Learn Something New Series: Free Design Training Tools

Do you wish you had the design training tools needed to take your communications to the level of greatness your brand deserves? Jen Jeffrey, Zao525 designer extraordinaire, is sharing design tools and training she thinks you need at your fingertips. And they come at our favorite price: free.

Hey, small business crew! I’ve been designing for 22 years, and I’ve seen the good, the bad, the boring, and the “oh no, they need help” designs out there.

While some people think of design as unimportant — as an extra flourish or just a pretty picture — design actually plays a huge role in how your target market notices your brand, comes to know your brand and interacts with your brand. Design can be effective. Design can be influential. Sometimes, a well-designed website, for example, can help lead a prospect through the information they need to consume all the way to the action a brand wishes them to complete.

Regardless where your in-house design levels are, I hope these free design tools and design training will help you get the basics down, so you can whip yourself up effective blog post images, custom Facebook posts, website graphics, etc. — and importantly catch and retain the eye of your target.

Free Design Training

We all have to start here: the principles. You may be thinking, but can’t I just make something that looks good? Sure, you could. But there actually is a science to design compositions, elements, colors, motifs and on and on. That’s how teachers can keep us so busy in design college!

Intro to the Design of Everyday Things

This free design course will take you on a two-week journey through the world of design. You’ll be able to learn about the design choices made for everyday objects around you, as well as come away with some key design principles to apply to your small business’ needs.

Universal Principles of Design

While Lynda.com is a paid learning service, you can try the tool out for free for 10 days. If you opt to check it out, this design training series updates every two weeks with a new design principle. And if you decide to stick with Lynda.com, you will have access to hundreds of other design training tutorials (as well as access to other topics), with easy to follow videos (seriously, this resource is awesome).

Canva Design School

From how to create banner ads to catchy real estate flyer templates, Canva Design School is less of a sequential lesson plan and instead a constantly updated resource for your design needs. Daily, Canva posts an article, tutorial video or tip to take your designs from “eh, look at that” to “hey, look at that!” Browse by category and find the resources you need when you need them.

Applying Design Principles

After gaining good ground with basic design principles, you can challenge yourself with this free design training on Alison.com, which guides you through applying design principles. This will help for compositions, layouts, hierarchy and more. Go ahead and try it out — it’s free!

Free Design Tools

You don’t need the Adobe Creative Suite to create good designs (you have Zao525 designers at your disposal for that). For most of your small business design needs, you have a number of free design tools right online at your disposal. A bonus — they are so very easy to navigate and use.


My non-designer teammates at Zao525 love Canva. This free online design tool can be used for blog posts, social media posts, marketing materials, presentations and more. There are hundreds of design elements, like layouts, images, illustrations, and the drag-and-drop interface is easy to use. You can even input your brand colors, fonts and logos to maintain consistency across all your materials.

Hubspot Free Infographic Templates

As a graphic designer, I love when words and design intermingle into an effective piece of communication. Infographics definitely achieve this, but they can be intimidating and difficult to create from scratch. Here are a handful of free templates you can use to bring your data and statistics to life, which you can edit on PowerPoint of Adobe Illustrator.

Google Drawings

Do you need to create a visual report for your internal team or external stakeholders? You may be tempted to turn to the good old Word design tool for this, but I often find myself inclined to clench my jaw and grind my teeth when I try to create any visuals in Word. Check out Google Drawings instead for easy, intuitive designing.

Share your biggest design struggles with us in the comments below, and we’ll see if we can find you a solution. I can’t wait to see what you create!

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