Sometimes the right tool can mean the difference between a three hour project and a three day project. We use lots of tools in our work and we’ve pulled our favorites (and some we’d like to try) together for you here in one convenient location. Make them yours – happy working!
What: Adobe Illustrator is graphic design software. It’s first alphabetically, but definitely not the place to start. PowerPoint, Keynote, Microsoft Word and Pages have some similar design capabilities…they just don’t allow the same quality for print or web publication. Definitely consider Illustrator when you’re ready for a software design upgrade, there is a full host of tutorials and projects to get you started. Once you have the basics mastered there is no end to the great design work you can do.
Why: We use Illustrator to custom design graphics for slides and print materials – we couldn’t live without this tool.
What: Create and publish custom videos with ease using Animoto, an online video creation tool. You can choose from a variety of templates, music options, and add your own text to each frame. Free options are available and a range of paid subscriptions from personal to business use.
Why: You always wanted to created your own video – now’s your chance! Big bonus: Non-profit organizations and humanitarian causes can apply for free total access to Animoto. Check out “Animoto for a Cause” to learn more.
What: Canva is graphic design and photo editing software and a mobile app that makes it easy to turn out professional looking graphics with just a little practice. The free version contains pre-loaded templates and a nice choice of fonts and colors to help non-designers make cool graphics (like the Canva logo featured above). More options are available at a fairly low cost.
Why: The applications for Canva are endless. You can upload your own photos and use their graphics to design your slides, logos, or anything else you’d want to add a pop of design to.
What: Draw diagrams, flowcharts, and sitemaps with Creately. This platform promises faster drawing with “1-click”, which combines the 5 actions in traditional diagram software into a one-click step. You can design 5 public diagrams for free with some limitations, and paid subscriptions allow users a greater range of options.
Why: This fabulous tool fills a gap that exists with some other online infographic creation platforms, and eases some of the frustration that exists with other tools you might have used to create diagrams and organizational charts in the past.
What: Evernote. Probably my favorite app of all time and I am only using about 25% of its potential. Evernote is a mobile workspace that makes it possible to sync lists, write and organize notes across devices anytime. You can set reminders, share notes, upload and organize files and images.
Why: From your smartphone, your desktop, or your buddy’s iPhone you can access (and add to) the to-do list you started this morning on your iPad. You can send your grocery list to your husband and ask him to stop at the store for you on the way home. Keep everything in one place and share things with folks to help get the work done. Even real work.
What: Google Drive does for files what Evernote does for notes – it’s a collaborative workspace that keeps your files in one place so you can access, share, or edit them with whomever you choose at any time.
Why: Google Drive makes it easy to work anywhere, anytime, with anyone. It doesn’t get easier.
What: Your data plus infogr.am equals stunning charts and infographics. Check out their “featured charts” section to see the possibilities. As with other online infographic/chart creation platforms you can create a free account, or sign up for a paid subscription.
Why: We really like “Human Population Growth”, a simple, striking infographic created by user Erinn Cookson that combines an easy-to-read chart with a word cloud, an informative illustration, and a quote. With infogr.am you create this awesomeness too.
What: The Noun Project is a website that aggregates and catalogs symbols that are created and uploaded by graphic designers around the world. Icons are free to use by simply crediting the designer. Don’t want to? No problem. You can purchase icons on a pay as you go plan, or opt for a monthly subscription.
Why: Who doesn’t need icons? Feel like contributing your designs to help build the world’s visual language? You can do that too.
What: Paletton is a tool for creating color schemes that work together well. It doesn’t matter if you have a color in mind or are looking to the Paletton wheel for inspiration, with a few easy clicks you can create a multi or mono-color scheme that looks good (not like a t-shirt that’s just come out of a color run).
Why: If you’re not a designer you just need to bookmark this page and use it for all of your design work: slides, print…even home decorating. You can’t go wrong with a coordinated palette. The world will thank you for it and you will thank Paletton.
What: PicMonkey allows you to easily edit photos. Apply filters, text and icons, effects, and easily touch-up your images. Many free options, and even greater flexibility with a paid subscription.
Why: PicMonkey can provide some Photoshop style results with no design experience or software needed. A range of canvas size options makes jobs like resizing images for Facebook a snap.
What: Piktochart is an easy to use drag-and-drop infographic maker. Create a free account that allows you to access many templates, images, and features. Paid subscriptions are available, with lower pricing options for non-profits.
Why: Create the infographic you always wanted to. You can also create posters and slide decks for presentations with this versatile resource. For even more inspiration, check out their blog.
What: Download the Smilebox video editor and design animated slideshows. While this platform offers many options for personal use – from creating greeting cards to family albums, there are also some wonderful options that allow users to create custom videos for any purpose.
Why: Another easy to use platform. You bring the photos, let Smilebox do the rest.
What: Snappa is another design tool for non-designers. It’s goal is to help users increase their customer engagement through design. Snappa makes it easy to create engaging graphics for social media posts, ads, blogs, and headers. It’s free with options to upgrade for a small monthly fee.
Why: People respond to snappy graphics, it’s that simple. And Snappa makes it easy and quick to create snappy graphics. We haven’t tried this one out yet, but it’s had rave reviews and we will be trying it soon.
What: PowerPoint. We know, we know. PowerPoint has developed a pretty bad rap as the responsible party for millions upon millions of the really bad presentations we’ve been forced to watch over the years. But the truth is that this software has a lot of really great features that can improve presentations – if users want to go there. From photo editing, to drawing to including all sorts of mixed media, there is a ton of potential outside the realm of slide design that PowerPoint can do if you let it.
Why: PowerPoint comes loaded with most PCs, its a tool most of us have, and know how to use. Bonus. The trick is to plan your presentation before you ever open it, and then use PowerPoint as a vehicle for communicating your message. We’ll show you how.
What: Slide Magic is a slide presentation software application that emphasizes clean design. Their tagline: “You worry about substance, SlideMagic worries about design.” We haven’t used this app yet, but it looks fun – and structured enough to prevent so many of those over-design mistakes we often see.
Why: It comes with built-in elements like a basic grid and single accent color that are a slide designer’s time saving dream. Who hasn’t wasted hours struggling over color selection and text alignment? It’s an intuitive app that leaves the design to the designers and the content to the expert (you).
What: Looking for a design project just for you? Consider a resume-revamp. Visualize.me helps you show off your professional experience and education using infographic-magic.
Why: Sign up for free, and have fun giving your traditional resume a makeover It could help your LinkedIn networking spring to life.
What: Wideo allows users to upload their own images and music, or choose content from their library to create animated videos (think cartoon). Wideo templates can be easily customized for fast results.
Why: Animation increases engagement (think Facebook and social media). A video is cool, and animation is cooler.