Click here to access free resources to help you develop and communicate your COVID-19 pivot.

The Top 2 Best Free Graphic Design Tools of 2020

Whether you are a business owner, freelancer or you work in the fields of marketing and advertising you know how important it is to portray the right image for your brand. There are countless graphic design tools that can create beautiful images and logos, however, not everyone has the time, budget or technical skill to feel comfortable in software such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign. In 2020 there are many tools available for graphic design and finding the right tool can seem daunting. 

Luckily, our team of talented designers and marketers have compiled a selection of their favourite, free design tools. Now you can quickly and easily make quality graphics, and stay inspired by the many featured layouts and templates available in these platforms. There are several different factors that went into our rankings and you can bet our team put these tools to the test. 

Each platform is ranked based on what it offers, its ease of use, flexibility and design options, storage space and existing, pre-designed templates available. These free tools create equal and even greater results than some of the best, high-quality design systems on the market today. So let’s dive in and explore the top 2 graphic design tools in 2020. 

How to Choose the Right Design Tool

There are so many design tools available today and it can be difficult to narrow them down. Therefore, it is important to define what you are looking to do to find a tool that meets your needs. Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish. Are you creating display ads, social media posts, video thumbnails, blog post images or you’re looking for a multi-use tool? Once you have defined your goals, it should be easier to determine which tools are available to meet your needs. 

Secondly, it is very important that you find a tool that you are comfortable working with. If you are looking to create a quick social media post for your small business, for example, a tool like Photoshop may seem a bit daunting, but an alternative may have everything you need to create a quality post quickly. Do not settle for tools that interfere with your workflow, it’s important to use what’s best for you. 

In our research for the top graphic design tools of 2020, we identified 2 platforms that have a clean workflow, easy-to-use interface and quality results. Head to head Crello is our runner up, it is incredibly easy to use, but as far as flexibility is concerned, our winner Visme allows for way more customization. These two platforms tie for storage availability and as far as pre-made templates go, Visme is the winner there. Visme also appeared to have a larger asset library within the platform but both platforms allow you to upload your own image assets. Let’s examine these two tools more closely.

1. Crello

This was certainly a difficult decision as both of these platforms are filled with free tools, tips and templates. Crello is our winner. We found that Crello really excels for those looking to make templates with minor edits and visual adjustments. It is an excellent tool for those with little to no design experience and there are both free and paid versions of this program. Crello’s headline reads “Anyone is a designer with Crello” they have made high-quality templates for those who are just starting out in the world of design. The program is free and simply requires an email to sign up. 

free design tools: crello

What it Offers

Crello offers over 13,000 free, pre-defined templates for the most popular social media platforms in use today. These templates are pre-sized to fit Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. It also has a variety of digital assets such as pre-sets for infographics, e-books and presentations. Crello offers templates for print media as well such as coupons, posters and business cards. 

In addition to pre-sets, Crello allows for design editing as well. You can choose from a wide selection of stock images in their photo library, which is also free to use. You can select objects as well such as badges, shapes, illustrations, stickers, lines, masks and frames. Crello offers a wide variety of additional elements such as text style templates and upload options for custom fonts and backgrounds. 

Flexibility, Storage and Other Assets

We tested each platform on their ease of use, flexibility, storage, templates, and assets offered. Here’s how Crello measured up. 

Ease of Use

Crello is a very user-friendly tool, their website has plenty of tutorials available to guide first-time designers through the platform. The templates and asset libraries are very clear and easy to use. The tools in Crello are useful for those with a beginner to intermediate skill level. Overall this platform is ideal for beginners.

Flexibility

The only downside to Crello from a designers standpoint is it slack of flexibility and options for customization, there is not much freedom in the free account. However, for those who are interested, there are a lot of integrated tools in the pro version, these include animations as well as videos. Crello has stock video templates, or you can upload your own. 

Storage

Crello allows for free, unlimited storage for upload and designs. It has an easy to use folder structure which is ideal for organizing your final visual assets. 

Assets

Besides offering thousands of templates, Crello offers additional, free content and image assets. Choose from a massive library of stock photos, as well as video animations. Adding your own video animations from a library requires a pro account, but Crello allows you to do so much without a membership.

