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Essential Graphic Design Assets for Designers

Essential Graphic Design Assets for Designers

Graphic design assets are the building blocks that designers use to create stunning visuals. From fonts and templates to photos and illustrations, assets help bring creative ideas to life. This comprehensive guide will explore the expansive world of graphic design assets.

You'll learn what assets are, why they matter, and how to source high-quality assets. We'll also overview popular asset types, places to find assets, and tips for building your asset library. Whether you're new to design or a seasoned pro, read on to enhance your creative toolkit!

What Are Graphic Design Assets?

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A graphic design asset is any element a designer uses to create a visual product. This includes:

  • Photos: High-quality photographs, including stock photos, personal photos, and photo packs
  • Illustrations: Original artwork, drawings, digital paintings, and vector images
  • Icons: Symbolic pictures used to convey information visually
  • Fonts: Collections of letters, numbers, and symbols with a shared design style
  • Templates: Premade layouts for documents, presentations, social posts, and more
  • Textures: Images with natural surfaces like paper, fabric, or grunge
  • Patterns: Repeating decorative motifs that create backgrounds
  • Shapes: Simple vector-based lines and forms
  • Colour palettes: Harmonious colour combinations

Anything visual that you bring together to create graphic designs counts as an asset. These elements enable designers to develop polished, professional visuals quickly.

Why Do Graphic Design Assets Matter?

Graphic design assets are small supplementary pieces. But make no mistake – they form the foundation of high-quality graphic design. Professional assets help designers:

  • Work more efficiently: Starting from complete assets accelerates the design process. You avoid reinventing the wheel each time.
  • Enhance creativity: With abundant assets available, you can explore combinations that may not have occurred otherwise.
  • Elevate aesthetics: Curated assets like icons, fonts, and templates lend visual appeal and consistency.
  • Communicate effectively: Photographs, illustrations, and shapes quickly convey messages and draw attention.
  • Stand out: Unique assets help your designs feel fresh instead of formulaic and generic.
  • Reinforce branding: Cohesive assets that align with your brand identity and style connect your visuals.
  • Focus on strategy: With assets ready to go, you can devote energy towards broader branding and campaigns.

In short, robust graphic design assets remove roadblocks, spark ideas, upgrade polish, and allow designers to operate at their highest level.

Categories of Graphic Design Assets

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Now that you know why assets matter, let's survey the landscape of asset categories available to designers:

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Photos

  • Descriptions: Photographs depict people, objects, environments, textures, and more for informational and aesthetic purposes.
  • Types:
    • Stock photos: Inexpensive pre-shot images from significant marketplaces like Adobe Stock.
    • Public domain images: Photos lacking traditional copyright restrictions.
    • Original photos: Images you or your team intentionally captured for design use.
  • Uses:
    • Hero images on websites
    • Product photos in ecommerce
    • Image overlays on presentation slides
    • Organic backgrounds on social graphics

Illustrations

  • Descriptions: Illustrations encompass original drawings, digital paintings, infographics, cut-outs, and more. Their diversity makes them versatile assets.
  • Types:
    • Vector illustrations: Scalable and modifiable images generated from mathematical curves.
    • Raster illustrations: Pixel-based illustrations are used for detailed and photo-realistic effects.
    • Infographics: Visual diagrams and charts that communicate complex information.
    • Cartoons: Exaggerated, simplified illustrations depicting people, objects or scenes.
  • Uses:
    • Whimsical elements on websites, brochures, packaging
    • Visual metaphors in presentations and ads
    • Enhancing infographics with decorative images

Icons

  • Descriptions: Icons use symbolic, simplified imagery to convey meanings and messages visually.
  • Types:
    • Glyphs: Icons that use simplified renditions of real-world objects.
    • Pictograms: Icons representing physical objects.
    • Abstract icons: Icons utilising shapes and forms in abstract combinations.
  • Uses:
    • User interface elements and buttons
    • Wayfinding and signage
    • Visual interest across designs

Fonts

  • Descriptions: Fonts dictate the style, personality and readability of textual elements in designs.
  • Types:
    • Serif: Fonts with small lines trailing from letters. Connote tradition and sophistication.
    • Sans-serif: Fonts without serifs. Feel clean and modern.
    • Display: Decorative font styles meant for headlines.
    • Handwritten: Fonts emulating handwriting. It comes across as organic, vintage, and casual.
  • Uses:
    • Brand logos
    • Website headers
    • Poster text
    • Resume text

Templates

  • Descriptions: Predesigned and customisable templates provide starting points for everyday design needs.
  • Types:
    • Brand templates: Templates sporting brand colours, fonts and more.
    • Presentation templates: Templates with brand slides, graphics and text placeholders.
    • Social media templates: Templates sized and configured for different social platforms.
    • Document templates: Templates are set up with styles, layouts, and structure for long-form documents.
  • Uses:
    • Brand presentations
    • Company one-pagers
    • Social posts
    • Reports, guides and proposals

