The graphic designer’s best kept little secret: amazing illustration, fonts, textures, and photos are all at your fingertips. Utilizing resources will deepen the effectiveness of any of your business’ collateral be it a menu or website.
Rarely is it that graphic designers create everything from scratch (an exception being logo design). Not every one of us are Escher type illustrators, Van Gogh capable painters, and da Vinci calibre engineers all at once. Sometimes it is necessary to call in the troops and harness those that are specialized.
Our job is to craft design work that speaks to a client’s brand promise in the most effective ways possible. While it can be incredibly rewarding to custom make everything from scratch, budget and time constraints are a reality. That’s not to say that a menu is not unique because it uses a resource. Fonts are a resource commonly used without a second thought—a resource most often designed by a typographer or foundry.
Using resources in your own collateral can be an effective means to an end. But they should be used wisely to enhance your idea. As designers, the challenge is bringing together all of the ingredients that tell a story and support a brand promise. A chef doesn’t always bake their own bread or ferment their own balsamic, you use these ingredients to enhance a dish.
Let’s start with fonts because,frankly, I cry a little inside everytime I see Papyrus at a restaurant. The typeface has its time and place but unfortunately it is not all of the time and all of the places. There are much stronger fonts to convey the natural rustic story.
DaFont houses a huge collection of free fonts that are user submitted. They are broken down into distinct categories and it is relatively easy to search. If you’re looking for an old timey typewriter font or something of a Greek appeal, DaFont’s got you covered. There are some gotchyas with the service, however.
Most of the fonts on the site are free for personal use. You will want to check the licensing on the fonts you would like to use. Under More Options when you search you can select the 100% Free filter to ensure that you are not using a font in a way you are not legally entitled to.
The second gotchya is these are free fonts and are not perfected to the same level a paid one will be. Many of them look great in the preview but for menu text the spacing between letters may be off or at small sizes they don’t perform as well. Generally they work for heading titles where manual tweaking is relatively quick. These are things to watch out for when you are using any typeface but we’ve noticed they are far more prevalent in the free variety.
Graphic Burger has quickly become one of my favourite spots for checking out free resources. Here you will find anything from signage mock-ups to icons. Graphic Burger provides image bundles now and again that can be awesome to use in your website. My favourites are truly the icons, though. They can add small but effective little accent details that help the viewer.
They also offer sponsored products and links to premium resources that are priced very reasonably and have great value.
Chris Spooner does a fantastic job curating design resources on his blog. On it he commonly writes or creates video tutorials that anyone can follow. Additionally he has a number of free resources he has either found or created himself including textures, photo effects, and vector graphics. I highly recommend his blog if not just for his tutorials.
This is the place I try to forget exists every two weeks. This is because Design Cuts gather up some of the best design resources they can find and bundle them up for a sale that lasts only two weeks. Each bundle is curated differently. Sometimes it is a collection of 20 or so awesome fonts. Other times the bundle contains hundreds of illustrations and watercolour paintings that can take your menu or website to the next level.
Their bundles can be had at $29 every two weeks. You will be surprised by how much they cram into the package that is often valued at 90% off or more. The deal at the time of writing this is 99% off for instance.
Recently they’ve introduced the build your own bundle function where the number of items in your cart will reflect the percentage discount you will receive. If the bundle you want is not currently happening, this can be a great route to get only the products you need.
Just be careful because these bundles can be addictive to collect.
First off, sign up for their newsletter! Every Monday they provide members six free resources. They span the gamut of fonts and photos.
Creative Market provides premium quality products. It is user driven much like a stock photo website, i.e. iStock. If you’re not ready to bite the bullet on a font from FontShop (extremely well crafted fonts live here by the way), designers at Creative Market will have you impressed. We find ourselves here more often than we would care to admit.
Their target is clearly designer folk like ourselves but I implore you if you are DIY designing to check out what they have to offer. You’ll find inspiration and products that will save you heaps of time.
As always, if you have any questions or more suggestions, hit us up on twitter @brandcouver.