Final Thoughts 

Crello is an excellent way to quickly and easily create eye-catching designs. Their template library is very well made and allows for a moderate amount of editing. It is perfect for people with little to no design experience, as well as those with intermediate design levels that are looking for inspiration as well as strong templates. The key takeaways are that Crello is great for those who are just getting started or those without any design experience. It’s simple and easy to use with the one downside being that it is slightly limiting in the level of customization available.

Perfect for social media posts and quick visuals.

2. Visme

Visme is our runner up and a very close contender, this powerful design tool has both free and paid options. The free account lets you choose from a pretty good selection of templates, use different tools and access a large library of visual assets. The tool is also very flexible and allows for customization, unlike Crello. With that being said, you may find yourself slightly limited with templates and storage on a free plan.

What it Offers 

Visme offers a wide range of templates including layouts for presentations, infographics, documents, print media, web graphics and social media posts. You can use these templates on their own or customize them using the platform’s editing software.

Visme offers more freedom and design customization than Crello, while still having pre-made templates and image assets available. They offer pre-made graphics such as icons, shapes and photos. You can also upload your own video and audio files in the free version of this platform. 

Visme is excellent for business presentations and they have suggested layouts and theme colours available. You can store and upload files into the system and access themes that you have recently used. Visme also has an excellent network of resources for those just learning how to use the platform. These include an in-depth blog section, video tutorials, webinars and e-books

Flexibility, Storage and Other Assets

Ease of Use 

The Visme asset library is very well organized. The platform has a lot to offer but due to a large number of options available, there is a bit of a learning curve to fully understand the capabilities. Visme comes across as much more business-oriented and it is excellent for those who are looking to put together a presentation for management or clients. One of the more unique features is the data option which is great for displaying infographics and other stats. 

Flexibility 

Visme is incredibly flexible and it allows beginners and designers alike,  plenty of freedom, even while using the free version of the tool. 

Storage 

You can save designs you are working on and choose from recently used templates in your account. The free version offers 100 MB of storage with more storage available in the various paid plans*The free plan limits you to 5 designs. If you are working on more than 5 designs at a time, you might want to consider a pro plan or a full fledged design tool such as Figma.

Assets 

Visme offers a large library of photos, icons and even illustrations. The assets are also customizable when placed in the working frame so you can build upon the existing content available. Visme has limited sizing when it comes to templates when using the free account.

Final Thoughts

Visme is excellent for beginners and professionals alike. It gives you the opportunity to be more hands-on in the design process with its many customizable templates. It gives intermediate and advanced users more control over their visual designs. The downside to Visme is that there are limited templates available in the free account.

Perfect for infographics and presentations.

Choose What’s Best For You 

Ultimately, choosing between these two platforms was difficult as they are intended for slightly different audiences. Crello was perfect for beginners with a straightforward user interface and easy to use pre-defined templates. Visme, on the other hand, provides much more flexibility and the free asset library outweighs anything Crello has to offer. It is ideal for those who are more advanced with some design experience, looking to customize the content available. If you have extra time to learn how to use Visme, you will be rewarded with the freedom and flexibility to create any visual asset you desire. However, if you are working within a tight timeframe and need inspiration or a beautifully designed visual asset, Crello is a fast and easy way to get the job done. 

Graphic Design Services at ElementIQ

If you are looking for graphic design services in Coquitlam, BC, the team at ElementIQ has the experience and skill to create something eye-catching for your business. Whether you are looking for a new logo, a brand guide or infographics and a site redesign, we have the knowledge it takes to turn your ideas into a reality. Contact us with any questions you may have about our graphic design services and we would be happy to meet and discuss your goals.

rēˈbrand Design Exercise | Husky Energy

Format

rēˈbrand is a branding exercise focused on quick creative problem-solving. It is being formatted into a blog post to help share the process and the things learned along the way.

  • Redesign an existing brand’s logo
  • 2 hour timeblock
  • Deliver a polished logo
  • Program: Adobe Illustrator

Introduction

Over the past year, I’ve become more attentive to the brands around me. As my interest in the field of branding grew, I began to make a conscious effort to focus on brands as a whole. Identifying (what I believed to be) the rationale behind the creative decisions of a brand became a regular mental exercise. I would consider the things I liked or disliked, all the while re-imagining elements of the visual design.

