Keys to DIY Graphic Design

Dumb Little Man has a great post titled 7 Keys to DIY Graphic Design on No Budget.

Some highlights:

  • Be minimalistic. In particular, don’t over-write. I find I do that a lot. For someone with the social skills of a turnip, I often find myself writing long, florid passages that show off my writing chops but don’t really help communicate anything. I’ve dubbed that “ego writing”, and it describes the first pass at most everything I write. I often compose a whole page of email prose, re-read it, and replace it with a couple of well-worded sentences.
  • Grab some free stock graphics. In particular, try stock.xchg and the Open Clipart Library. There are also search engines geared directly toward free graphics, including everystockphoto and PicFindr. There’s no sense reinventing the wheel.
  • Grab some free fonts at places like urbanfonts and better fonts. Times New Roman is not your friend. And only use one or two fonts - any more becomes distracting.
  • If you dress like I do, you need help with color coordination. Dumb Little Man recommends EasyRGB, and I’ve also used colormatch and COLOURlovers.

It’s a great post, and it also recommends Inkscape for graphics editing, which I highly endorse.

I have come to appreciate graphic design and interface usability design a lot more than I used to. Through critical analysis of some of my older work, I concluded (a) any yo-yo can put stuff on the Internet, (b) almost all of those yo-yos do it poorly, and (c) I was one of those yo-yos. A brilliant application of programming skills or GIS savy won’t save an ugly application or a poorly designed interface.

As much as the hacker in me detests the idea, design is at least as important as functionality. It’s a good idea for every developer to take a hard look at her or his work periodically in terms of graphics and interface design and see what can be improved. Your current users will thank you, and you may pick up some new users along the way.