10 Projects to Improve Your Design Skills
Design is — and always will be — a big part of marketing.
But that doesn’t mean every single marketer needs to be an expert designer. After all, the skills needed to be an effective marketer cover a wide breadth of expertise areas. Taking a note from Rand Fishkin’s T-Shaped Marketer concept, marketers need to have a baseline knowledge of many different topics and a depth of knowledge in one topic.
Source: The T-Shaped Web Marketer, Moz
So where do design skills come into play?
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that every piece of content you create needs to have some awareness of design. From something as big as your website, to something as small as your social images: it all depends on good design.
And while many marketers might be lucky enough to have a design team at their disposal, it still helps to have an understanding of what make a good design to effectively work with that design team.
Even if you do have a design team, chances are, you may need to create designs yourself every now and then when resources get low.
Whatever the case might be, improving your design skills starts with practice.
To help you get started, I’ve put together 10 design projects I think every marketer should try to start practicing their design skills.
And, if you want to learn all about the tools, tips, and tricks non-designers need to know, join us for a live workshop — Design for Non-Designers: How to Create Beautiful, Engaging Content for Social and Beyond — with Adobe Designers and HubSpot content strategists. Register Now!
In the meantime, start practicing your skills with some of the following design projects.
10 Projects to Improve Your Design Skills
1. Design Your Personal Website
One of the best ways to practice your design skills for a practical use is to develop a personal website. Personal websites can be as a creative or straightforward as you want them to be. The process of making one will help you think about how you want to represent yourself. And, best of all, you’ll end up with a professional website to link to for networking and more.
Below is an example of a creative, beautifully designed personal website. Don’t be afraid to get creative and change you website design overtime as your skills improve.
Source: Claire Culley
2. Write and Design an Infographic
If you’re a content marketer, one way to stretch your design skills while still creating content for your job is to create an infographic. People process visual content 60,000X faster than written content alone, so an infographic is a great way to combine both visuals and written information.
Start with a concept and make it visual. There are tons of amazing infographics out there for you to draw inspiration from.
Source: Wine Folly
3. Local business Website Homepage
If you’re an aspiring web designer or want to take a leap and test the limits of your skills, try designing a website for a local business. Local businesses don’t often tons of pages on their site. Instead, many just need a central homepage with basic information like hours, contact information, etc.
Below is a local business homepage from a cafe in Cambridge, MA called Cafe Luna. The overall design is relatively simple, but it does it’s job in portraying the aesthetic of the restaurant while also displaying necessary information that’s most relevant to website visitors.
Source: Cafe Luna
4. A Set of 10 Social Images for Twitter and Facebook
Most content marketers interact with social media frequently, whether your a community manager or are asking your community manager for social promotion. One way to increase your design skills is to volunteer to design a set of social images for a campaign you want to promote.
I’d suggest commiting to creating 10 unique images for any one campaign. With a tool like Canva, it’s very easy to create images with the correct social media dimensions in a bulk set. See below for an example.
When you create a set of 10 images for one campaign, you’ll also find yourself iterating on previous designs and getting with each image you design.
5. Set of Icons
If you want to get better at uniform design, try creating your own set of icons. Come up with a list of 10-20 ideas you want to represent in icon form. It could be as simple as 20 different foods you want to create as icons.
Don’t cheat by using a platform like FlatIcon (although, if you ever need icons to use in your content creation, I highly recommend the site for finding illustrations). Use a tool like Adobe Illustrator to work with lines and shapes to create a set of uniform icons that fit a theme. Icons are great because they can be used over time and help you practice creating a cohesive theme.
6. Ebook Cover and Layout
Working on an upcoming ebook or long-form content campaign? Focus on improving your design skills by going above and beyond on the ebook cover and layout. Learning to layout long form content in a visually appealing way goes a long way for practicing your design skills.
As a best practice, trying using Adobe InDesign for ebook It’s a powerful tool that’s made specifically for creating long form content like books.
7. A Week of Instagram Posts
Designing images for Instagram is different that designing images for Twitter and Facebook. As a highly visual mobile-first platform, designing Instagram posts will help you think about design from a mobile-first angle.
Try using Adobe Spark Post for creating Instagram images. It has a wide variety of tools and pre-built designs for you to play around with and create something new.
If you focus on creating a week or more worth of Instagram posts, you’ll be practicing your design skills and creating a backlog of images your social team can use when they have open editorial slots.
8. A Branding Starter Kit
A big component of learning design skills is learning the ins and outs of color theory and typography. Want a practical project to hone in on those skills? Design a branding starter kit. Whether for your brand or just for practice, a good brand kit will include a typography hierarchy, a cohesive color schemes, and visual guidelines for future designers and collaborate.
Use big-name brand style guides, like this one from Medium, as your inspiration when building your first style guide.
9. A Set of Standard Email Templates
Wish you had better emails templates to work with? Why not take a stab at designing them yourself? You might need to secure web development resources to have them coded, but designing them yourself will help fill a need for your team all while helping you practice your design skills.
Make sure to focus on a cohesive design while creating a few templates for different needs, like:
- Blog subscriber email template
- Email newsletter template
- Offer promotional template
- Welcome email template
10. Landing Page Images for Your Content Campaigns
Last but not least, a great way to improve your design skills is to put energy into designing images for your landing pages. Not only will you improve your design skills, but creating new images gives you a great opportunity to test your conversion rates and improve CRO over time.
Don’t just stick with a basic ebook cover in an iPad. Try out header photos with corresponding agenda images, like the one from our Four Days of Facebook campaign below:
Don’t forget to A/B test those images to see how they affect conversion rates!
Source: Four Days of Facebook, HubSpot
Practice Makes Perfect
When it comes to becoming a better designer, practice is key. It doesn’t happen overnight. Start with small projects you think you can handle and work your way up — don’t try to tackle all 10 projects in one day!
Practice makes perfect, but it also helps to have tools and tips from seasoned designers. That’s why HubSpot and Adobe teamed up to bring you a live workshop — Design for Non-Designers: How to Create Engaging, Beautiful Content for Social and Beyond. Join us live or watch it on demand. Register Now!