This article was originally published to my newsletter.
While I don't consider myself a designer, I see design as an extremely important skill to have whether you're building an app, creating brand assets, producing content, or even making flyers to support a local event. Here are some of my favorites resources related to design.
In the past I've used Gravit Designer which is still a great alternative to vector design apps like Adobe Illustrator and Sketch. Figma has been slowly gaining popularity and because it is web based, it makes it almost trivial to start creating logos and prototyping user interfaces. Pixelmator is unfortunately a Mac-only desktop app, but I like it as a much cheaper alternative to Photoshop.
I designed my personal logo (shown above) myself using Gravit, and I recently tweeted a new podcast artwork that I'm working on with Figma.
- Pablo: I use Pablo to quickly create images for social media, such as whenever I share one of my new articles.
- remove.bg: This is a mind-blowing tool for removing backgrounds from photos.
- Duotone: If you want to quickly create a captivating background, Duotone let's you upload a photo and add different effects to it.
- Squoosh: I highly suggest you use an image compressing tool like Squoosh to keep your image sizes small, especially when embedded on websites.
One thing that I definitely lack in is being able to design icons or draw illustrations. Thankfully there are tons of resources from other designers who provide these types of assets to you for free.
- Feather icons: A clean and simple icon set that I use for just about everything. You can easily include it into React apps using the React Feather package or just download the raw SVG icons.
- React Kawaii: If you need a quick package of reusable components to add some cuteness to your apps, this is it. I have this implemented in a few places on my site such as my 404 page.
- OpenMoji: Like emojis? Instead of resorting to the native Apple ones, I recommend you use this unified set that also provides a search and open source license.
- unDraw: A massive list of pre-made illustrations for different use cases.
- humaaans: Another great package of assets for mixing-and-matching with different scenes and characters.
As I mentioned before, I don't see myself as a designer, but I still really enjoy pleasant and intuitive designs. Being passionate about something allows you to take inspiration from the world around you, such as from Apple's minimal design patterns.
What's great about minimal design is that it's not that hard to learn. Remove less important elements from a user interface, add whitespace, use a consistent and small color palette, and chances are you're not that far off from a clean interface.
I redesigned my personal website at the end of last year, and wrote about my design decisions. What's mentioned in that article is the amazing Refactoring UI resource which I learned a lot from in keeping my design simple and readable. I also highly recommend these UX tips from Steve Schoger.
It takes time to learn how to improve the UX (user experience) of a website or app that you're building. It also takes time to learn how to properly brand and grow a personal brand. The important thing is wanting to improve and hopefully some of the resources that I shared here can help you some way.
Throughout the last year, I have worked part-time as a working student and also studied at the university. I was not the first and not the last one who has combined that during their studies, but the problem for me was, that at the end of the day I have felt absolutely exhausted mentally and physically. That caused problems with my health and motivation to continue working on my goals or anything. (yeah, “goals,” I wish I had something more specific at that time).