Textures

  • Descriptions: Textures feature images of surfaces like paper, fabric, nature and grunge. They add depth and realism to designs.
  • Types:
    • Paper: Textures mimicking stationery, cards and notebooks.
    • Wood: Textures are based on wood finishes, panels, and backgrounds.
    • Nature: Textures derived from plants, stones, water and natural elements.
    • Grunge: Grittier textures showing wear, tears and imperfections.
  • Uses:
    • Website backgrounds
    • Print materials
    • Photo effects
    • Packaging

Patterns

  • Descriptions: Patterns involve repeating motifs that create backgrounds and decorative accents.
  • Types:
    • Geometric patterns: Patterns built from shapes and mathematical combinations.
    • Organic patterns: Naturalistic patterns echoing plants, animals and landscapes.
    • Graphic patterns: Stylised, abstract patterns.
    • Textile patterns: Patterns inspired by fabrics.
  • Uses:
    • Website backgrounds
    • Presentation wallpaper
    • Packaging trim
    • Framing graphic elements

Shapes

  • Descriptions: Shapes construct the contours and structure of design compositions using lines and geometric forms.
  • Types:
    • Vector shapes: Clean, precise, scalable shapes generated mathematically.
    • Stencils: Digital shape collections focusing on specific themes.
    • Frames: Decorative vector shapes that outline and contain.
  • Uses:
    • Illustration building blocks
    • Infographic elements
    • Photo frames
    • Website dividers

This breakdown gives a glimpse into the breadth of graphic design assets available. Now, let's look at sourcing professional assets.

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Where to Find Graphic Design Assets

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Never compromise quality in the race for quantity. Discover the top asset sources spanning photos, fonts, templates and beyond:

Stock Photo Sites

  • Adobe Stock: Over 200 million photos, illustrations, graphics, and templates are integrated with Creative Cloud.
  • Shutterstock: Diverse collection of over 400 million stock photos, vectors, illustrations and videos.
  • Getty Images: High-quality creative and editorial imagery priced based on image size.
  • Alamy: Extensive stock photo library with over 200 million creative, historical and news images.

Font Foundries

  • Adobe Fonts: All fonts are included in Creative Cloud subscriptions, plus thousands of extra fonts available.
  • Google Fonts: Collection of over 1,300 open-source font families to browse and download.
  • Font Squirrel: Carefully curated directory of commercial-use free fonts in various styles.
  • MyFonts: Marketplace to explore and purchase fonts from independent type foundries and designers.

Template Marketplaces

  • Adobe Stock: Market-leading source of templates for graphic design, photography, presentations and more.
  • Canva is a user-friendly site offering thousands of free and paid templates sized for web, print, and social media.
  • Creative Market: High-quality, Unlimited Templates memberships providing every item in their 60K+ template library.
  • Envato Elements: All-you-can-download service with over 510,000 creative assets, templates, photos, graphics and more.

Icon Libraries

  • Noun Project: Massive collection of unique icons created by an international community of designers.
  • Flaticon: Comprehensive icon library with intuitive search tools to browse over 3.4 million options.
  • Iconfinder: One-stop destination to discover 7 million free and premium icons in various styles.

These hand-picked outlets offer an abundance of professionally designed assets ready for your next project. But what about when you want entirely customised, proprietary assets tailored to your needs? Read on to unlock pro tips for creating your own.

Building a Robust Graphic Design Asset Library

Photography In Visual Marketing

Growing a personal cache of go-to custom assets takes your creative potential to new heights. Arm yourself with these pro strategies to build a world-class graphic design asset library:

Shoot Your Photos

Shooting original photos lets you control every aspect of lighting, angle, styling and beyond. But what should you capture? Useful subjects include:

  • Products relevant to projects
  • Team headshots
  • General lifestyle photography
  • Abstract architectural, food, landscape and nature shots

When compiling photos:

  • Mind the technicals: Use high-resolution settings for maximum image quality and scalability. Stick to well-lit environments and lock focus on critical elements.
  • Style intentionally: Rely on props, backgrounds and narrative style choices to design versatile, compelling photos.
  • Cover diverse angles: Unique angles make ordinary subjects extraordinary while capturing additional usable detail.
  • Gather supplemental B-roll: Additional shots of environment details, alternate angles, individual products, and macro details massively multiply options later.
  • Keep a camera handy: Great shots can arise anywhere, so keep your phone or camera on you to spontaneously capture potential assets.

With practice photographing intentional assets, plus always watching for photo opportunities in everyday life, you'll organically amass striking custom images unavailable elsewhere.

Useful Photography Gear

Equipping yourself with quality photography tools ensures assets meet professional standards:

  • Mirrorless or DSLR cameras: Provide exceptional image quality, control and lenses for diverse needs.
  • Lenses: Telephoto and wide-angle lenses offer vantage points phone cameras can't match.
  • Tripods: Enable stable, composed shots, long exposures and sharp focus.
  • Remote triggers: Reduce blur from pressing shutter buttons on cameras.
  • Reflectors and lighting: Illuminate subjects naturally and artfully.
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Investing in robust photography tools pays dividends through readily available premium custom shots.