One of the brands I found to perpetually catch my attention was “Husky Energy”. Husky happened to be a gas company with a select few locations scattered throughout my neighborhood. I found myself drawn towards the simple animal logo, primary colour palette, and a brand that remained consistent for as long as I could remember.

The moment I decided to do a branding exercise, I knew my first rēˈbrand project would be based around “Husky Energy”.

Husky Energy

Research & Planning

Overall Plan

    1. Work in Time Blocks
    2. Research – 10mins
    3. Planning – 5mins
    4. Design Drafts – 30mins
    5. Design Refining – 15mins

1 – Company Research

Who?

Husky Energy is a Canadian-based integrated energy company headquartered in Calgary, Alberta.

Mission Statement

Husky is committed to safe operations, protecting the public, its workers and the environment, as well as engaging the communities where it operates.

What do they do?

Gas production, thermal & downstream energy.

2 – Logo History

3 – Current Logo

What does it say?

The logo shows stability and breathes a level of comfort. It has a slightly formal feel to it but remains approachable.

Pros

    • I really like the colour palette. The muted primary colours feel very stable and familiar. Primary colours are the basis of most colour mixing. They are considered simple, and have strong emotional associations tied to them.
      Learn more about primary colours and basic colour theory: Color Theory for Designers, Part 1: The Meaning of Color, by Cameron Chapman
    • The logomark is beautiful. I love how it feels slightly aged, like an inked rubber stamp. Fairly clear and recognizable from a multitude of sizes and distances.
    • The wordmark feels structured and dependable.

Cons

    • The logomark could be a little more ‘friendly’ or feel like it is acknowledging you more.
    • Albeit beautiful, the logomark comes across as slightly “outdated” and “old”.
    • The wordmark shows some outdatedness, mainly in the slight unevenness in the ‘u’ and ‘y’.

4 – Rebrand Plan

Main Problem

The logomark & wordmark feel slightly outdated. The logomark could be more inviting.

Solution

Introduce some symmetry to the logo. Create a front-facing variation of the logomark suggesting a friendly approachable feeling.

Design Process

5 – Visual Reference

The way a dog’s mouth is shaped doesn’t allow it to smile in the traditional human sense. However, dogs can appear to be smiling when they open their mouth and pull back their lips, letting their tongue rest over their teeth. This often happens when they are relaxed, a telltale sign of approachability.

Here is our reference photo. The husky appears to be relaxed and content. Let’s try to capture that feeling in the form of our logomark within our short exercise time limit.

6 – The Logomark

In this stage, I’m tracing the reference photo to get the general shapes.
After the initial tracing, I start by re-working the shapes. Once the shapes are refined, I set them up for a vertical mirror. Tracing half of the face and then flipping it across a vertical axis guarantees a perfectly symmetrical vector shape (which is what was desired for this logomark). Further explanation of this decision can be found below in another concept that was explored.

 

Flip shapes to finish the face.
Lastly I simplify the shapes and combine them into a clean vector.
Further round and tweak some of the shape’s curves/lines. Old=Cyan, Final=Red
Final Logomark

7 – The Wordmark

Current Wordmark

I didn’t see anything terribly wrong with the wordmark that warranted drastic changes. However, I was able to nitpick some small details.

Problems

Letter spacing. The letters “u” and “s” feel closer together than the letters “s” and “k”. The “H” and “u” may need to be adjusted to match this change.

Solution

Let’s visually match the spacing to the “k” and “y”. I really like how they connect at the top.

Even spacing looks uneven for these letter pairings

 

Uneven spacing looks even for these letter pairings

Vertically straight letters next to each other (such as “H” & “u”) demand more space between them. The straight lines next to one another feel even closer together as they create a narrow visual channel. When paired with a curving shaped letter (such as “s”), it needs less space as there is a ‘less stiff’ and consistent visual channel created between the letters.

8 – The Result

Conclusion

9 – Challenges

There were several challenges this exercise presented. Some were self-imposed while others came about organically. Here’s a summary of a few:

Simple, but not basic.

As with most logomark projects that involve real-world references, the challenge hangs in the simplification of a complex subject. With this exercise, I hit my first design block when I found myself getting too focused on the finer details of my reference photo.

Now keep in mind, I actually like this (visually) better than the logomark I settled on. The problem was that it became merely an alternate angle to the already existing logomark. Had there been more time, I would have explored this concept to further simplify its shapes.

