Creative 62 – Learning & Doing Tools for Visual Marketing
By Kiana Denlinger | December 16, 2015
In this post, I’ve rounded up 17 learning and doing tools to help you complete creative projects with ease [Click to Tweet!], whether that means building a nice image for social sharing or dressing up the cover page of your social impact report. If you have the interest and the time, the resources in the learning section can even help you master more advanced design skills.
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If you work for a startup or small for-benefit business, you might find yourself wearing several hats. These tools will help you gain the know-how you need to gracefully wear the hat of “designer-by-default” when you can’t hire a pro.
Udemy (47) — An online learning tool that covers a variety of design and tech- related topics, Udemy offers courses on user experience design, 3D and animation, design thinking, and graphic design tools. Udemy’s robust courses require a time commitment to complete: from three to 30+ hours of content. The cost of a course ranges from free to a few hundred dollars. In return for your time and money, you’ll gain a more holistic understanding of the topic at hand.
Lynda.com (48) — This well-known video tutorial site has a great reputation and is by far the most popular of these learning platforms. Lynda.com offers tutorials on critical skills like animation, photography, general design and designing for business. Because users pay ($19.99 / month & up) for unlimited access to content, you can enjoy as many tutorials as you want. Since the tutorials last between one and two hours, Lynda.com’s content requires less commitment than a site like Udemy.
Adobe TV (49) — Here, you’ll find free tutorials that are extremely useful for those working with Adobe programs like Photoshop or InDesign.
Creative Live (50) — This online webinar system covers topics in five different categories: art and design, photo and video, music and audio, craft and maker, and money and life. Some webinars are free, but more in-depth tracks require a one-time payment for on-demand viewing.
YouTube (51) – If you can get past YouTube’s self-published feel, you can find several genuinely useful free learning tools. To get started, check out 1st Web Designer, which produces podcast-style episodes that feature topics and questions related to design and design applications. I also like Every-Tuesday, a how-to channel on Adobe products.
Paper Specs (52) — In a design world where so much emphasis has been placed on digital, it’s nice to find a resource focuses on print and paper. Though people love to make bombastic declarations like “Print is dead!” the truth is that companies still print stuff for a variety of reasons. This site’s blog and tutorials are a great place to begin if you’re asked to create a printed piece.
*Sidenote – If you’re committed to sustainability, you can still use print in your marketing. Be choosy about what you print, go with FSC-certified paper or recycled paper, and select “green” printers if you’re working with a pro. B Corps Aosa, Greenerprinter and Seeds Printing all offer environmentally friendly printing options.
Skillshare (53) — Skillshare charges $10 / month for unlimited access to online classes that impart creative skills like design, writing, music, film, technology and more. Classes are roughly 1-3 hours and you can watch a few for free, so it’s worth checking out for those with limited professional development funds.
Getty Images: Stories and Trends (54) — Part blog and part webinar library, this site focuses on stories and trends related to design and photography. Examples of topics include tips for shooting your own photographs, examples of brands using video to spread social consciousness, how to choose good still-life images and more. Articles and webinars alike are free.
Web Designer Depot (55) —This web-focused blog offers a great deal of information for the serious designer. If you’re prepared to venture into the realm of web design, this site is a great resource. I also recommend the e-newsletter – it offers a nice blend of comical posts and useful advice.
Treehouse (46) — Looking to learn more about web development? Treehouse is a great resource for learning HTML, digital literacy, WordPress development, Java and a slew of other programming languages. It is comprehensive and user-focused, allowing users to learn by track (a series of videos from beginner to mastery levels), by project or by topic. Users pay a small fee ($29/month) for unlimited access. Intrigued but still not sure if Treehouse is right for you? Try their 30 day free trial!
Watching tutorials and engaging in Q&A with industry professionals is all well and good, but you still need to get s*** done. The odds are that if you’re not a pro, you don’t have pro software. And that’s okay. There are a variety of creative software solutions for the non-designer. This shortlist highlights the doing tools that we’ve found most useful when setting up our clients’ amateur design staff for success.
Canva (56) — Canva provides graphic templates that users can customize via a very simple interface. Need a poster? They have a template. Need a graphic for your blog? Got that too. Need an invitation for your company’s next event? You’re covered. Need something original? You can also start from scratch.
Users can select backgrounds and borders, upload elements for use, drag and drop, and rotate and adjust transparency of elements with extreme simplicity. Many elements are free, others will cost you $1 each. Canva recently added a design school section to their site where users can learn good design practices.
PicMonkey (57) —A simpler (and free!) version of Photoshop, this site makes photo editing easy.
Adobe Draw / Adobe Sketch (58) — These free applications allow for illustration and graphic creation on the go — all you need is a stylus and a tablet. Use them to create quick mockups of your ideas and share them instantly via a cloud system.
Infogr.am (59) — This site allows the user to create charts and infographics that are “interactive, responsive and engaging.” Infogr.am will add a significant level of professionalism to your next presentation or report, and is a great way to create simple and sharable infographics for social media. You can create up to ten infographics for free, but after that you’ll have to pay-to-play.
Mockflow (60)—As a multi-use design tool and collaboration platform, Mockflow makes it easy to create wireframes for websites, mobile apps and brochures. With an ever-improving user interface, this tool may quickly become your go-to for remote planning and collaboration. There’s a free forever trial, but additional user and project capabilities start at $14/ month.
GoMoodboard (61) — A quick, easy and free way to gather and share visuals, GoMoodboard helps you gather all of your relevant visuals together into one sharable URL. This functionality is especially useful for collaboration.
Mural.ly (62) — Similar to GoMoodboard in its end-result, Mural.ly is marketed as an online brainstorming, synthesis and collaboration tool for creative teams. Consider this platform if you’re presenting detailed concepts to a wide range of people. Pricing starts at $29/month for up to five users.
With these learning and doing tools, even rookies can envision and produce designs with confidence. These resources won’t take the place of expert skills and advice, but they will help you improve and diversify what you can do in-house. This is especially helpful for startups and other companies that don’t have the budget to hire a professional designer as often as they might like.
I hope this list encourages you to create something new. If you’re still apprehensive about exploring your creative abilities, heed the advice of Finnish writer Jyrki Vainonen: “Dive again and again into the river of uncertainty. Create in the dark, only then you can recognize the light.” So go out there and make stuff – you might be surprised at the brilliance that’s revealed.
Did I leave out your favorite learning or doing tool? Tell me about it in the comments below or tweet me about it @RoundPegComm.
In case you missed it: Creative 62 Part 1: Design Inspiration for Every Skill Level and Part 2: Visual Assets for Every Marketing Need.