The tools I’m going to share with you in this post are some of my favorite to tinker with and explore. I’ll call this the “fun segment” of this three part series. We don’t really have a budget for marketing at my library (and I’m guessing a lot of you probably don’t either), but that doesn’t mean we can’t have great looking materials to distribute on our website and in print. Anything you present to your patrons will be a reflection of your library and will contribute to the overall user experience. Remember UX from last time? Everything from your website, to your signage, to your program flyers are part of telling your story. And let’s face it, you don’t want your story to be clipart and Microsoft Paint, so let’s jump right in.
Design, Document Creation, Infographics, etc.
Canva is probably the best thing I’ve ever stumbled upon. I use it A LOT, both for work and for personal use. It’s another tool that I have a hard time believing it’s free. I’m not a graphic designer. Design elements don’t exactly come intuitively to me, which means Canva is the perfect tool for me to make great looking graphics for our website and marketing materials.
So, what can you make on Canva? Just about anything. Check out my previous post on Canva to learn more. One update since this post that I love: you can now search template content. This is a huge improvement! Did I mention I LOVE CANVA!
Piktochart is specifically made for the design of infographics, meaning you can get a little more sophisticated with your layout than with Canva. You can sign up for free and accomplish just about anything you’d like in a graphic. Their support and tutorials are fantastic, and I can’t really tell you anything they haven’t already covered in their documentation. I suggest you just jump right in and get your feet wet. With the free plan, you get unlimited creation of graphics, access to over 4,000 icons, built in sharing options, etc. Once you start playing around, you’ll notice the layout is very similar to Canva and intuitive for non-designers.
- WhatFont Tool (Chrome or Firefox extension)
Easily get font information by hovering over text on a website.
Upload an image and create an icon to display next to the URL of your site in the address bar. It will also display next to your site name if it is bookmarked. After generating the favicon, you are provided with code to place in the head of your HTML file.
Color Matching and Palettes
- Colorzilla (browser extension for Firefox and Chrome)
One of the things you’ll want to pay attention to when you’re designing elements for your website or even Facebook graphics is that your institution may have very specific branding instructions telling you which fonts and colors you can use on official marketing materials. At my university, we use a very specific red. When I first began designing new banners and buttons for our website, I consulted our branding manual which gave a list of acceptable RBG color codes consisting of one red and several grays. Well… the code for Carey Red must have been misprinted because it ended up being a lovely raspberry/magenta. So, I used Colorzilla to copy the color code from one of the university’s other webpages… and problem solved. It’s super easy to use. Once you add the extension to your browser, you literally use a little eyedropper tool to pick the color from a webpage, and it gives you the rbg value and the hex code for the color so that you can match it perfectly.
You want to make sure you’re using colors that go well together and are easy on the eyes when designing your materials. You are able to upload photos and create palettes using the image, but it also just randomly generates schemes which is a lot of fun. You can choose a color or two to start with or you can just let the program do its thing. You have the option to create an account so you can save your color palettes. This one is a lot of fun to play around with.
Copyright Free Images
Pixabay is great. I use it all the time. Check out my previous post to learn more about this excellent resource.
Morguefile is a community-based free photo site. All photos found in Morguefile archive are free for you download and re-use. It doesn’t matter if your working on something commercial or personal.
GIMP is a free and open source image editor and manipulation program. It is free, but you will sometimes see for sale versions out there because it is open source meaning anyone can edit the software source code and redistribute it, so make sure you download the free version from the GIMP homepage unless you have a reason for buying somebody’s modifications. GIMP is much more robust than something like Canva. That being said, use the tutorials to help you get started with this tool. I’m going to be honest with you all, I have no photo-editing skills and haven’t had much of a need for it personally, but I keep hearing about GIMP and think it’s worth mentioning. Keep in mind that this may be something you want to show your patrons if they come in asking you for Adobe Photoshop.
Family of photo editing apps:
- PIXLR Editor: robust, think “Photoshop”
- PIXLR O MATIC: not as complicated, you can add effects, etc.
- PIXLR EXPRESS: easiest, quick fix option with frames, filters, etc.
- Web Resizer
Helps you optimize images for web and email. You can reduce size, crop, sharpen, resize, rotate, adjust contrast, brightness, saturation, and add borders.
- Method Draw
Online vector editor, but not as robust as Illustrator. Vector images are those that will need resizing often. Things like your library logo should be vector. Basically, it means there is no background associated with the image and that it is created using mathematical formulas as opposed to color blocks.
Word Clouds & Quotations
Turns your words into a word cloud. You will need to install Silverlight before you can use this tool. *I have had some trouble using this tool. It doesn’t seem to work consistently, but it is neat when you can get it to work.
We’ve probably all used Wordle at some point. It seemed to be the cool thing to do there for a while, but hey… it’s still fun!
This one is fun. It’s made specifically for quotes, and it is sure to make yours look inspiring! You can very quickly create a quote that looks great for your social media.
Use to create animated videos and presesntations. Very neat.
This tool records on-screen activities. It’s great for creating short tutorials. You can record up to 15 minutes for free.
So, there you have it folks. These are some of my favorite design and creation tools. I hope you enjoy! Stay tuned for the final part of this series later this summer.