New (and Free) Visual and Video Creation Tool
Last week, Adobe rocked the design world by launching an expansive, super intuitive web-based platform for designing visuals and video called Adobe Spark (Sp). The best part about Spark is that it’s FREE! That’s right, the company who is known as the giant in the creative media industry has created a game-changing media tool that is free! Amazing, right?!
Spark is divided into three categories - Post, Page and Video. In addition to the web-based platform (available to EVERYONE), Adobe has released (essentially, re-released the original Adobe Post app) three stand alone apps - Spark Post, Spark Page and Spark Video. These apps are currently available only to iOS users. It will be released for Android devices in the future, but no timeframe has been publicized yet.
So, what’s the big deal? Well, remember, Spark is FREE and a web-based platform, meaning anyone can create posts for social media, landing pages for websites or video for social/digital media on a desktop at anytime from anywhere - no software, no download, no money!
Adobe has said that they plan to release the ability for premium features at a later date that would include a paid subscription to the service. This will most likely allow for more advanced options, as well as the ability for personal branding. However, the current release of Spark is impressive; you will certainly find many creative and unique ways to create visual content for your social and digital needs (free, remember!).
It’s nothing special, but I wanted to prove how super easy (and quick) working in Spark can be. I made the following video in no more than 2 minutes as a quick experiment the day it was released with the video builder on desktop.
Spark is built for all users, from beginners to experts, and will no doubt become a game-changer, especially as the platform and apps continue to advance with further functions and options.
It may not act as a replacement for Canva (yet?), but it is certainly a nice companion. It is like having a Mercedes-Benz sedan (aka Canva), but you need an SUV, too, yet you have the opportunity to have a BMW SUV (aka Spark) rather than a Subaru. (Gee, that must be nice, too, right?!).
One ‘big deal’ item already, though, is the Twitter post template. Spark uses the actual mobile image ratio, rather than the desktop ratio. This means that on any mobile device, your image created with Spark will not be cut off on the sides. More so, it doesn’t affect the way the image shows on desktop when it is expanded.
As you can see above, the image is scaled the same in the Twitter feed, as well as the enlarged version on the left.
Now, in this example, you can see the difference between the two. The image in the feed is slightly cropped on the sides.
So, do yourself a favor and check out Adobe Spark! Right now! This is extremely fresh news. The best way to learn more is to experiment yourself. Feel free to connect with the greater community of Spark users by posting your creations or searching for others on social media with the hashtag #SparkMade.
Images: Adobe Spark, Pablo
Basic Social Media Image Dimensions
Our first two blog posts of the “Design Advice for the Amateur Designer” series focused on tools and tips for designing your own images. While the substance is extremely important, you want to make sure that you are sizing your images correctly for different social networks. No one wants to look at a distorted image! You want everything you post to enhance your brand/business/organization in a positive way. The goal is to make your audience appreciate and value your material, especially your media content.
Being knowledgeable about the correct image sizes is a big deal to me. Honestly, it isn’t that hard to search online for “Facebook cover photo size” or “Twitter image post size” or now, just use this helpful post on the TWC Blog! The worst offense, in my opinion, are the Facebook profile pictures of a business logo that you cannot even read either because it is way too large for the viewable space of the profile image box and the reader only ends up seeing the middle part of the logo, or it is so grainy because it is not even close to the size it should be for that space. Either situation is not good - being a perfectionist and wanting everything to look ‘just right,’ I want my profiles and the profiles of the people/groups I manage to be picture-perfect (…see what I did there?). Okay, enough bad jokes, I promise!
Below are dimensions for the most basic social images that you will need for getting started with social media:
(Source: Sprout Social)
Additionally, I have included a helpful, detailed resource online for figuring out almost any social image dimension. This infographic was created by setupablogtoday.com:
So, now you can be well on your way to making awesome designs that will look perfect on your various social networks.