In hindsight, a concept utilizing a husky’s full-body could have been explored. That being said, it may have been a step away from a more “personable” brand that we were looking to create. Note, the 1947-190 branding of Husky Energy utilized a full-body logomark as well.

Same Same, but also different.

There is a certain conundrum that rears its ugly head during the process of rebranding. “How do we change the look and feel of the brand, without losing the existing personality of the brand entirely?”. Or on the inverse, “What if the changes are too subtle and fail to acknowledge our initial branding concerns?”.

While there is no absolute answer to this, we can guarantee our desired results with proper planning. Rebranding (and branding) projects benefit the most from strong foundational research, lots of drafts, strong concepts, and time to explore said concepts.

Time Restriction

This challenge was self-imposed, but it mirrors real-world situations. If you’re designing a logo or creating a brand for a client, there will be deadlines. In order to meet those client deadlines, you require internal deadlines. The process of logo design can lead you in N+ directions if given an open-ended timeline. Time blocking your logo design process means you don’t get stuck exploring concepts.

10 – With More Time I Would Have:

    1. Sketched some shapes (by hand)
    2. Created more drafts
    3. Refined more concepts
    4. Explored more concepts
    5. Played with typography (wordmark)

11 – Final Remarks

Overall I’m happy with the resulting logo. It’s refined enough to be a usable logo at this stage. It also addresses some of the identified problems with the old logo without destroying the existing brand personality. There is room for improvement and – given more time – this would be utilized as a strong concept which I could further explore.

If you are looking for a new logo design, contact ElementIQ.

If you are interested in Graphic Design, explore our internship options.

ElementIQ Internship: Gregory’s First Week

Who am I?

Let’s go back to the summer of 2008 for a moment. I had just completed high school, full of big dreams and an even bigger lack of direction. As that summer ended, and I headed into my first year of post-secondary, I came to an immediate realization. My lack of direction left me with an impossible disconnect between my dreams and my current reality. I dreamt of a career built off of personal passions, but I no longer knew what my passion was, or meant to me.

After 2 years of general studies, reality sat on my dreams and sent them home crying

I spent the following years working retail at a hockey shop and teaching ice skating lessons. They were jobs I could create a routine for. I didn’t have to think about it. I didn’t have to think about my passion, my goals, or my dreams. It just kind of worked at the time.

Fast forward 5 years, to the winter of 2015. The routine became monotonous. The monotony reintroduced thoughts about the future. Passion and dreams are hard to ignore when thinking about the future. All I could think about was my lack of them.

I didn’t look for it, but it found me.

During the 5 years of complacent, monotonous routine, I dabbled in photoshop and cartoons. At the time I considered them to be messing around. Little did I realize, that messing around can be a very indirect way of finding your passions.

Photoshop sparked my interest in the Graphic Design world. I had no clue what it was, but I was determined to find out. That spark of curiosity ripped me from my mundane routine and took me on the rollercoaster of events I currently find myself on today.

I started with a Graphic Design program at BCIT. I followed that with freelance work before heading to RED Academy to learn about User Experience. A few Graphic Design contracts later, I found my way to ElementIQ.

How I found Element IQ.

After RED Academy, the school kept me (and other students), interconnected through social platforms such as Facebook. It was in this RED Academy Facebook group that I found the job posting. The poster (Joseph L), stated that their Digital Marketing Agency was looking for a Graphic Designer and a Developer. I was curious about the position and immediately reached out to Joseph. After meeting with a few of the staff, and then the CEO (Sam A), I was convinced that this was the right place for me.

Thankfully, they agreed.

They offered me an internship position, and I eagerly accepted.

Are you a reliable self-starter looking to kickstart your digital marketing career?

Day 1: Orientation – Mar 12, 2018

The day started at 10 am at CMPNY’s Spacekraft co-working space in Burnaby. We had the luxury of 3 interns with different skillsets starting on the same day (Kevin: Developer, Sagar: Account Management, Me: Graphic Design). Led by Joseph, the day consisted of Element IQ orientation. A quick tour of the workspace, lunch (courtesy of Sam), and a whole lot of onboarding of programs and apps.

The tone of the day revolved around the company culture. There was a strong emphasis on self-improvement, self-motivation, and transparency in communication. Work hard, learn lots, enjoy.

