Follow our tips to create stand-out graphics, and discover the best places to find design inspiration.
Originality is an important concern for any kind of creative work. When choosing a graphic designer, clients will first check the relevant skills and experience, but more often than not, the deciding factor that gets designers the job is their own unique style.
It goes without saying that your own style shouldn’t interfere with the request of the client. For example, if you prefer a modern, minimalist style, but your client requested a colorful 1960s retro design, then you can’t just completely change the art direction you were given.
However, what you can do is try to find a way to infuse your own style into the design to make something truly original (in this case, for example, it might be the use of geometry or symmetry and how you incorporate that into the retro style).
Today, we’ll look at some of the best tips for creating a unique graphic design style. In the second part, we’ll provide a brief overview of some of the best online places where you can find creative inspiration.
The science of colors, also known as color theory, is the foundation of sound graphic design. Every designer knows there are certain rules when it comes to pairing, combining and using colors.
Colors usually aren’t something you can choose at random. Most (established) businesses will have a brand guide, which outlines the colors used to create any visual asset connected to the brand, and consequently, build brand awareness.
However, you also need to take into account color psychology, as well as relevant trends.
The Pantone color(s) of the year for 2021 are PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating. The combination of grey and yellow is supposed to show optimism powered by fortitude, which is definitely what we all need as the world takes control of the covid-19 pandemic. This particular combination, or color schemes that can exude a similar sense of resilience and hope, is a good idea for 2021 designs.
When it comes to some general color psychology considerations, there are a few things to remember. First, bear in mind that, unlike color theory, color psychology is still an emerging field and all of its findings are slightly contested.
So, how can you create unique designs with the power of colors? Here are a few tips:
Think about context
Although red is popular in the food industry, it probably wouldn’t be the best fit for an exclusive, experimental restaurant for high-end clients.
Complementary, contrasting, analog colors
Apply your knowledge of color theory to create unique color palettes. For beginners (or just in case you want to test out a few ideas), there are several programs that help you create color palettes, such as Coolors and Adobe Color.
Find what’s relevant in your industry
It’s no surprise that we often see the same colors and patterns repeated with companies in a similar or same industry (think about the logos of Slack, Airtable and Monday.com, for example). Naturally, the goal isn’t to be the same as everybody else, but focusing on the relevant trends will guide you in the right direction to create something unique.
Non-designers may not think much of it, but typography is an essential graphic design element.
When it comes to using fonts successfully, there are a few basic decisions you’ll need to make early on, for example:
- Are you using a sans serif, serif or script font?
- Is it going to be based on handwriting or more geometrical?
- Do you need to use it for longer blocks of text or as a display font?
- What style are you looking for, urban and modern, or retro?
- How are you going to pair different fonts—complementary or contrasting?
Another important thing to decide is whether you want to pay for typography. Oftentimes, clients and designers forget that certain typefaces require the purchase of a license to be used commercially, and although the prices are usually quite affordable (up to a couple of hundred dollars), many are reluctant to pay if they don’t have to. And they really don’t! There are many great free commercial fonts to explore.
Finally, like everything else in design, trends also have their place in typography. You’ll find fonts particularly popular in a specific industry, such as construction or coffee shop fonts. Or, they might be dependent on the seasons you’re using the designs in: for example, cool and quirky steampunk fonts are usually more appropriate for fall and winter; and warmer weather requires some breezy summer fonts.
You can’t be creative before you know the basics. Knowing what works and what doesn’t will enable you to see where rules can be broken and where they can’t.
Aside from understanding graphic design basics such as line, color, shapes, typography, you must also have a firm grasp on some basic design principles, such as:
- Proximity: aligning elements so that they form a certain connection
- Hierarchy & Emphasis: arranging elements in a way that viewers absorb information/know what to focus on
- Contrast & Variety: breaking established patterns to add more visual interest/highlight important elements
- Repetition: especially important in creating patterns or brand identity, to build brand awareness
- Balance: ensuring the overall stability and balance of the completed design
Although simple enough to explain, in practice, these principles are quite complex and require a lot of work and thinking to implement in one single piece of design. Before you can create unique designs, be sure that you can create professional designs. Though some people like to believe the opposite, professional design is a lot more than customizing a Canva template.
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Logo design is one of the most popular requests in design work and perhaps one of the areas where trends can make the most rapid stylistic shifts. And yet, there are a few rules and practices that can help you create not just unique logos and brand identities, but more importantly, ones that will remain relevant for a long time.
