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[DESIGN] - 6 free tools and resources to improve aesthetics

April 1, 2016

A while back I was given the book The Design of Everyday Things - a quick read that discusses some of the thought that goes into the engineering behind objects you might encounter in daily life.  More often than not, the poor design choices are more obvious than their organic, naturally flowing counterparts.  This is why Apple spent so much time engineering the small details such as the thumb catch on their Macbook, and explains why some flags look awful and you can't quite put your thumb on it.  See what I did there.

 

Since then I’ve always been a bit more appreciative when confronted with a great design or user interface, and I often try to identify why it’s so catchy so I can integrate it into a future application.  Here’s some resources that have helped me on some projects:

Unsplash

Quite possibly the coolest creative commons zero collection of free photos.  Literally do whatever you want with these photos, or as Unsplash would say, good for "both commercial and personal use. Blogs, art, book covers, tshirts, and more — paid or unpaid — they’re all allowed under the license."  For some really inspirational work, check out their "made with Unsplash" section:

Coolors.co

A great standalone color palette generator, but also a powerful tool to pick complimentary colors within a photo. 

 

There's an option for inputting your own color, outputting monochrome colors, and you can tweak the hue, saturation, and brightness of the output to your liking and even show alternative shades.

 

Pro tip: if you want to send the colors to a client, you can simply enter them into the URL like coolors.co/847d9b-3e6199-d9e7fe-dc915d-544b58.  For a full-screen variant of a single color, check out http://colorrrs.com/#dc915d

Colorpalettes

Another website showcasing hundreds of photos and their color palettes, broken up into cool tones, warm tones, pastel colors, and contrasting colors.  Definitely an inspirational look into color palettes.

Material Palette 

For UX/UI folks, grab some inspiration from this website for quick mockups of apps.  

Google Fonts

In true form, this online giant has culled together a very impressive font tool.  Google's open font license means gives users access to over 800 fonts that are free to download, and the clean web interface makes it very easy to visualize your own copy with suggestions for complimentary choices.

 

Tiff

For those who want to see the minor differences in type, check out this web app that allows the user to contrast two fonts and inspect where the type differs.  It's a little finicky and could use for a bit of an update, try hitting refresh if it freezes up.

 

 

 

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