“What you put into life is what you get out of it.”
-Clint Eastwood

Overall Feeling

Excited, eager to learn and grow while working with new people in a new environment. Initially, there were some nerves with meeting new people, but those quickly went away. I found it easy to connect well with everyone I had met.

Day 2: Company Lesson – Mar 13, 2018

Every morning at 9 am, EIQ (Element IQ) host a huddle amongst their staff. The huddle focuses on discussion of any Wins (positive work/personal things), blockers (tasks that require an action outside of the owner of the task to move forwards), and big rocks (large tasks for the day). Huddles are meant to be short and to the point (15 minutes).

Communicate what everyone is doing for the day to avoid inefficient workflow.

After our first huddle, we spent the rest of the morning getting a brief history of Digital Marketing. Led by Lincoln C, we learned about EIQ’s origins, what they specialize on now, and where they plan on heading. It was a nice way to get everyone inline with the company’s goals and mentality.

The afternoon was spent auditing the EIQ website with Joseph. The exercise/task allowed for all 3 of us interns to get a sense of how working with one another would be.

Day 3: 1st Remote Work Day – Mar 14, 2018

At EIQ we get 2 remote work days (Wednesday & Friday). We are allowed to work from wherever we please, so long as we stay within digital communication with the rest of the team.

Day 3 marked the first day that I had Graphic Design related tasks. My task was to redo the iconography for the EIQ homepage (a task created from our group audit the previous day). I was also tasked with learning more about a brand that I would be working on a logo for (with Joseph) down the road.

The day was smooth sailing. Nothing notable. I worked on my couch, avoided waves of sleepy comfort, and had a great day working from home.

Day 4: Party in CMPNY Coquitlam – Mar 15, 2018

CMPNY, the organization that runs the co-working space EIQ works out of in Burnaby, also has a location in Coquitlam. Their Coquitlam location happened to be turning 1 year old on this day. As a result, we were headed to CMPNY Coquitlam for Day 4. I was not, and still am not very familiar with Coquitlam, but I heard the space was super cool and was very excited to see it.

My transit time to Coquitlam was 1 hour and 15 minutes. A far cry from the luxury of my usual 15 minute bike ride to the Burnaby location. However, the longer commute was worth it. The space was beautiful.

Coquitlam had Foosball, Ping Pong (Burnaby has one as well), large meeting rooms, a coffee/espresso machine that rivaled R2D2, and a pretty nice view. We spent most of the day discussing File Sharing procedures, and finishing tasks from the previous day.

Low key let down of the day – Coffee robots do not guarantee enjoyable coffee. Just the idea of an enjoyable experience with it.

Sam, came by for a one on one with each of the interns to check in with how our first week was going. I told him how my week had been a great experience so far, and that I was excited to begin/continue working on upcoming projects.

Lincoln then led a deep dive, where each of the team members discussed a certain topic. The topic was passion. Each of us shared what we were passionate about, where we wanted to head career-wise (and somewhat personal wise), as well as little snippets of our past leading up to this point.

When we finished, the party began. I ate a sandwich, drank some drink, and then we headed home.

Day 4 theme = Your team at EIQ genuinely cares about you.

Day 5: Remote Work Day (Return of the Couch) – Mar 16, 2018

Day 5 marked the first full day of individual Graphic Design work. The big task of the day was to create a concept homepage for The Hive: Bouldering Gym that would combine their current websites (they have 3, one per location). Using an early concept (Joseph started the prior day), I spent the day working on refining a concept.

By the end of the day, I had completed a polished concept of the homepage. The completion of the task caused me to come to this conclusion: Remote work days are prime for individual tasks.

I also came to another conclusion on Day 5. Remember to eat. I usually bring a lunch to work. I don’t usually bring a lunch to remote work at home. Making lunch mid-workflow is easy to forget. Remember to be hungry.

“Remember to Eat”
– Gregory Ma

Week 1 Final Impression

  • YOU matter to your company
  • Your team cares about YOU
  • Work smart, and have FUN

Week 1 flew by. The team at EIQ, evidently a tight-knit one. The laughs, the struggles, and the bonding all paint a wonderful picture for the future (in a short sample size).

My first Week at EIQ has peaked my interest for a future with this company. I’m excited to be a part of this group, to see where my growth and career take me, and to see where this company’s upward trajectory takes it.

Learn more about ElementIQ’s Internship Program