, the font? How should the links be placed?
  • Menu: What should the menu should look like? What are the interactions in the menu? Is  it just a drop-down menu, mega menu or a menu with images?
  • Images: What is the theme of the website? Is it a color theme or imagery or vector illustrations throughout the site?
  • Layout: Is it a boxed layout? Parallax or free flow design? Where should the title be? Centered or Left Aligned or zigzag alignment?
  • Links: What should the buttons look like? How should the interaction be? Where should you place the text links?

What is the difference between UI and UX Design?

UX is just about solving problems while UI is making your interface beautiful. Considering your product is a building, UI is the paint color, window styles, tiles and kitchen accessories. UX decides the foundation, the positioning of the rooms, doors and windows. .

Simply put, UI makes the application beautiful while UX makes it useful.

Also read – How to Run a Successful Graphic Design Business

UI or UX which is important?

UI and UX cannot survive without each other. You cannot have a house that is poorly planned with terrible flooring and bad painting because it will ruin the functionality of a good usable building.

So a UI with proper planned UX enables a seamless customer experience.

Top websites for design inspiration

Design is not science. It’s not always about ‘following rules and getting an output’. Sometimes the creative juices flow seamlessly while at times, there are roadblocks to getting to a particular design style or concept. During a block, it is always a great idea to get inspired and then proceed with the work you are involved in.

Below are some websites from where you can get inspired for all kinds of digital and graphic works. Some are worth the bookmark. So get inspired and keep bookmarking!

  • Behance is a website where designers showcase their creative work online. It has a large pool of graphic designer community where designers share and give feedback on other designers work. The community is very active and highly creative
  • One Page Love comes under this category as it showcases a good number of one-page websites. If you are looking to create a one-page website, then this website will help you take the right decision.
  • Inspirationgrid has a large database of designs, mockups, 3D designs, packaging designs etc. If you are looking for Memphis design, trendy fashion design or even photoshop effects, you are sure to get inspired by the good collection of resources available here
  • 99designs conducts live contests on a regular basis. Be it packaging, logo or illustrations, you can identify the current trends in the design industry. You can get a lot of inspiration from this site

Also read : 100 Great Resources for Design Inspiration

Blogs for daily inspiration for designers

Blogs are always the best medium to stay up-to-date on the happening around the design community. It’s essential for every designer to be part of a design community and get/give advice to the fellow designers.

Below we have listed some of the top blogs that every designer needs to follow, to be in trend. Subscribe to these if you find them interesting and helpful.

Create.Adobe

Create.Adobe is a popular blog about graphic design and communication design, featuring innovative artists and agencies working in digital media.

create-adobe-blog

From UI design, infographics to typefaces, Adobe covers almost every niche a graphic designer should know about.

We would not say it has guides for beginners, but intermediates can benefit a lot from this blog.

They have categorized their blog into graphic design, illustration, motion graphics, photography and branding..

It’s always great to follow the leader in the design tool! Isn’t it? 🙂

Design Week

Design week is also an informative blog that talks about the design industry in a very detailed way. To cater its wide audience, they have split their blog into multiple sectors like branding, editorial, education, politics, print etc. Their blogs on packaging and interiors will inspire you to pick up the most happening trends in the industry.

Other blogs you should be following

While there are hundreds of blogs that talk about design, it is important to choose the ones that actually work for you. Here are some more suggestions you can try digging in

Bookmark the blogs you are interested in and use them whenever a similar project hits your plate 🙂

Also Read – Graphic Design Blogs Every Designer Must Follow

Market places for graphic designers

Thousands of resources are available in the market for designers. Under this category, by resources, we mean here are stock photos, stock illustrations, mockups, video loops and audio content that helps you prepare quick mockups to present to the client. Imagine providing a logo mockup to the client like this.

CIAO-design-resource
Image source : Logowhistle.com

Instead of just showing the logo in plain background, you can enhance the visual effect of the logo by placing them on a colored background. This not only increases your winning chances, but also makes the client understand that you know your craft.

