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By: Kate Pojeta | Sep, 18 2020

Graphic Design and Creative Tools for the Rest of Us

Whether you are forced to be a graphic designer at times or simply want to jazz up some documents and presentations with something other than text, there are a variety of tools out there that can help you along the way. I am what I refer to as a "by-default" graphic designer. I am NOT an actual graphic designer, and I do not consider myself very creative when it comes to design. Yet time and time again, I need to have something visually pleasing created for a client, project, community event or even a way to make my kids' chore chart slightly more appealing (note: still doesn't make them DO the chores). Here are some of my favorites right now that might help you up your game for your next presentation, honey-do list, calendar of chaos, or whatever design needs you have!


If you are looking to jazz up your images or add some pizazz to your presentation with graphics in any way, I recommend Canva. I've used Photoshop and InDesign over the years, then as Apple Pages started getting fancier and fancier with its layout and image tools, I would recommend people use that for some basic graphic creation - it was simply user friendly enough for non-digital-artists. And played much better with graphics than Microsoft Word. More recently, wanting to avoid the costs of Adobe's Creative Cloud but needing something with a bit more oomph to it, I've been a fan of Pixelmater (again, available on a Mac). When working with a team of people on a variety of graphics, we have turned more and more to Canva. While their Pro account is amazingly phenomenal, the free version really allows you to do so much. In other words - stop using random images you find online (and used with proper credit I'm sure) and use Canva. I don't make money sending you to them, but we do both earn a Canva Credit if you follow this link to setup Canva, so, virtual fist-bump!

The Noun Project

Icons, icons, and icons galore! The Noun Project serves up an endless amount of icons in so many formats, with easy searching by keywords. While you can opt for a free account and include credit whenever you use the icons, an annual account is (at this exact moment in time at least) $39.99. It saves your download history (super helpful!!), you don't have to provide attributes, and you can customize the icons to ANY COLOR you need. You heard that right - you can make the icon ANY color you want so it can get properly branded to your organization, event or project. The Noun Project also offers multiple size and file type downloads, including fancy SVG files your printer keeps asking you for. Now you're a wannabe-graphic designer, right?!


Sometimes finding the right image is hard, or as with Canva and iStockPhoto, comes with costs. And you simply want a good free image. You're not still pulling random images from Google are you?? Okay, whew. You need to give credit where credit is due unless someone has authorized use of their photo with creative licensing. I encourage you to read up on Creative Commons licenses if you stumbled along the last sentence. Or are still pulling random images from Google. So back to Pexels. Pexels has some amazing photography and the artists put their images up there for us to use for free. While I don't think Pexels yet competes in the volume of content as some other image providers, it tends to be a go-to for me when I'm looking for more diverse and inclusive images of people. They have some incredibly creative, artistic images and you can search by keyword. Creating an account is free; you can save favorites, see a download history, and more. And while you do not have to give attribution credit on their images, artists certainly appreciate when we do. Often this can be done with subtle text over an image, or in a caption.

I will often insert a short audio track using iMovie at the frontend of a recorded webinar, or I might need some background music for a digital marketing piece. As much as I am a fan of all things Apple, once you get to know ALL the iMovie tracks by heart, you start looking for something else. Seeking out some options, I stumbled upon and have used their musical pieces for quite a few projects since! I encourage you to check it out when you're in need of some audio. The music falls under Creative Commons licensing, so while free to use, simply give credit where credit is due!

That's my list right now and it's subject to change next month or tomorrow! The beauty and beast of the internet is that there's always something new to discover...

The creative resources on the internet are by the millions. There is no shortage and I'm sure each of you has one or two that you've used and love. Feel free to share yours in the comments below! 

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