As designers, we are constantly looking for ways to speed up our design process. “How does she get so much done in such a short amount of time?” Well it’s simple, she knows how, and where to look. We’ve all grown up in a digital age and we all know what the internet is, so why aren’t we using it to its full potential?

The internet is packed with design aid tools that, well let’s just say, we aren’t all aware of yet. In the past 4 years or so we’ve seen popular sites such as Pinterest take-off, with a growth rate of 57% in 2014, and although most designers are aware of these sites, they don’t see the power they hold as design tools. They can make your life so much easier!

Using websites is a major part of all web designers’ design processes, influencing “every stage of the design process from concept to development” says Matthew Langer, a web designer. Web designers use sites such as Firebug to inspect HTML coding and modify style and layout in real-time. This allows them to create prototypes to help visualise ideas for their clients. But what sites can Product, Graphic and UI Designers use to help them?

An important part of designing successful consumables is to know about current trends. James Eaton (current Product Designer at Puma) uses Tumblr and Instagram 24/7 to keep up-to-date with “what is inspiring others”. Creating Pinterest boards for every project can help you explain your design reasoning to others, and is quick and easy to do. I’m constantly finding new things that inspire me in this way! Gordon Smith, Product Engineer at Hasbro, recommends Yanko Designs and Bored Panda if you are looking to be inspired by trends. Touch of Modern, though clearly geared towards men, is the site for you if you’re into clean, slick, stylish, modern products.

People might say that “no-one likes the unknown”, but as designers, we do! There are many more sites out there that we would benefit from being aware of, that in the future will be a part of all designers design process. One of the unknowns to many is The Noun Project. As a first year design student I would spend hours creating icons to use on prototypes and infographics before I was introduced to this sharing site by a fellow designer. The site allows designers to upload their icons and share them. They are quick and easy to download. Alex Gibson (UI app designer at Hasbro) is a fan of the site, saying “It has become a very useful in brain-storming and to see what people relate to certain words, great for iconography”; this has become the most useful element of the site for me as well.

For those interested in iconography and graphics, Creative Boom rated Identity Designed as their no.2 inspiration for graphic designers, calling it a “brilliant showcase of all things related to brand identity”. Colour palette is essential to our process and Adobe Kuler can help us! It allows you to browse thousands of colour combinations by putting in your feature colour and then dragging adjacent points around a spectrum until you find a desired palette. Perfect combinations in seconds!

Credit: Wendy Seltzer
Credit: Wendy Seltzer

Another way to get inspiration for imagery is stock libraries. Richard Heayes, an established Product Designer, uses Shutter Stock to source images for his designs. Although Richard pays for this content, it is a good source of inspiration and useful for brainstorming and producing mood-boards. It also helps create in-house presentations as placeholders, for it only holds photographs that are suitable for using in the way we need them, eliminating the jargon we shuffle through on Google Images.

To keep those stresses away, follow things that you love. For example StumbleUpon, which is very popular in the USA. This is a nice tool that finds the best webpages on the internet of your favourite interests and compiles them on to one page. You never know where your inspiration will come from, and who doesn’t like looking at pictures of cute puppies? If you have an interest in graphics or packaging, Good Design Makes Me Happy is a great site to make you smile too!

Talking of things that make you smile, there’s nothing more satisfying than finding the CAD you need in order to explain your concept. GrabCAD allows you to download and share CAD creations, often available in many formats, allowing you to manipulate them into what you want and speeding up your design process. For example I once spent ages trying to distort, warp and manipulate an image of a hand in Photoshop in order to make it look like it was pushing on a soap-dispenser I designed. I went to the presentation and a colleague had manipulated a hand he got off GrabCAD instead. It took him half the time and the result looked better than mine. GrabCAD objects are great for constructing scenes and bringing your product to life. Check it out if you haven’t already!

These tools aren’t only useful for creating the ideas, but also sharing them. This can be for self publicity with projects such as Kickstarter, where you can pitch your concepts to the general public to get funding in order help them become realised, or sites that allow you to share your progress with clients. James Lamb (designer and owner of Lamb Industries) finds Slack and Basecamp useful to share product development with clients around the world, an integral part of any designer’s design process in 2015.

Hopefully this article has given you some sites to get your creative minds whirling again, allowing you to speed up your design process and get back to doing the other stuff you love!

Let me know if you discover any more great sites: elisehounslow@me.com