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Over the years of designing I’ve come across several tools & resources that have saved me heaps time & really impressed clients. I want to share with you my favourite ways to present tools to speed up the design process, present your work designs & impress clients.

Some of these things may you already know, but it’s always good to have a gentle reminder 


1. Get inspired


It seems so obvious, but often we caught up in the daily grind inside the office and inside our own head.

We often revert to reusing old tricks when trying to get briefs out on time, especially on jobs with a tight turn-around. It’s worth putting aside time at the beginning of the job to get a quick refresher on whats happening in the world. Catch up a few blogs with your morning coffee in hand.


 “We often revert to old tricks when trying to get briefs out on time”



Don’t limit yourself to just design blogs, check out architecture, fashion, video clips, art installations, interior design, the list goes on. You never know where inspiration will come from.

This isn’t to go out and start copying people. That doesn’t help anyone. Avoid being a copycat. A me-too designer.

One of our favourite blogs for eye candy, inspiration & all things cool is


An arena for designers to showcase their work.

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2. Forget stock photography


People can spot a stock photo from a mile away. So cliche and often so ridiculous that it can turn people off your brand, consciously or subconsciously. If you have to get photography from a stock site, (and this may seem like a no brainer) make sure it doesn’t look staged.

Use photography that you think is awesome. Explain why your reasons for using it, and why you love it an chances are your clients (& their customers) will love it too.


“Use photography that you think is awesome…  
chances are, your clients will love it too”



Grab some cool, free photos from the these places:

10 free images every 10 days. Super high rez too! My favourite.


A flickr search tool – search for ‘free for commercial use’ images

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3. Use a Mood board


Mood boards are a great way to get your ideas across to the client. They work to both provide a starting point in roughing out ideas & to refine your ideas along the way.

Traditionally designers use a combination or Photoshop & exporting pdf, email, Pinterest boards or even simpler applications like Word, Publisher or Pages.

This is a time consuming & tedious process. The exact reason I started building Refinery.

There are a few sites / apps out there that are trying to streamline this process such as MoodShare, Olioboard (more specifically for interior design) but none that i found quite did the job for me. [space50]

Next generation mood boards in minutes

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4. Put your designs into a mockup


Some examples of free PSD mockups -  Just paste your design into the smart object inside photoshop.

This is the fun part. You might find yourself dealing with some bread & butter design; business cards, compliments slips etc. This collateral is nice once printed, but can look pretty sterile on screen. Without the tactility of the paper, you need something to give your clients a better idea of how this your designs will sit on their desk. Enter mockups. This takes the hassle out printing & photographing your work.
So put designs into perspective. Not in some metaphorical way, but literally. Showing your designs in a setting people can relate to, makes your idea much more real and tangible.
Grab a mockup template go.




 “Showing your designs in a setting people can relate to
makes your idea more real, more tangible”




5. Deliver in style


InVision App

There is a tonne of design delivery & collaboration sites popping up all the time

InVision is by far the coolest way i’ve used to deliver to clients (and no they’re not paying me to say this 🙂

It goes way beyond the simple sending of images like you might do with dropbox or email. It has a whole feedback channel built in, with commenting and drawing right on the image, all done in browser. Plus to make it even more enticing, if you’re designing a website or mobile app, you can upload your mockups and interact with it. Check it out for yourself.



[pullquote]For more delivery apps: 14 Fantastic Free Tools for Design Collaboration [/pullquote]



Bonus: Pro tips


Design on the web moves way faster than what we see in print and on TV even. Someone in the web community (Apple.. ahem) starts  using flat design then everyone is a design expert saying you must use flat design. 2012 and a few years prior is was skeuomorphic (to mimic reality) or bust!

[pullquote]Acknowledge but avoid ‘trends’. Aim for timeless design in your brand[/pullquote]

Long shadows, no shadows, flat design, skeuomorphic design, illustrations, full page images… the battle rages on.



Do what fits your brand message & positioning.

Flat, illustrative sites look slick, however some sites such as AirBnB wouldn’t look anywhere near as appealing without the large image of amazing destinations in the background. You imagine yourself right there, in that hammock or treehouse, holidaying in the sun. An illustration just wouldn’t transport you like that. So decide what you’re trying to do & say with your site & brand.



Flat vs Realism

Flat vs realism has been discussed ad nauseum across the web (even people saying that its not even an accurate description of the style) so i wont go any deeper, but i will leave you with this really fun take on Flat vs Realism in design. It’s a website come cartoon thats done amazingly well. Its a little slow to load but worth the wait, alternatively here is a video capture of the site)



 “Design trends come and go… your brand should be timeless”



Trends come and go. Aim for timeless.

Design trends come and go every few years but your brand should be timeless. Over the years we’ve seen very little changes to big brand logos such as CocaCola, Pepsi, McDonalds. They’ve remained predominately the same for nearly 100 years, with only tiny tweaks and the occasional simplification.

I hope you’ve found this article useful.

What’s your favourite design resource? Let me me know in the comments.

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