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Five Killer Graphic Design Tools for Community Managers

Written by Lauren Wolfe | on April 28, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Five killer graphic design tools for community managers

Awesome content is everywhere in your community site, but how do you get people to notice it? More importantly, how do you get them to engage with it?

If you ask me, I always start with great graphic design (and not just because I’m a Creative Director). Online content and content marketing is so much more than just text on a page. Great graphic design supports great content and in turn fuels great activity. You need creative, eye-catching visuals if you want people to stay, invest and participate. Design is not the only answer, but it’s a solid place to start (okay, maybe it is because I’m a Creative Director).

So not everyone is a graphic designer. Now what? We’ve assembled a list of the top five killer graphic design tools we think any community manager can use as a quick resource for simple design jobs.

Here are the design tools every community manager should try:

1. Canva

Canva is an online graphic design platform that offers access to a wide assortment of design tools, templates, images, icons and fonts. Features include photo editing and effects tools like vignette, drag-and-drop and pre-made digital and print layouts. In April 2014, former Apple executive Guy Kawasaki joined Canva as the company’s chief evangelist stating, “Canva democratizes design.” The company operates on a freemium business model, providing a marketplace for designers and design education classes. Bonus: there’s an iPad app for design on-the-go or from your couch. Perks includes over 38 million user-uploaded images, 30 million designs, 2,000 video tutorials and 10,000 blog posts.

2. Death to Stock Photo

Our world is awash in images, so it can be tempting to just use whatever photo you find on Google image. But be careful – you could be breaking copyright laws with legal repercussions. It’s an easy mistake to make, with big consequences. Stock photos are expensive and often look, well, like stock photos – sterile, not interesting and manufactured. We suggest you bookmark websites that offer free, high quality images that don’t look canned.

One example is Death to Stock Photo. Dave and Allie created an online stockpile of aggregated images by real photographers, including themselves. All of their photos are in the common domain, meaning everyone can use them. What else is cool? If you’re looking for something specific, reach out to them because they often take on specific project requests. Here’s a quick, easy-to-read overview (or as they say, plain English version) of their license, so you know exactly what you can and cannot do with their photos.

3. The Noun Project

Are you in search of new icons? Check this out! The Noun Project is an ever-growing collection of copyrighted icons that you can download and use without any design software. The best part? The artwork can be licensed for a minimal cost. Even if you aren’t looking for icons, peruse the libraries – it’s vast and diverse, so you might actually stumble across an icon you could use. A bit of background? The site was launched on Kickstarter in December 2010, which raised more than $14,000 in donations, with symbols from the National Park Service and other sources whose content was in the public domain.

4. Piktochart

Interested in infographics, but not sure where to begin? Start with Piktochart – it’s a user-friendly infographic maker to help you take your visual communications to the next level. I’m telling you, you can do this on your own. Choose from over 400 professionally-designed templates sorted by topic and use a simple drag-and-drop, point-and-click tool to customize the design. Plus, there is a robust library of over 4,000 icons, images and fonts. You can upload your logo or other graphics you already use to ensure your branding is solid.

Two important perks: 1) You can crunch data in style by importing content from Microsoft Excel, Google Spreadsheet or Survey Monkey; and 2) You can download your infographics in high definition JPEG, PNG or PDF formats. This is important in case you want to print your creations.

5. paint.NET

paint.NET is free image and photo editing software for folks who can’t afford, but have used or understand Adobe Creative software. It features an intuitive and innovative user interface with support for layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools. There also is an active and growing online community which provides friendly help, tutorials, and plugins. Essentially it has many of the perks of Adobe software, but with an open source cost. Originally a college senior’s computer science senior design project, this graphics editor program is a solution for simple image editing with support for layers, blending, transparency, and typography plugins. That college senior has since graduated, works at Microsoft and continues development.


Alright, talk to me. Was this list helpful? Do you want more?

I’ll leave you with this: become a collector. Each time you see a design that inspires you, collect it because those designs will serve as a strong source of inspiration when needed (even Starbucks gives out creative weekly mini-newspapers). No one loves authenticity like a graphic designer, and authenticity is the foundation of great graphic design…and a great community site.


 Download your copy of Higher Logic's 2016 online community benchmarking study.

Topics: Online Community Management, Marketing

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