Keep it simple
We don’t mean that the only option is to create minimalist logos. But any design elements that seem unnecessary; that don’t relate to the brand, convey its core messaging and don’t make the logo more noticeable, shouldn’t really be in your design.
Have a strong concept
Do you know that there’s an arrow hidden in the negative space of the FedEx logo, showing the service’s swiftness and focus? Or that the arrow on the Amazon logo points from A to Z, denoting that you can get anything on the platform?
Although these elements aren’t what most people immediately notice, they show that that the design studios behind these timeless logos had a clear concept and vision, which is what helps these fairly simple logos stay relevant throughout the years.
Create your own typeface
Typography is one of the most, if not the most important, element in logo design. Some logos consist of letters only, and it’s in these cases that a unique typeface can make a world of difference. Since there is an abundance of fonts you can get online, many people might not see the hassle of creating a custom font. And yet, the logo that has persisted for around 150 years, the Coca Cola logo uses precisely this strategy.
Where to find creative inspiration
So, now that we’ve given you some pointers on how to create designs that stand out, it’s time to help you find creative inspiration for your work.
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The usual techniques such as meditating, listening to music, reading inspirational quotes, or taking a walk often work, but any professional can tell you that staying informed is a must in the design industry. From browsing through inspirational, creative portfolios to reading in-depth articles about design, here are some of the best places to find design inspiration.
Behance is the most popular portfolio platform, which allows design professionals to share projects ranging from typography to interior design. But Behance is so much more than a place to showcase your best work. It’s a perfect platform to network, get inspired from the work of others, and even find employment opportunities through their job search section.
Designers can probably spend hours browsing through Behance, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. However, if you have a looming deadline, it’s probably best to narrow down your search and look for something more specific. Luckily, Behance has a terrific user interface, which allows you to search for projects by name, industry or field.
Behance’s biggest competitor, Dribble is another wonderful portfolio platform that designers use to showcase their work, network and find work opportunities. The interface on this platform is designed to give “snippets” of projects, so you’ll often find Dribble linking to the full project featured on Behance. On the other hand, Dribbble is ideal for sharing projects where the details are especially important, such as logos or illustrations.
Another cool thing you can do on Dribbble is sign up for professional workshops, where you can learn specific design skills, as well as other practical skills such as how to manage your freelancing work.
Pinterest boards may seem a little old-school, with so many professional design platforms nowadays, but when it comes to finding inspiration, this model still works wonders. Though everybody is on Pinterest, brides to be to teachers and car enthusiasts, it’s still a fantastic place to find design inspiration.
The important thing to remember here is to stay open minded. Pinterest is supposed to be eclectic in nature and who knows if photos of colorful food plates might inspire your next design’s color palette. Search widely and have fun!
Dieline is a specialist platform for packaging designers that will probably manage to crush all your preconceived ideas of what packaging looks like.
Some of the work featured on this platform look like pieces of art and often you’ll see that the concepts have been used by real-life brands.
One of the oldest and most renowned blogs in the industry, Creative Bloq is packed with news from the industry, inspirational articles, reviews of design tools, and how-to guides.
Whether you want to read up on awesome women designers, or need a review for popular drawing tables, this blog has you covered. Thanks to the vast range, and in-depth coverage of all topics, it’s a great resource for both design newbies as well as veterans.
Creative Boom is an online magazine that has a slightly more “artistic” flair than the previous one. If you prefer to find your inspiration browsing through stunning images, rather than reading large blocks of text, then this will be a pleasure to read!
That said, there’s a lot to read here that you’re certainly going to find helpful. You can find plenty of interviews and case studies, where the designers explain their thought processes and stylistic choices.
If you specialize in web design, then Awwwards is a must-visit corner of the internet! Every day you can find new stunning websites and showcase them, give their rating on the specific aspects of the website, and show comments from the community about what they like/don’t like about these designs.
Awwwards offers further sources of inspiration in the form of their blog, which looks at specific cases in more depth. You can also purchase some of the many ebooks on web and app design, which are a great source of knowledge and inspiration.
One of our core beliefs at ManyPixels is that good design should be available and affordable to all modern-day businesses. We achieve this through our simple, inexpensive subscription model, but every day we try to do a little bit more. Whether it’s finding some and showcasing some of the best design work to give designers and their clients an idea of what they can create together; or our practical tips and guides on harnessing the power of design to grow your business.
Our design blog covers a range of topics and stems from our experience of working with clients from different industries. On occasion, we also like to share some design freebies, such as free stationery set templates, Facebook event covers or trendy business cards!