To prepare such type of mockups, you require proper resources that are royalty-free and high quality.

Here are some resources under each category listed for your reference

Photography image resources

Paid Resources

Free Resources

Vector illustration resources

Nowadays, Vector illustrations play a crucial part in graphic designing. Be it a homepage banner, ad banner or sections in a web-page, vector illustrations help to describe the text in form of a story or an infograph for better understanding. Below you can see some of the brilliant examples of vector illustrations:

vector-resources

vector-resources.

Above example shows the effort that goes into designing and how a message can be delivered with the help of graphics that matches the theme.

There are resources on the internet from where you can grab illustration in vector format for free. You can download from these resources and customize according to your needs.

Note: Watch out for attribution notes :). You might end up in a copyright infringement if you use an owned design with royalty.

Free Resource

Free mockups download

To create stunning mockups and to help your clients understand how logos can be utilized in various mediums like stationeries, apparels, tags, sign-boards etc, you can utilize these readymade mockups available on the internet.

vexels-card-resource

magazine-design

These are basically PSD files which can be edited with Photoshop and customized to your needs.

There are tons of these free mockups available in the market and most of them are so creative that it can definitely add value to design projects.

Free icons download

Icons play an important part in design. These tiny things make your design look balanced and help the user to understand the context more visually. They also make your design look less texty and more interactive.

Icons are filled, lined, colored, hand-drawn and custom made. To cater to our needs, it’s always a good idea to select the type of icons we need for a particular design project. If there are less text and images, we can use colored icons to balance. If the page is text heavy, we can use light colored line icons so that the page doesn’t look like a big mess.

Here are a few pages that allow you to download icons for free. And again, before using them in your projects just check the attribution rights.

Download your favourite ones, tile them up in the designs and create magic 🙂

Free (Freebies) design resources for graphic designers

Freebies are available all over the internet for designers.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s always good to be part of forums and communities to get notifications when valuable freebies are released into the market. Sometimes, you can own them by just tweeting about them or through a facebook page ‘like.’. Also, it’s important to note how you can use those freebies, as in most cases reselling them or using them for commercial purposes are strictly forbidden. Follow the attribution rights as this is solely owned by the person who created it.
design-freebies

Websites like dbfreebies and freebiesbug are good resources to browse through. Freebies or ‘less than a dollar deals’ are available in the market during Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and New Year. During this time, graphic designers can opt for the ones that would be useful for them and download instantly.

Also check out the below websites:

Sellfy

Graphic Design Freebies

How to stay motivated as a designer

When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what? – Sydney Harris

A graphic designer’s work is not always considered to be “wow”. The real challenge for a graphic designer is to find what the client exactly wants. This can be achieved by either proper documentation of the project or by talking to the client in person. When you talk to clients personally, it’s easy to understand their likes and preferences. Sometimes you can even identify the nonverbal cues that will help a lot when you start working on the project.

Even after several iterations, there are projects that fail due to ‘no proper understanding’ of the client. In such cases, it is hard to stay motivated and get going. Here are a few articles to help you get motivated when there are slow times or bad projects. Bookmark them and use them when necessary.

design-motivations

Also, here is a video that will help you get motivated.

Design contests for a healthy competition

For digital designers, one of the best ways to showcase their talent is through ‘Design Contests’. They help graphic designers to contend with a pool of other designers over one or more design briefs. There are a number of websites that run design contests and most of them have a good community of top graphic designers who participate in multiple contests run by clients.

Most of these contest websites post the clients design brief for logo design, UI/UX design, ad design, infographic design, website landing page design, branding designs, stationery, social media designs etc Designers read the brief and create the designs and then submit to the clients. The client reviews the designs, provide feedback and choose the design that best works for them and give them the prize money that is already agreed in the brief.

Contests like these help the graphic designer to sharpen their skill and opens up a platform for the designers to compete with some of the best graphic designers in the world. Crowdsourcing contests act as a medium to introduce fresh creative talent to the clients and most of the time the relationship continues even after the contest.

Here are some of the design contest websites available on the internet.

