Graphic design hand-holding for a non-designer
May 20, 2017 12:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for resources to help me do some very simple graphic design that doesn't completely suck. I'm starting a business and need to set up colours, a logo, fonts etc so I can make some vaguely professional-looking template documents for my initial pitches to clients. I am totally clueless on such things. Do you have recommendations for tools or guides that will walk me through doing this step-by-step, without assuming that I want to become a designer?

I am very aware that this kind of work is best done by skilled professional experts, and as soon as I get some money coming in from clients I will be hiring someone at market rates to overhaul whatever I put together. Think of this as looking for the design equivalent of one of those "make your own will" kits, as a stopgap until I can hire a lawyer to do things better.

In my dreams I would find a site that I could give a starting colour and font that I like aesthetically, and it would suggest matching colours and design choices that would look OK with it. Can you point me to anything approaching that? Failing that, I'm looking for short guides on how to make those choices myself. I don't have the time or interest to read books on this, or go through a whole Udemy course.

I can see various guides and templates online, but I have no way of telling if they're any good. I know enough not to use clipart, Comic Sans or Papyrus, and have a general set of aesthetic preferences (I like blue, I don't like brown) but that's about it. I am not interested in developing a sophisticated understanding of design principles, or having this design be deeply emblematic of my approach to work - I just want it to not look hideously unprofessional as I start out.

In past jobs I have always done my best to refrain from weighing in on design choices where they didn't directly impact my part of the work. This isn't because I don't care about design - it's hugely important, which is why in an ideal world I'd leave it to the professionals, but I don't have that option now. Help?
posted by une_heure_pleine to Work & Money (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Just what this book is for
posted by KateViolet at 1:17 AM on May 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

Ah sorry I should have read your question better.
There's a good feature on Google fonts which allow some you to choose a font and then it suggest a good second font to pair it with.
Sites like Colour Lovers can give inspiration on colours that look good together.
Also have you thought about getting a generic logo from somewhere like Shutterstock and tweaking it? Or looking on Fiverr? You could maybe get halfway started cheaply like that?
posted by KateViolet at 1:23 AM on May 20, 2017

I'd argue that this is an area that you actually might want to spend a tiny, tiny amount of money on. It looks more professional and it shows that you are detail-orientated, which helps get clients when you are just starting up.

Having said that, spend some time researching design ideas. I find Pinterest more useful than Google for this sort of thing. A quick search for "how to choose colours" gave me this and this. A similar search on fonts gave me this and this.

And if you find all that hideously complicated and too much hassle, get someone on board to make those decisions for you.

Note: I run my own small business; I like graphic design; I managed to get by making my own decisions for about 7 years; this year I finally hired a pro graphic designer to sort out stuff for me and I wish I had done that years ago.
posted by kariebookish at 2:35 AM on May 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

For a total outlay of $10 you can license basically everything from I don't really know what you're after, but you can search for proposal, letterhead, business card, etc. A lot of it is wildly overdone but sift and you can find solid, usable stuff.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:42 AM on May 20, 2017

As a designer, my advice for you would be to buy ready-made templates that you can adapt when needed. These can be bought really cheaply and usually come as a package with all kinds of options, color schemes, and make use of free fonts. A good place to start Would be something like Creative Market, and then you can choose for things like PowerPoint templates, or templates for print or Keynote or whatever else medium you'd like the templates for. Usually comes with detailed instructions and/or support from the original designer.
posted by PardonMyFrench at 5:21 AM on May 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

Perhaps going with a wordpress theme. For a site that's roughly what you're asking, and seems to be fairly automatic, perhaps review possibilities with an aesthetically oriented friend. WP doesn't make business cards or other materials but could focus the direction. Logo's are much trickier as they are free form art and can be hard to find unanimous agreement in the best situation, that's where something like "fiver" could be worth a few tries with an actual designer for cheap, once you have one acceptable example resizing or such is quite doable.
posted by sammyo at 6:06 AM on May 20, 2017

Or, you could spread the love by finding a freelancer or a moonlighter who could give you professional-quality work at a much-reduced price. If they make you look good and help you succeed, they've won a loyal customer. Everyone wins.
posted by DrGail at 8:03 AM on May 20, 2017

Best answer: I've used and was extremely pleased with what they helped me create. They have templates for all sorts of things (including logos) and you can upload your own images. I'm not a graphic designer, so it's been a design game changer for me.

(Also, do read the book KateViolet recommends, if you can. It's really, really helpful.)
posted by unlapsing at 9:12 AM on May 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Who are your clients? The high paying clients are going to know right away that an amateur with no design experience and no interest in design made this thing. Hiring a designer would be worth the investment in this case. You can get stock images for things like filler logos and graphics.
posted by shalom at 9:13 AM on May 20, 2017

Best answer: 2nding It's easy and the results are decent.
posted by ananci at 1:39 PM on May 20, 2017

Best answer: Check out Logojoy - it seems perfect for what you want. You start out by entering your company name, choosing some fonts / example logos, and some colors, and it auto generates results for you.
posted by suedehead at 5:06 PM on May 20, 2017

Also, recommend Canva, and they have easy to use design tutorials.
posted by Leontine at 7:05 PM on May 20, 2017

i second the idea of finding someone who can provide you competent design work. you aren't going to be any good at this for some time, maybe never.
posted by lescour at 3:40 PM on May 21, 2017

As a former professional graphic designer, there is no need to pick color right now. Get a decent placeholder logo mostly composed of font and stick to black and white for now. That will make things simpler until you can afford a professionally designed logo.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:40 PM on May 21, 2017

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