Design is hard.
Nothing is more frustrating than repeatedly tweaking one thing until you finally realize you don’t know how to actually do it.
To avoid pulling your hair out with your design work, follow these seven hacks to get the most out of of your limited design skills set.
1) Use a nice theme and stick with it
What do I mean by theme? I mean pick some fonts and color choices, and don’t vary from them. Yes, I get it, you want to throw a splash of red on that blue/gray slideshow you’re doing, but don’t!
Pick 5 or fewer colors and stick with them. Pick 2 fonts and stick with them. Anything more looks disjointed, loud, and sloppy. You can always use bold and italics if you need to emphasize something.
Some great resources for color picking are colourlovers.com, Design Matters article, or Pinterest. Some awesome resources for picking matching fonts—and yes, it is important that your fonts match—are The Google Web Fonts Project and Typ.io.
Here are some examples:
- Oswald for headlines.
- Garamond for body copy.
- White (background)
- Blue (links)
- Flamingo (for kicks, and who doesn’t like a color named flamingo?)
Why those colors? Well blue, underlined links are pretty standard and almost always make sense, although it depends heavily on your project.
Whitespace is my best friend.
Flamingo is just a fun color for emphasis.
2) Remove what isn’t necessary
I know you super love putting everything above the fold on your web design. I know it’s, like, your favorite to have cats exploding on the sides in your margins. But you know what’s really hip with the kids these days? Whitespace.
Man, those kids, they love whitespace. They eat all up all those nice line breaks and chances for their eyes to rest and focus on what matters.
Here’s a list of my favorite sites that use great whitespace:
Here’s an example of a website with bad whitespace:
There’s not enough space between the blog copy and the sidebar.
Here’s an example of good whitespace:
Plenty of space between blog post and sidebar.
May the white space force be with you.
3) Line height & alignment = poetry
This section could also be called, “How many times did I resize or rewrite my headlines to make them all fit on one line?” It’s that important. You don’t want your presentation to be sloppy. Design matters. Take a look at the image below.
Which has better line height?
4) Pixel Perfection
Do you remember as a kid getting so close to the screen that you could see the tiny boxes that made up the image on the TV? Well, if you didn’t know before, those are pixels.
I don’t think those happen anymore in new TVs, but alas, pixels are important. When you’re looking at your site, if something looks off, zoom in to the single pixel level. One pixel off and you can throw off an entire design. Some software like Fireworks is great for doing some quick edits on those pixels that have gone rouge.
5) Don’t steal, but get inspired
I’m a big fan of other people’s work. I can sit on Dribbble for days just drooling at what other designers are doing better than me. It’s good to get inspiration when you’re stuck.
Here are some accounts to follow:
Important note: Don’t steal or rip off a design. I totally get you’re really good at using that trace tool in Illustrator, and that’s totally awesome. You know what’s totally not awesome, though? Stealing. Don’t do it.
6) Use a template
You can find thousands of pre-designed print and web graphics online. Lots of these are free and lots of these are paid. The web is bursting with everything from business cards and brochures to logos and email templates.
Really, you can find a template for just about anything. I was about to use an ebook template that I found on HubSpot for this and then decided to go with my first hack instead. Whatever you fancy.
My favorite places to find free and paid templates:
- Creative Market
- Graphic Burger
- Stock Layouts
- Creative Bloq
- Design Bolts
- Creative Overflow
- You the Designer
- Web Designer Depot
7) Use an online design service
But do you recall, the most famous online design service of all?
Canva, the magic online design tool! And that’s the end of the song, I promise.
Well, what are you waiting for?
Katie teaches grad students how to be social at the University of Florida. She loves the Gospel and curates content as the Web Content Manager at Brentwood Baptist Church. She’s a native Alabamian residing in Nashville, Tennessee.