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Online Tools for the Deadline-Stricken Creative

I would be rich if I had a quarter for every time someone has asked me to brand a proposal and “make it pretty”… in less than two days. It has taken me a while to figure out how to design “pretty” proposals and collateral in a short amount of time–much less trying to get the right content from my project managers.

So, I humbly submit to you my go-to online tools for creatives, with or without a hot deadline.

1. A Creative Corner on Your Newsfeed (Inoreader and Feebly for example) and the Blogosphere

My newsfeed is hands-down my saving grace. There have been oh-so many times that I need to pull off something creative in a moment’s notice or I’m asked to take on a project that I have never done before. I can almost always find inspiration just by searching my newsfeed.

My favorite time to look at my newsfeed is on Saturday morning when I’m waking up slowly with a huge mug of coffee. It’s my weekly happy time.

I also subscribe to really random sites that intrigue me. I love fine art, print and paper. Some of the feeds I love are Imprint (Print Magazine’s blog), underconsideration.com (for print only content) and thedieline.com. These might do it for you, they might not. But it is truly hard NOT to find something that turns your crank.

Note: The marketing game is always to stand out from the rest of the pack. Make sure that you are reviewing quality creative. There’s a lot of bad out there. Follow the leaders of the pack in whatever you enjoy.

2. Color Palettes

When rushed on a project, I am often doubtful that I can mix and match colors well. When I can’t think about what green will look good with a certain blue, I go to color.adobe.com or colourlovers.com. Both have a very creative community of people creating palettes and showing them off to each other.

I love that Adobe has integrated Adobe Color into their software so you don’t have to flip screens to get something you have created or saved. Colourlovers has an RSS feed of palettes and a great blog. Both sites allow you to download the color files for uploading into a host of applications such as Illustrator, InDesign and HTML.

Be warned: It’s easy to get carried away in these sites!

3. Fonts

I can’t stand it when I need a professional looking font and have no budget to get one. It’s always like playing the roulette wheel when you have no time to look for free or next-to-free fonts. Once you think you have landed on the lucky number, you download a font with grand relief. Then, you type out your firm’s name and it looks wonky. Great, back to the drawing board.

Here are my go-tos: fontsquirrel.com, exljbris.com and google.com/fonts. I know they are all not perfect or all free but they offer more good than bad.

4. SmashingMagazine.com

From free fonts and icons to insightful articles about responsive design, I love this web site. It is a great place to start learning about something new, or new ways of doing something old hat.

Smashing is broken up into the following categories: coding, design, mobile, graphics, UX design and WordPress. Though I have not had to code much of anything, I have randomly needed something in there.

5. The Beauty of Terry White and YouTube 

There a lot of times I find myself not knowing how to do something in InDesign. For years I went to InDesignSecrets.com. I wish I had all the time in the world to go through their podcasts, webinars and video tutorials.

Lately, I have been leaning on the wonderful Adobe Evangelist, Terry White. His blog at terrywhite.com and his YouTube channel are gold mines. His very easygoing delivery is soothing when I’m about to throw my computer into Alabama. Terry is also one of the first people to know what’s new every time Adobe rolls out a new version of an Adobe product.

I hope you have found something new here to help you on your next assignment. Sharing is awesome and I would love to hear your feedback and any tools you love or would like to know more about.

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