We’re surrounded by beautifully designed sites and apps nowadays. Every new app, it seems, has an increasingly intricately designed icon, and bad designs almost feel startling. Unfortunately, when most of us set down to design a new icon or lay out a clean interface on our sites, we feel like we come up short. Whether you’re an advanced designer or haven’t ever opened Photoshop, sometimes we all need to learn from others and get feedback on our work.
Design is an iterative process. It takes inspiration, perhaps from others’ work, and it takes feedback from others on what you’re doing right and where you’re missing it. After all, don’t forget Picasso’s famous quote that’s been popularized by Steve Jobs: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” After the break, we’ve put together a list of a dozen of our favorite sites that can get you inspired to create and help you get feedback on the things you’ve created.
Get Inspired and Share Your Best Work
There’s many ways you could share your new designs with the world, and there’s many ways to get inspired about design. These sites bring the best of both together. They let you share your best designs for cred and feedback, and let you get inspired by looking at the logos, typefaces, letterpress, websites, and more that the top people in design are making today.
Some are more exclusive than others, so it might take a Just looking, no touching period before your ready to share your designs. But be careful: it’s easy to waste hours admiring the beautiful designs on these sites instead of actually making your own work!
Dribbble is the the world’s most popular site for sharing designs, and most of the art here is nothing short of mindblowing. But don’t rush out to sign up. While anyone can now sign up to comment and favorite shots, only the select few who are special enough to get a coveted Dribbble invite can share their work. But that’s ok. There’s enough beautiful stuff on Dribbble, you can still use it to get inspiration even if you don’t have an invite. It’s a great place to catch a glimpse of the best upcoming sites, apps, and more from the top designers in the world. Plus, the Envato design team regularly shares their latest creations on the Envato Design Team Dribbble page, so be sure to check it out to get a glimpse of what’s next for our family of sites!
Favwork is a newer site for sharing your designs and voting up the ones you want. It’s designed somewhat like Dribbble, but is open for anyone in the whole wide world with a Twitter account. You can whip together your designs, upload them, and share them with your friends and colleagues to see what they think. That doesn’t guarantee your design will get to the front page, though. Even though Favwork isn’t as large as Dribbble, it’s already got a large number of beautiful designs that can inspire you.
Forrst is a fast-growing community full of everything design-related: logos, mockups, articles on design, sample code for web design, and more. Just like most of the other site,s you can mark your favorite items, and give feedback on the things others have made. It’s almost like a customized Tumblr just for sharing your design stuff with the community, and is very nicely done. It’s also a private site, but it’s a tad easier to get Forrst invites than Dribbble invites.
Creattica is Envato’s own design inspiration site, and it includes an incredibly wide range of creative works. From business cards to desktop wallpapers to advertisements, you’ll find brilliant examples of the best in design here. You can subscribe to each type of design in an RSS feed so you never miss the latest stuff in your favorite category. And if you’d like to see your own work featured, you can create an account and submit it to the editor as well.
Designmoo is a design site with a mission. It’s designed to let leading designers share some of their favorite designs with the community, complete with the original source files. If you find something that inspires you, you can usually download the PSD file to tweak it for your own use or learn how others put their designs together. If you’ve got something to contribute, you can create an account and join in the fun.
The Bēhance network is a great place to look at designs and images from a variety of creative industries. It’s used by many leading firms to discover upcoming talent, so if you think you’ve got a chance at design stardom, you can feature your pictures on it and create your own creative portfolio. With full-sized images, it’s got a different focus than the other design sites we listed, but it’s still a great spot to get inspired or share your work with the world.
Zootool may be a bookmarking tool, but it’s one of the best for saving the design inspirations you come across online. All of your bookmarks are viewable as image galleries, which you can flip through for inspiration or share with the world. You can also view popular public bookmarks from your account, giving you a fresh dose of inspiration every time you log in. Check out our review to learn more about this great tool for saving your favorite designs: Zootool: Creative & Fun Bookmarking.
And When Feedback’s All You Need…
Sometimes, you’ve already got all the inspiration you need, and you’re not ready to share your design with the world. In fact, you might want to get some more private feedback from the people you trust the most. In that case, there’s some great design apps that are ready for you. Here’s some of our favorites.
CloudApp is one of my most-used apps, both to share random images and files with others, and to get feedback on quick snippets of text or parts of a design. You can upload files through the web app, or drag-and-drop them to the Cloud icon in your Mac menu bar or FluffyApp in Windows. Your files can be kept private or shared with the world: your choice. Upgrade to a pro account, and you can share your designs, text, links, and more with your own private short URLs, too. For more info, check out our sister site Mac.AppStorm’s review of CloudApp: Effortlessly Share Files with CloudApp.
Notebox is designed for getting feedback on designes of all types. Upload your images, PDFs, or any other design file, add your own notes about the design, and share it with anyone you want. Come back later, and you can flip through all of the comments and see what everyone thought about your designs. One great option is to share multiple styles of your design, then check and see everyone’s feedback on the different ones to see which one will be a hit. Learn more about it at our review: Easy Design Feedback with Notebox.
Notable is a great app to help you get feedback on your full site and other large designs. Upload an image, share it with your colleagues and test groups, and see what they think about what you’ve created. They can add notes and markup your design, so you can see what you should change for next time. For more info, check out our review of Notable, though don’t forget, you can upload any design for critique, not just websites: Easy Website Feedback with Notable
FiveSecondTest is a brilliant way to see if your design comes across to viewers like you think it will. It’s designed to be used for testing website designs, but can work for any image testing you want: logos, typography, layouts, and more. Just upload your image, then enter questions to see what your design made users think of. If people figured out what your design was for, congrats … you must be on the right track! Otherwise, you can go back to the drawing board and tweak your design so it makes sense to everyone.
If great resources and examples could make you a world-class designer, then we’d all be making such beautiful works of art that the MoMA would be overflowing with designs. Sadly, it takes more than just looking at designs to get good at it. You’ve got to keep trying, get feedback, incorporate it into your design, rinse, and repeat. Once you’ve done it enough, you’ll be able to take the best ideas and put them together with your creativity into something so impressive and unique that it’s finally your own true work.
These apps and sites should help you get started, but there’s tons more out there that can help you learn to be a world-class designer. What’s your favorite design-centric web apps and sites that you can’t live without?