3 Tips to K.I.S.S. Your Designs
We have all been told to ‘keep it simple stupid’ (K.I.S.S.) at some point in our life. I am sharing the same advice with you today about design. More often than not, most people are shy about design because they think that they have to create some complicated, super fancy piece of work. How many times have we been affected by the haunting thought that “well, I can’t do that?” Or, in other instances, we work too hard to overcompensate for our lack of design skills and end up with something that might be a little too “extreme.”
Last week was part one of our series on design for the amateur designer. The article highlighted seven tools that are extremely helpful in designing visual content for people of any experience level (ICYMI: here is a link). Today, I wanted to focus on three basic pieces of advice to help you get started in building a design. In the theme of keeping it simple, these three tips are extremely basic and, well...simple!
1. Fonts/Typefaces - the first thing is understanding which typefaces will best convey your message. There are a few classifications that I would add to your vocabulary: a) serif - elegant, sophisticated typeface that has a little ‘extra’ stroke to finish off the font; b) sans serif - solid, strong typeface that is considered hard edged with no extra finish; c) rounded - basically a sans serif typeface but with a more friendly connotation; d) script - also elegant and used to symbolize actual handwriting.
Secondly, don’t try to make every word or phrase a different font. Keep the text of one image in the same typeface and build contrast from different variations of that one typeface. It makes it difficult on the eyes to scan multiple typefaces; you want your text to be clear and easy to read. The example below uses different variations of the Aileron family, while also using bold and italics to create additional variety.
2. Color Schemes - the basic idea behind choosing text and background colors is that you have to be able to read the text! Like the suggestion above about limiting typefaces, the same is true for color schemes. The easiest piece of advice is to simply experiment with colors of the same hue (translated - shade). Using the color (or brightness) slider will allow you to accomplish this without any effort at all. The bottom line is that you want to create some variety while making sure the image is clear and easy to ready. In the example below, the finer typefaces are actually in the same hue, but of a lighter shade so that they stand out to the darker background. The more bold typefaces can withstand being a little more dark since they have more fill space.
3. Alignment - basically with alignment you don't want your text to be floating all over your image! That doesn't mean that everything needs to be symmetrical or centered all of the time. You can also align the text to the left or right depending on the background and overall construction, too. Other times you can apply shapes, like the lines in the image below, or other icon embellishments, to create alignment and give a logical order to the text. Once again, you need to make sure that the flow of the text will make sense to the reader. If you haven't figured it out yet, clarity is the key word for all of these tips.
Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas about designing visual content. I am always looking for new thoughts and ideas myself! Please share some of what you create in the comments below - I would love to see your work.
7 Tools to Help You Design Like a Pro
The 'd-word' - design- can be a frightening word to those with little or no experience; especially when all we see on social media these days is fancy artwork, sleek images with quotes, or photos that look to good to be real. Then, on top of seeing all of that great visual content, we are constantly being told to "attach visuals to your social media posts for better exposure!" It's true, though, here are three stats that show why you should use visuals with your next post:
Who doesn't want more exposure for their social content? So, the question becomes HOW? How can you create awesome visual content? Fortunately, it is becoming increasingly easier for those with little or no design experience to design stunning content with minimal effort (and knowledge). That's at least some good news, right?
When organizing my thoughts for this 'focus on visual design' blog project, it made sense for the first feature to share some design platforms and apps. TWC has compiled some of the most popular (and user-friendly) services that will have you looking like a rockstar in no time - who knows, you might even find yourself asking, 'did I really just create that?' So, here goes my list to hopefully help YOU become more awesome at creating visual content...
1. Canva - Canva has become the 'go-to' service for designers of all levels. Since its launch in 2012, Canva has reached over 4.7 million users who have created almost 35 million designs within the platform. It is a web-based application with cloud storage, in addition to being an iPad app. You can design almost anything from social media graphics (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) to marketing materials to presentations with beautiful layouts. Canva is free though there are certain layout elements, icons, and pictures that can be purchased for a $1.00 each. They have an extremely resourceful "Design School" that offers helpful tutorials, teaching materials, and an expansive blog. A new program called "Canva for Work," which costs $12.95/month (or $9.95/month if purchased yearly) is now available and includes some great new tools, including the opportunity to collaborate and share with an entire design team. Canva is the best place to start with your design efforts!
