Great graphic design is a critical part of branding your blog. It's as important as your Twitter strategies, your photography, hey, I would go as far as to say as it's as important as your text. Why? Because the way your site is designed is the first thing people notice about your blog, even if it's subconscious. Is your font difficult to read? Does it say “fashion?”
Sometimes I like to joke that since I am a blogger, that I didn't use my college education. But that is not the truth. I went to college for graphic design, and quite honestly, the skills I learned to be graphic designer are needed every day. From editing photos (and learning how to edit photos), to creating graphics for social media distribution of posts, or creating banners, buttons, hey, even the IFB Conference invitations and programmes all were designed by me. Even the logo for IFB.
Graphic design was an industry I fell into. It started by making open house flyers for real estate agents and became my profession for a decade. So you really don't have to get a degree in graphic design to start yourself. In fact, many of you already use graphic design in your blog's identity. And many of you do wonderful work, probably not even thinking it's “graphic design.”
IFB could easily write a post every day on a graphic design topic, but I figure, we have so many other topics to cover as well. So not to worry, here are a few websites that specialize in the skills that fall under the “graphic design” umbrella.
I've only taken one class in Photoshop, and that was literally in 1998. Even though there are plenty of things to learn with each new version, getting started is always the tough part. I love Photoshop, and pretty much use it every day. If you would like to learn it, there are plenty of resources on the web. PSHero, has so many tutorials, from working with RAW photos, to adding brushes, to creating digtial notebooks (graphicaly… and it's not even hard!). Even if you're a Photoshop Pro, this site is a real treat to browse through.
Free Stock Photos
While it's always best to take your own photos, sometimes it's just not possible. Say, if you write a lot of introspective and abstract posts. Topics that don't fall under “fair use” when using someone else's photos without permission. I have to say Flickr Creative Commons has a great selection of photos, but I've used them for several years, and people just aren't updating like they used to. However, PhotoPin is a fantastic resource for searching both commercial and non-commercial use photos. Like with any stock search, there might be a bit of weird stuff to search through, but all in all, it's an easy to use resource with great photos.
Beautiful (Free) Fonts
Free fonts have gotten a lot better these days. Sometimes you get what you pay for, a quirky typeface that has poor letter spacing. But when it comes to a single site that has free fonts, The League of Movable Type is by far my favorite. Over the last year, we've used Leauge Gothic and Ostrich Sans, and both have been really nice to work with. They have other typefaces as well!
It's one thing to have access to amazing fonts, but making them look amazing on your website is a completely new can of worms. I have a Bachelor's degree in typography, and yet, I don't think I know that much about the craft. It's a subtle craft, and it takes years to really get it right. However, don't let that scare you off. The beauty is, you can just jump right in. Downloading fonts and playing around is a great way to get started, but if you really want to understand how to use text effectively, then it's good to brush up on the basics. Then as you learn, you can really go crazy with all of the resources they have out there for typographers. I found one AMAZING list of tutorials on Creative Bloq loaded with crash courses including the Basics of Type, and Combining Typefaces. Once you get past the basics, you can move on to tutorials on How to digitize fonts, and treat type in Photoshop. I think many wonderful hours will be lost on this page!
HTML & CSS Tutorials
If you don't know HTML or CSS, don't worry. Most everything I've learned was simply through Googling, “How do you….” We've covered HTML basics here on IFB, but if you need more, W3schools is great for learning HTML, and CSS, but if you want more comprehensive tutorials, CSSTutorial.net shows you pretty much everything you need to know about this code. I would start by figuruing out what you need to learn to make your vision happen, because just reading these sites is, frankly, boring. It will only stick in your mind if you have an immediate need and you put it to practice.
Without stating the obvious, Pinterest has a fantastic Graphic Design community. If you want something quick an dirty, or just to get started with your research, it's a wonderful place to get lost.
If you're looking for something a bit more substantial, there are loads of graphic design blogs out there. The standards are Swiss Miss, I Love Typography, and I do quite like this blog, Aisle One, which focuses on Modernist design principles, and Visuelle is a bit more eclectic, but spot on. It's enough to get your bearings, then explore from there!
There is so much more to get into, but this is a good start!
Do you have a favorite graphic design resource to share?
[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]