10 Essential Design Resources for Creative Entrepreneurs

Every entrepreneur - especially those in creative industries - should have a simple understanding of basic design principles.

I know that’s a biased claim coming from a graphic designer but the longer I’m in business, the more I’ve seen firsthand how crucial design is to entrepreneurial success.

Great design helps you look professional and creates a positive first impression with prospective customers and clients. Great design helps you stand apart from others in your industry. And great design builds authority and trust.

The great news is that anyone can learn and apply the basics of great design. All it takes is a little creativity and the help of these 10 fantastic design resources.

10 Essential Design Resources for Creative Entrepreneurs - Elle & Company

1  |  Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is the mac daddy of design programs. 

It allows you the most versatility and customization because it gives you every design tool you could ever need. From drawing tools to advanced color options, custom templates, and everything in between, Adobe Illustrator has you covered.

Not only that, but Illustrator allows you to create vector files rather than raster files. Here’s why that’s a big deal:

Most images (like photos) are raster images, meaning they’re made up of pixels. They may appear clear and smooth when they’re a small size, but as you zoom in on a raster image, you can see the individual pixels, or boxes of color. This doesn’t work well for objects like logos that often need to be increased in size.

The graphics created in Illustrator, however, are vector images. Unlike raster images, they aren’t made up of pixels; they’re created using mathematical logarithms so they can be resized without sacrificing quality and resolution. Illustrator creates vector images and can also work with raster images, while programs like Photoshop or Canva only work with raster images.

This is extremely helpful for design items like logos, type, and graphics that need to be resized and enlarged on a regular basis.

So if you’re looking for an all-in-one program for creating a logo, business cards, website graphics, PDF pricing guides, presentation slides, infographics, and more, Adobe Illustrator is where it’s at.

Are you interested in learning how to use Adobe Illustrator to create custom graphics for your business? Mark your calendars!

My Adobe Illustrator Basics course is launching for the 4th time on March 25th. This course has sold out within 15 minutes in the past and because this is the only time it will be offered in 2016, we expect seats to go fast!

2  |  Canva

For those of you who are looking for a program that does all of the design work for you, look no further than Canva.

Canva is filled with design templates for infographics, presentations, social media posts, and more. 

While there isn’t as much versatility or customization involved, Canva has a ton of well-designed options and layouts available to you. All you have to do is edit the content, change the colors to suit your brand, and you’re good to go.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s free?!

3  |  Creative Market

Is the thought of creating custom icons, patterns, and graphics a little overwhelming to you? Maybe you need a mockup image for your product or a business card template.

If so, Creative Market is at your service.

This platform is chock-full of handcrafted design resources, from fonts to photos and everything in between. The products in their marketplace are created by independent creatives all around the world and their products are very reasonably priced.

Whether you’re looking for a simple way to add some character to your brand through a pattern or you need a mockup desk shot for your portfolio, be sure to check out this online creative marketplace.

4  |  MyFonts.com

There are several great font sites out there, but MyFonts.com is a personal favorite.

Not only does it feature a wide selection of fantastic designer fonts, but it allows you to take them out for a “test drive” by entering your own text to see what it looks like before you purchase (which is especially helpful for designing logos).

You can sort fonts by style, take a look at the best sellers and new additions, and easily view the licensing information for each font on their site.

MyFonts doesn’t include free fonts, but if you’re looking for a great new font for your brand or website, it’s a great resource. 

5  |  Adobe Color CC

If you’re ever in need of color inspiration, head on over to Adobe Color CC. (Some of you may be familiar with it already - it used to be called Kuler.)

Adobe Color CC helps you come up with a distinct color palette and provides all of the color values for you. 

By choosing one color at the outset (like the bright red in the image above), you can set a color rule and view different types of color palettes - analogous, monochromatic, triad, etc. You can also adjust the colors in the palette using the sliders and save the templates under your account.

If you don’t even know where to begin, the Explore tab gives you a look at recent palettes that others have created on the website.

So if you’re in search of exact values for your brand’s color palette or you need some help creating your color palette in the first place, check out Adobe Color CC.

6  |  Design School

Remember Canva, that awesome resource for templates and web graphics I told you about a moment ago?

They also have a really great blog, and it’s full of design tips and inspiration. It’s called Design School and if you haven’t heard of it, set aside at least an hour before heading over there and digging into their archives.

Color theory, fonts, layout design, design trends - you name it, they probably have a post on it. (I especially love their great design roundups.)

7  |  Logo Design Love

Every business has a brand. It may not be acknowledged or invested in, but a business is always sending their audience a message through their visuals.

You may hire a designer to create your logo, come up with your color palette and font choices, etc., but you should understand enough about brand design to understand if your designs are telling people the right things about your business.

That’s why this book, Logo Design Love, is applicable to designers and non-designers alike.

While it was written for designers, it does a great job of explaining the logo design process in a simple way without using tons of design jargon. It’s also chock full of great examples.

If you want to know why some logos are more effective than others and what makes a logo iconic, this book is a fantastic, timeless resource.

8  |  Thinking with Type

The one area of design that people tend to struggle the most with? 

Typography, by far. 

People have a tendency to use fonts that don’t pair well together or don’t match the message they’re trying to convey, which results in designs that look unprofessional or “homemade."

Thinking with Type is a classic. 

While this book is a little more nerdy and technical than Logo Design Love, it does a fantastic job of breaking down the basics of typography.

9  |  CreativeLive

Searching for free design courses? Look no further than CreativeLive.

CreativeLive is an online education platform that broadcasts classes for free. They’re largely known their photography classes, but they’re currently working to expand their art and design courses.

Topics include Web & UX design, Design Fundamentals, Typography & Lettering, and more, and they partner with leading industry experts to teach them.

If you’re seeking to learn more about design, be sure to keep up with the live courses CreativeLive has to offer. It’s an excellent resource for continued education!

10  |  Elle & Company

Shameless plug aside, there are several helpful design resources on this site. 

There’s a whole Design archive full of blog posts, recorded Ellechats centered around design, and a Library full of customizable business cards, blog post templates, and more. 

We also have a live webinar taking place tomorrow at 3pm EST on How to Create Custom Brand Icons. It might just be one of my favorite Ellechat topics to date!

I’ll be teaching you how to create custom brand icons to help your business stand out and draw more attention. No experience or budget is necessary - I’ll be sharing options for every skill level and price point. 

The webinar is free and those who join in live will receive a special bonus. So go ahead and register today!

You don’t have to be a design expert to appreciate, understand, and implement the fundamentals of great design. All you need is a little creativity and the help of these 10 resources!

What are your go-to design resources? Were any items on this list new to you?