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Find your inspiration – a holiday grab bag of helpful design resources

giftIn honor of America’s birthday, here is little a gift for everyone: links to provide you with inspiration for your next marketing project along with some bonus tools to help clear clutter and enhance your productivity.

Typography

Fonts are an often overlooked design element – a smattering of Arial, Verdana or Times arranged into paragraphs for general consumption. But your typography is actually the largest design element on your website. Your visitors are interacting primarily with the words on the page, so you have to think carefully about how your type choices affect them. Well-formatted type is also important to maximize the effectiveness of print materials. These type tools help illustrate what good typography can be:

The Kerning Game: Kerning is a design term that refers to the space between letters. Some fonts are very good at auto-kerning and others are not, leaving awkward spaces in the middle of words or scrunching letters too close together. The Kerning Game is a simple site that lets you play with kerning and see how small details like the space between letters can help make type more readable and beautiful.

Interactive Guide to Typography: Tommi Kaikkonen’s blog type website helps illustrate how the interplay between different font choices affects readability by allowing you to experiment with type effects and see the results in real time. It provides a solid introduction to the fundamentals of typography, including fonts, fonts size, layout, line height, visual hierarchy, color and more.

Setting Type Tutorial: Setting Type is a similar concept to Tommi’s blog, but it provides a more guided tour, walking you through the process of turning a jumbled paragraph into readable blocks of text.

Stock Photography

The right graphics can make a website or presentation stand apart and help your firm communicate more effectively with your target clients. But purchasing quality pictures at the appropriate resolutions can get expensive. Unsplash offers high-resolution pictures free to download and use on your website. Ten new images are added every ten days, and you can subscribe to get updates. MorgueFile – the stock site with a curious name – also offers free image downloads, and it aggregates images from paid photo sources. Next time you are about to place Microsoft clipart into your presentation, consider trying stock instead.

Business Model Tool

If you are thinking about going solo and need a simple business model, Canvarise allows you to create a one-page plan that you might actually follow. Its creators recognize that business plans are time-consuming, cumbersome and not often updated or even revisited once they are completed. Their goal is to help you build a plan that will actually get used.

Inspiration

Sometimes it helps to soak in the good ideas of others – especially those outside of your field. One of the best ways to stimulate creativity and enhance your own marketing efforts is to step away from your routine and give your mind the freedom to make new associations. Here are some sites that just offer pure inspiration:

Form Follows Function: Innovations in coding and website development allow designers to stretch the limits of their creativity and make more functional, useful websites. Many firms use elements like slideshows and floating menus, but what about doing something totally new? The website form follows function (fff) shows off some lesser known effects, like 3D rendering and animation. Browsing through some lesser-known effects can offer unexpected insight.

Google Creative Sandbox: Google Creative Sandbox is a showcase of creative marketing campaigns. You can browse hundreds of successful campaigns and see what others are doing well. The site also offers a guidebook explaining the creative process that is full ways to stimulate your creative juices.

Google Visual Assets: A group of designers recently released some of the guidelines for Google’s visual assets in two parts on Behance, and the documents are a model for how the company uses simplicity, a reductive approach to design and pixel-perfect consistency to help maintain its brand. They also reveal the intricate attention detail involved in the creation of icons, color schemes and type treatments. It is a study in how much thought actually goes into making graphics that appear to be minimally designed. Both designers and non-designers can benefit from this interesting look into the making of highly successful brand assets.

Redsgned: Redsgned.com offers a look at how popular websites, like IMDB and amazon.com (among others), have been redesigned to enhance the user experience. Each featured site is accompanied by a short case study.

Organization

Too much clutter (physically and mentally) makes productivity difficult. Get your inbox and tabs organized with these tools:

Notifus: If you use Gmail, one thing that can add to your mental clutter is keeping track of your conversations. Notifus is a simple tool that lets you schedule reminders about unanswered conversations. You can remove emails from your inbox (freedom) and set an “alarm” that will move the thread back into your inbox at a predetermined time. You can stop worrying about unanswered emails and let Notifus remind you when a response is needed.

OneTab: Too many open browser tabs can drive a person crazy. OneTab for Chrome will convert all your tabs to a list, freeing your browser to operate more quickly and efficiently. You can revisit the list and restore tabs as needed, one at a time.

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