Free design resources for when you don’t have a designer on your team

Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to move forward but your crappy design weighs you down like a sack of sand.

I can’t tell you how many projects I have postponed or sluggishly inched forward because I was waiting on someone to design something for me. Despite knowing people who are designers, it gets tiring always asking for favours, plus I have no leverage over them if it’s free.

One day I was faced with a decision: ask a friend for some help and tell him how urgent my design need was, or, be scrappy and resourceful and just do it myself. Ugly design was not an option, neither was not moving forward.

So I started designing. And I discovered some amazing free tools along the way that make designing easy and fun.

Today you don’t have to be a designer to build beautiful presentations and pitches, make high quality social media content or produce clever, entertaining videos with imbedded design.

Can a designer do a better job than you? Probably. I hope so. It’s their job and skill.

But if you are strapped for cash and are just getting started, don’t let not having a designer on your team be a barrier to high quality content.

Here are some of my favourite tools and resources for top-notch design.

“Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.”

That’s the tagline of Unsplash and it’s amazing. The photos are seriously unreal. What’s great about Unsplash is that you can search for photos, a feature that not all photo sites allow. Often I find myself browsing photos and I realize that an hour has gone by. It sounds cheesy, but exploring photos on Unsplash is absorbing and addictive.

Please, from the bottom of my heart, please…

Stop with the stock photos!

No more low quality images from Google search!

No more random clipart or tasteless animations!

When possible, fill your presentations with breathtaking HD images.

Gratisography is similar to Unsplash, but a lot more random. It is great when you are looking for an interesting, provocative image that conveys a specific message.

This is the site I will go to when I know what the message of my slide is, but I don’t know what background to put. I will usually find something that fits perfectly on Gratisography.

The Noun Project is a free website to search icons of all kinds. If you need an icon, it’s here.

Get rid of your bullet points. Use icons instead. The visual appeal makes your presentation or flyer 1000% more attractive.

Here is an example:

Boring slide. Black and white. Pure text. Awful.

Here is the same slide with icons.

A lot better. Maybe add some color. Play with the sizing. But you get the point. Thanks to The Noun Project you can experience huge gains in your design using icons, even though you are not a designer.

“Free fonts have met their match. We know how hard it is to find quality freeware that is licensed for commercial work. We’ve done the hard work, hand-selecting these typefaces and presenting them in an easy-to-use format.”

Amen to that.

Choosing a great font is vital to good design. Never go with the default. Unless you are writing on Medium, then you have no choice.

Don McMillen, stand-up comedian does a great gig called “Death by Powerpoint” in which he says that the font you choose says a lot about who you are. It sends an unspoken message.

If you choose Times New Roman you are lazy, apathetic and unimaginative. You always use the default.

Here is an example:

The font used is Arial, the default in Google Slides. Now this slide doesn’t look too bad. It is hard to go wrong when you use HD images and minimal text. By the way, guess where the image came from — Unsplash.

Here is the same slide with a font I downloaded from Font Squirrel called Lobster.

Much better.

Don’t be boring and apathetic. Wow your audience with sexy fonts.

I love PicMonkey. For me, this is like a watered-down, baby Photoshop that is super practical.

I use PicMonkey to create content for Social Media, such as header images, event flyers, memes and other engaging content. PicMonkey also allows me to create design elements that I use to embed or overlay in video content.

There is a paid version, which I have never used. Quite frankly, I am so happy with the free version.

PicMonkey is super easy to use. In the header, click on “Design” and you will get the following screen.

You now have a blank canvas to do whatever you want.

Here are some examples of how I have used it.

I grabbed this image from Unsplash and uploaded it to PicMonkey. I then added a quote and overlayed a logo. I then downloaded it in PNG and shared it to Facebook. This piece of content was for Relatos Urbanos, a stand-up storytelling event I run monthly in Santiago, Chile.

Another example:

I was toying with the idea of creating a K-Pop Bootcamp for all the fanatics out there who want to learn Korean using the music of their favourite K-Pop artists. Yes — I speak Korean. Random, I know. And yes — I still want to make this idea happen.

To validate the idea, I recorded myself speaking Korean and explaining what the Bootcamp would offer. To make the video more cool, and more “Korean,” I wanted to add in some special effects. How the freak do I do that?


I created the images I wanted to overlay in my video using PicMonkey. I made sure to select the canvas as transparent, otherwise I would get a white background.

I downloaded the image/text from PicMonkey and then added it as a “Picture in Picture” in iMovie.

And all of a sudden, I have a cool video with images and text popping up, like a pro YouTuber, except I’m not.

It isn’t hard to make things look good

It just takes effort and knowledge of the tools and resources that are out there. I just mentioned five. There are many gem to be discovered out there.

If you Google free fonts, you will find hundreds of blogs on the top free designer fonts. If you Google free design tools, you will find lists upon lists.

There is no excuse for having ugly content.

Don’t be lazy.

Be scrappy.

And until you get that designer on your team, have some fun creating.

Happy designing!

If you have any other favourite tools or resources, please don’t be greedy, and share them with me in the comments section. :)

Right after publishing this post I was recommended to use

Think PicMonkey, but even more user friendly. Game changer! Already loving the scope of what you can do on Canva. Check it out.