Ditch the Defaults

It’s easy to believe that the default layouts, color palettes, and clipart in your slideware of choice will result in well-designed slide masterpieces. Unfortunately, the ubiquity of PowerPoint is also its downfall. We all see those same title-bullets-and-clipart layouts and stick figure graphics every time we open PowerPoint or sit down in a weekly meeting. Using them won’t give your audience the wow-factor you’re after. Instead, try to be original.

Here are five tools I use to find unique design inspiration and resources.

1. Pinterest

This is my first stop for design inspiration. I love Pinterest’s search functionality. You can search for obvious terms like “powerpoint” or “keynote” and similar things. I usually find search terms like “magazine layout design” or “beautiful color palettes” to be most helpful. Good design is all over the place, and I find the best inspiration comes from totally unexpected places. And as I go, I always find and pin things that won’t work for the current project but might be useful someday.

2. Kuler and ColourLovers

Can you keep a secret? Selecting colors that go well together is my kryptonite. I’m a professional designer by day, but this is an area I really struggle with. I can tell when a set of colors works well together, but coming up with that arrangement from scratch? Forget it. Fortunately for me there are tons of people out there who are better than I am and are also generous. Kuler and ColourLovers are two of the best color palette sharing sites around. They make it really easy to browse around for something you like. Or, if you already have an image with colors you think look good (like one you found on Pinterest, maybe?) you can upload it to Kuler and it’ll pull colors out for you. Try it! (P.S. Kuler also has an amazing smartphone app that will pull color palettes out of any image on your phone and even does this live with whatever you point it at. It’s magic. Isn’t technology wonderful?)

3. Design Blogs

You use RSS, right? If not, you need to start. Design blogs make it really easy to look at tons of fresh, beautiful, inspiring stuff in a short period of time. I try to make that kind of creative sustenance part of my daily routine. There are bajillions of good design blogs out there, but here are a few to get you started: Swiss-Miss, Kimmy Design Blog, My Modern Met, and Designspiration.

4. Instagram

Similar to Pinterest, Instagram can be a great way to get a quick design fix. Lots of great creatives have accounts on which they post pictures of their latest creations. What I love most, though, is when they share pictures of their process. Things like sketches and early drafts of their work. It reminds me that they’re going through the same process I am and that it’s okay that your creations don’t start out perfectly formed. Their’s don’t either.

5. DIY

Okay, this is my favorite option for unique content, but it can also be the most time consuming and challenging. But if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try your hand at creating your own stuff? Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and actually make things.You don’t have to be a professional artist, or illustrator, or photographer. Sometimes the hand-made feel of photographs you took yourself or sketches you scanned from your personal notebook can lend a little extra personality that wouldn’t be possible any other way. It’s cheaper, too!