2. Share As Image - Share As Image is a bookmarklet tool that allows you to instantly turn text into an image. It is super easy to use and compatible as an extension with the following browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. You simply highlight the text on any web page and instantly turn that text into an image; this is great for anyone looking to make a visual quote (quick and easy, too). Share As Image gives you a wide range of features that include image filters, custom backgrounds, and photos. The service is free but there is also an opportunity to upgrade to a PRO account, which costs $8/month. The PRO account would be perfect for individuals or businesses looking to add custom watermarks and links, as well as having the ability to save and edit the images you create. Like Canva, Share As Image hosts an informative blog where you can find extremely helpful articles about design, productivity, marketing, social media, and more.
3. Easel.ly - Easel.ly is a simple tool for building infographics. It is very useful for educators, students, and businesses who need to present thoughts, plans, or concepts in an easy-to-follow visual graphic. The web-based platform features thousands of infographic templates and design objects which can be customized to meet your needs. There is even an opportunity to build your own layout from scratch. Much like Share As Image, there is a Free account and a Pro account - the Free account permits you 60 free images and 10 fonts to use; the Pro account provides 1,000's of free images, over 50 fonts, and dozens of professionally made templates. The Pro account costs only $3/month. And, finally, you guessed it! Easel.ly hosts a blog, too, that mostly shares information about infographics.
4. Piktochart - Piktochart is pretty much a sister application to Easel.ly - both are used primarily to build infographics. Piktochart probably has a stronger (better looking) interface than Easel.ly, which makes it a bit easier to use and permits you to have more freedom in the design process. Piktochart has a much greater depth of design icons - over 4,000 - but offers a limited number of free templates when compared to Easel.ly. Piktochart does offer a free service, which they call the Standard Account. There are no usage limits and you have permission to upload your own images. The downside is the cost of the Pro Account - $29/month (or $290 for the whole year). The nicest feature of the Pro Account, though, is the elimination of Piktochart's watermark on the images that you create. They do offer special pricing for Nonprofit Organizations and Educators, too. Like the other services, they have a pretty well-round blog and handy resource section to help you build your own infographics.
5. Pablo (by Buffer) - Pablo is most likely the newest of any tools listed here; it was launched last October. It was created by the social media management company, Buffer - which you really need to check out if you are involved in social media management/marketing, but that's for another post! Back to Pablo...you can use the tool with or without a Buffer account. Basically, Pablo is a free, extremely simple tool to create images with text or logos. The application allows you to choose a size suitable for different social media networks, add text/logos, and choose existing backgrounds or upload your own. And, then, just like that you can immediately share on Facebook or Twitter. There is also an option to download the file and to schedule it in Buffer, should you have a Buffer account.
6. Aviary - Aviary is a photo editor app, which is great if you want to design images directly from photos you take on your phone. It is available in Apple App Store and Google Play Store. If you happen to use MailChimp for email campaigns, then you will immediately recognize the app's interface and options since Aviary is used for editing photos in the email program. So, with Aviary, not only will you be on your way to creating great visual content, you will become awesome in photo-shopping. The app is free but you have the opportunity to purchase additional sticker packages for $0.99 each.
7. PowerPoint - That's right, you read correctly, PowerPoint! Hey, if it is a program that you are familiar with, then use it to your advantage. There are many templates and tools available in PowerPoint that will allow you to create images. You can even import real photos to act as a background or get creative with the text, colors, and icons to build something. The key is when you save the slide, be sure to save it as an image and you'll be good to go! Of course, for all of you Mac lovers - like myself, you can utilize Keynote (Apple's equivalent to PowerPoint) in the same manner.
Well, here's to YOU creating visual content - AWESOME visual content! Please feel free to share some tools or tips that you come across in the near future. Happy designing!
Image Credits: Canva, Share As Image, Piktochart, Buffer Blog, and Tech2.