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Design Tools for Non-Designers

I have a problem – I love to learn new things, I enjoy tackling problems, and I am frugal. Consequently, I often try to do things, whether around the house or professionally, without trained professionals. Sometimes it works out, sometimes I call in the pros.  

For you, an association marketing professional, great design will set you apart. However, often a professional designer isn’t a reality in your bootstrapped budget.

Never fear – there are resources on the ever-helpful Internet to help and you will end up looking far better than most. Here are some resources to get you started:

Canva – Canva strives to help non-designers design well at a relatively low cost. It is all online via a web app, has some free resources and some at a premium, and has templates that use the latest design trends. They also have a robust library of free articles and tutorials to help you learn what takes a design from mediocre to nice.

Haiku Deck – An online presentation authoring tool, Haiku Deck forces you into a certain slide design, but it is fresh, modern, and follows presentation best-practices. Sorry – no star wipe transitions here. You can create presentations for free if they are public, and plans start at $5/month.

Creative Market – Starting with a spectacular template can be helpful and key to bootstrapping. Creative Market sells templates, fonts, etc. Created by independent designers and developers, they sell everything from website templates to PowerPoint presentations, all for relatively low prices. Granted, it can be time consuming to find a template that fits your project, or you can be tempted to fit your project into a template. But the time spent to find the right one can be well worth it. The files come in a variety of formats – some you will need Adobe’s Creative Cloud for, others can be used in PowerPoint or Word.  However, many of the designers/sellers offer support for their products and are more than willing to help you customize the template.

Fiverr – Fiverr is a marketplace for creative professionals to sell their services – for as low as $5. It can be a helpful resource, especially in a pinch. Be careful – the old adage of you get what you pay for is still true, and often the $5 gig isn’t much – you will need add-ons. However, it can still be much less expensive for you in the end.

Infogr.am – Infographics are all the rage. Info.gram is a standout site, among several, that helps non-designers design infographics. Similar to Haiku Deck, it offers a free tier for public infographics. Just keep this in mind – just because it is an infographic doesn’t mean it communicates better than the written word. Keep them simple and straight forward.

Adobe Color – A free resource to help you pick colors. Using a variety of color theories, you can select complementary colors for your designs. It is still just as overwhelming as choosing paint colors for your home, but at least it helps you narrow down the choices and match them appropriately.

Lynda.com – If you want to learn more about using the tools available, how to design, crafting great presentations, etc., the training at lynda.com is excellent and, at $25/month, is hard to beat.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but will get you a solid toolbox.

Finally, I leave you with one piece of design advice to set you apart: Never, ever, ever use Comic Sans and Papyrus fonts or clipart. Never. Ever. Even ironically.

Design Tools for Non-Designers

I have a problem – I love to learn new things, I enjoy tackling problems, and I am frugal. Consequently, I often try to do things, whether around the house or professionally, without trained professionals. Sometimes it works out, sometimes I call in the pros.  

For you, an association marketing professional, great design will set you apart. However, often a professional designer isn’t a reality in your bootstrapped budget.

Never fear – there are resources on the ever-helpful Internet to help and you will end up looking far better than most. Here are some resources to get you started:

Canva – Canva strives to help non-designers design well at a relatively low cost. It is all online via a web app, has some free resources and some at a premium, and has templates that use the latest design trends. They also have a robust library of free articles and tutorials to help you learn what takes a design from mediocre to nice.

Haiku Deck – An online presentation authoring tool, Haiku Deck forces you into a certain slide design, but it is fresh, modern, and follows presentation best-practices. Sorry – no star wipe transitions here. You can create presentations for free if they are public, and plans start at $5/month.

Creative Market – Starting with a spectacular template can be helpful and key to bootstrapping. Creative Market sells templates, fonts, etc. Created by independent designers and developers, they sell everything from website templates to PowerPoint presentations, all for relatively low prices. Granted, it can be time consuming to find a template that fits your project, or you can be tempted to fit your project into a template. But the time spent to find the right one can be well worth it. The files come in a variety of formats – some you will need Adobe’s Creative Cloud for, others can be used in PowerPoint or Word.  However, many of the designers/sellers offer support for their products and are more than willing to help you customize the template.

Fiverr – Fiverr is a marketplace for creative professionals to sell their services – for as low as $5. It can be a helpful resource, especially in a pinch. Be careful – the old adage of you get what you pay for is still true, and often the $5 gig isn’t much – you will need add-ons. However, it can still be much less expensive for you in the end.

Infogr.am – Infographics are all the rage. Info.gram is a standout site, among several, that helps non-designers design infographics. Similar to Haiku Deck, it offers a free tier for public infographics. Just keep this in mind – just because it is an infographic doesn’t mean it communicates better than the written word. Keep them simple and straight forward.

Adobe Color – A free resource to help you pick colors. Using a variety of color theories, you can select complementary colors for your designs. It is still just as overwhelming as choosing paint colors for your home, but at least it helps you narrow down the choices and match them appropriately.

Lynda.com – If you want to learn more about using the tools available, how to design, crafting great presentations, etc., the training at lynda.com is excellent and, at $25/month, is hard to beat.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but will get you a solid toolbox.

Finally, I leave you with one piece of design advice to set you apart: Never, ever, ever use Comic Sans and Papyrus fonts or clipart. Never. Ever. Even ironically.

Dan Whiting

Dan Whiting is a communications, marketing, and government relations professional in Washington, DC. Dan starting working in public policy in 1996, serving 11 years as staff in the U.S. Senate as a policy advisor and then communications director. He marketed ideas, using content marketing, media relations, thought leadership and implementing new media channels when they were actually new. He also served in leadership at USDA for President Bush and as the first Director of Communications for the National Alliance of Forest Owners. He has survived crisis communications and taught writing, content marketing, and media relations workshops. He is passionate about communicating well to affect policy change while secretly hoping someone will hire him as a comedy writer. He is also a husband to one and a father to four (on purpose).