While designers can look at developing their skills and earn money out of these contests, the competition is very heavy and sometimes there are more than 100 designers competing for a simple contest.

Sometimes, designs are copied from other designers or something which is already available on the internet, which makes the uniqueness of the design questionable. Yet designers can get a good feel of satisfaction once they win the contests and get into a long term relationship with the clients.

We highly recommend trying these websites in your initial times of your career to get your creativity flowing. But just competing in the contests might not help you earn your bread.

Graphic design awards to look after

Recognition is a great motivator. Who doesn’t want a pat on their back and a recognition in hand to celebrate the good hard work they have done. Designing is creative work where designers always put their heart and soul in most of their projects. Some designs are simple and just created for sake of design while others are created after continuous and rigorous brainstorming and strategizing. The success is usually enjoyed by the team on the whole.

international awards for designers
image source : dribble.com

Awards help to recognize creative individuals within the community and celebrate their creativity. This spreads a positive vibe within the community, helps graphic designers to gain industry recognition and also inspires fellow designers.

Here are some of the design awards that recognizes experienced as well as fresh talent in well laid out UI or in a well planned social media campaign.

Everyone longs for Recognition. Thanks to all these online award agencies that encourage the design community regularly and keep up healthy competition live in the community. And believe us, you can get great inspirations from the nominations in these websites too 😉

Popular design forums and communities

Forums are a great way to interact, take advice, get inspired, clear doubts, and communicate with people of similar interest. If you are a small team freelancers or a graphic designers in a firm, getting your doubts cleared can be a not-so-easy task.

The design industry is constantly changing. The tools, platforms, and trends keep changing every now and then. So it’s very essential for graphic designers to be part of forums to keep themselves updated and be in the trend. A forum also helps you to take feedback for your designs, give your opinion on other designs, get advice for difficult challenges you are facing, and share your knowledge about design.

Below are some design forums in which you can become a member and start rocking! It’s always a better idea to follow a minimum of two forums to get a grip of the current trends.

Go through these forums one by one and chose the one that actually fits your space. Most of them are free and helps you network with people. Actually, forums are great! Try them and better yourself in your craft 🙂

Popular graphic designers to follow on social media

It’s always great to follow the ‘geeks’ in your field. Try following these exceptionally creative designers on social media and add up that little spice to your designs.

Designers to follow on Instagram

Designers to follow on Twitter

Designers to follow on pinterest

Note: This list is purely our suggestion. We wish that even you will become a graphic designer who will be listed in our future blogs.

Do something creative everyday

There is no age for creativity.

If you are either a freelancer or a full-time graphic designer who works for an agency, ensure you create at least one creative a day. Be it big or small, client project or not, we advice you to create at least one design each day. Make this as a practice to get hands-on and a seamless design experience as you age in this field.

Even at times where you have less or no work, imagine a concept yourself and try to bring your own ideas. Take a popular brand and check how they have designed. If you were to change their layout, what would you do? Think and the options are unlimited.

Feed your own creativity! Keep Designing! Become a master!

About the Author - Anusha

Anusha Sankar, the lead designer at ColorWhistle and WebDesignRetainer, is a passionate web designer at heart. As a professional logo and web designer she has worked in hundreds of projects and have received accolades for her unique style and creativity. When she is not seen experimenting with colors and patterns, this working mom can be seen running her household and experimenting cuisines in her kitchen.

One thought on “A Definitive Guide of Resources and Ideas for Digital Designers”

  1. Hey Anusha…thanks for such packed and complete inspiration you have provided above. Anyone from field of design…especially into logo designing can learn so much from all these resources you have listed above. Daily blogs inspiration and designers to follow on different social media platforms is going to be real help for people like me who are always seeking new inspirations and ideas. However, based on my research and interests over the years, I would like to suggest you couple of more sources to add where newbies will get to learn and experiment lot while designing their logos, such as
    https://www.designmantic.com/logo-design
    https://www.laughingbirdsoftware.com/products/the-logo-creator-logo-design-software/

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