Design Like a Designer (When You’re Definitely Not One)

Design Like a Designer (When You’re Definitely Not One)

This post is about a (free) tool that helps you get as close to designing like a designer as possible — trust me on that. But let me start with another thought that I have found helpful as a creative and entrepreneur:

There’s something incredibly frustrating about trying to see your design vision become a reality.

It’s incredibly frustrating to be able to see a beautiful website or social media profile or business card in your mind, and then utterly struggle in making what’s in your mind’s eye come to life.

See, most of us are not professional designers. I’m not. Chances are you’re not either. And yet, when starting a business, we have this clear vision of what we want our websites and social media profiles and business cards to look like — and they are certainly professional-grade visions.

When I think about this frustration, I also think about Ira Glass’ timeless advice to beginners in business and creativity. He says that this type of frustration is enhanced because, by nature, entrepreneurs and creatives possess an innate sense of taste. This taste is what allows them to create thriving businesses and creative careers, but this taste also makes them realize that what they’re creating very early on isn’t that good.

Here’s a video of Ira Glass (host of “This American Life”) explaining this concept. It’s a short video that should be helpful and comforting to anyone starting something new:


I Look Back and I Cringe

I wrote a novel my first year after college. This was in 2005. When I go back and read it now, I cringe. I wrote some freelance high school football stories that same year. They are bad, too. My first real writing job was at a small newspaper in Idaho, and I wrote stories for that paper that make me wonder how they got published at all.

That’s the way it goes when you’re first starting out.

I even look back to the collateral I was using when I first launched my freelance writing business, and it looks just awful. This was just 3 years ago. And I’m embarrassed that I was using it.

Creative work is tough, and design might be the toughest creative work of all.

Three Options for Design

There’s good news: You have at least three options when in need of good design:

  1. Slog Through: OK, so you know your own designs are bad, but you choose to slog through anyway. Maybe you sign up for Adobe Creative Cloud, you take a couple of tutorials, and you use Illustrator to slap together something that’s passable. It’s so-so, maybe even good enough, but it’s definitely not what you had in mind.
  2. Hire Someone: You can find several marketplaces for design work these days — Upwork and Fiverr come to mind. When you slog through you have to pay for software like the tools included in Adobe Creative Cloud, and when you hire someone you have to pay to hire someone (obviously). Neither is always an attractive path when you’re just starting out.
  3. Take Advantage of Free Tools: Oh, how I wish I knew about this option when I was first starting my own business! There’s a free tool out there that makes designing so easy. Drum roll, please …

Meet Canva: The Best Graphic Design Software for Beginners

When you’re starting a business, do this: Visit and open a free account. It may take you a few tries to figure out how to make the most of Canva’s platform and how to use all of its tools. But, once you get the hang of things, Canva will become your best friend.

Canva is a web-based platform that allows you to drag-and-drop your way to professional looking designs of almost any variety, including:

  • Presentations
  • Blog graphics
  • Brochures
  • Posters
  • Letterhead
  • eBooks
  • Infographics
  • Business cards
  • Flyers
  • Email headers
  • Much more

They have a significant collection of templates and themes, stock images, typefaces, icons and other design components to choose from. Most of them are free, and you can pay a modest amount for premium options — it’s a buck for stock images, for example, which is far less than what you’ll pay elsewhere.

Canva isn’t without shortcomings, of course. The platform gets a little slow when working on multi-page documents with large images (like brochures and presentations), and the colors aren’t always easy to perfect for print documents. But, man, Canva is simple and efficient when you need good design and you need it quickly.

You can even upload your own images and edit them using Instragram-style filters. My wife has started using Canva to create Valentine’s cards and birthday invitations for our kids. Once you discover Canva, you won’t remember how you worked without it.

Here’s an interview with Canva co-founder and CEO Melanie Perkins that shares why Canva exists (for novice designers like you and me) and that provides a glimpse into what Canva looks like in action:


Let Us Help You Tap Into Essential (and Affordable) Tools

Part of the beauty of being a dabbler and a serial entrepreneur is that you have a chance to fail a lot. You also have a chance to try a lot of different tools and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

I think back to when I was just starting out, and I’m stunned when I consider just how little I knew. I think about the things I tried and the time that was wasted. I think about how much easier it would be if I could go back in time knowing what I know now.

At High Tech IQ, we help new entrepreneurs hit the accelerator and get up and running more quickly than when going it alone. Yes, as Ira Glass says, you must do a lot of work and you must get better at your craft. But there’s nothing wrong with using tools available to you (like Canva) to accelerate the process and free up time to focus on your actual products or services, or to focus on writing or content or business development.

Are you just getting started and looking for ways to more quickly make your vision a reality? Let us help. We specialize in setting up websites and basic automation at no charge to the user — you only pay for hosting, which is where your website files are stored. We can also recommend tools that can help you become a success in your niche.

Contact us today about getting your website and your business up and running.