License Unique Illustrations

Commissioning custom illustrations brings original concepts to life, matching your exact vision. When hiring illustrators:

  • Share an inspiration guide: Supply samples of styles, subjects and compositions to inform their approach.
  • Define asset goals: Explain intended uses for illustrations so artists craft relevant visuals.
  • Request layered source files: Ask for separate layers and elements so illustrations become modular asset toolkits.
  • Secure exclusive rights: Many artists license illustrations as limited or unlimited exclusives for sole usage rights.

Investing in bespoke illustrations guarantees access to distinctive assets no competitors can mimic. Sites like Fiverr and Upwork offer plenty of expert illustrators for hire.

Hire A Designer On Upwork

Handletter Typographic Quotes

Beyond conveying words, thoughtfully rendered text makes impactful design accents. Using brush pens and digital tools, hand letter quotes like:

  • Inspiring mission statements
  • Meaningful mantras
  • Descriptive calls-to-action

During hand lettering:

  • Focus on flow: Fluidly guides the eye across text using shapes, weights and connections.
  • Highlight keywords: Emphasise key text using the colour, size and ornamental effects.
  • Leave room for flexibility: Allow space around text to integrate backgrounds.

Handlettering quotes let brands weave meaningful mottos in highly personalised ways that standard fonts can't replicate.

Design Custom Patterns

Signature patterns project brand personalities powerfully across designs. When crafting patterns:

  • Derive inspiration from logos: Extract symbolic shapes, textures and palette inspiration from prominent brand marks.
  • Limit pattern elements: Clean, sparse patterns with 2-4 elements project sophistication.
  • Repeat strategically: Consider how seamlessly patterns repeat to wrap objects continuously.

For packaging, merchandise or digital ads, unique brand patterns make memorable visual links. Sites like Adobe Express offer user-friendly pattern-generation tools requiring no advanced design expertise.

Save Iconography Reminders

When spying on icon ideas in everyday life, immortalise them for later. Snap photos of:

  • Attractive signage around towns and venues
  • Artful silhouettes like statues, architecture and nature
  • Decorative design details on favourite products

In your graphic design software, trace over these inspirational images to DIY simplified icon rough drafts filed away for future use. This accumulates starter icons to expedite icon projects down the road.

This effortlessly stockpiles unique custom icons by continually watching for and preserving icon inspiration.

Amass Diverse Textures

Textures lend designs natural depth and realism through grunge, paper textures and more. Point cameras at:

  • Weathered walls with peeling paint
  • Rust textures from old vehicles or machines
  • Paint-swatch cards from hardware stores
  • Leaves, bark and stone textures from outside

Capture textures consistently lit, sharp and head-on for adaptable image files. Pay special attention to angled lighting, which adds dimensionality. Photoshop easily converts textures into seamless, repeatable patterns or overlays, blending into underlying images.

Gather Tones and Colour Palettes

Harmonious colour combinations make perfect foundational design assets. Snap inspiration photos of:

  • Paint swatch colour strips
  • Bright flower arrangements
  • Playground equipment colours
  • Store toy aisles
  • Nature and sunset landscapes

Later, sample colours with digital colour picker tools to define exact hex colour codes for saving into Adobe Color or Coolors palettes. Curated colour boards form attachment-free starting assets that kickstart sophisticated designs.

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You build an ever-growing palette library unavailable through stock sources by continually collecting colours wherever they pop up in everyday settings.

Explore Typography Styles

Browse typography showcases spotlighting fonts in action across diverse designs. Screenshot lettering styles sparking ideas to try for:

  • Signature branding
  • Retro vibes
  • Minimalist looks

Collect font samples into Pinterest boards or folders to flip through when projects demand a specific typographic style.

Perusing the industry's best fonts immerses you in possibilities beyond default system fonts. Online font inspiration becomes offline assets that directly inform custom lettering.

By actively watching for visual assets everywhere and preserving finds through photos and notes for later, you methodically build an elite cache of proprietary assets, adding priceless brand value over time. So stay curious, keep exploring your world visually, and let this organic asset collection process immeasurably enhance your personal and professional designs.

Key Takeaways: Getting the Most from Your Assets

Congratulations – if you've made it this far, you know more about graphic design assets than most! Let's recap the fundamental discoveries:

Graphic design assets include photos, illustrations, icons, fonts, templates, textures, patterns and more. They speed up ideation, enhance quality, upgrade aesthetics, and improve communication and brand cohesion while allowing designers to operate creatively.

To access assets, rely on stock libraries like Adobe Stock and Shutterstock for photos, MyFonts and Google Fonts for fonts, Creative Market for templates and Noun Project for icons. For fully custom assets, shoot original photos, license custom illustrations, hand letter quotes, design patterns, collect textures, and find typography inspiration.

Strategically creating your assets gives exclusive access to proprietary elements visually communicating your vibe. So watch for asset inspiration everywhere, capture ideas to revisit later, and build your elite asset library over time.

The graphic design possibilities enabled by robust, high-quality assets are genuinely infinite. So now is the time to harness assets strategically across all your visuals – and watch your creative supernatural jump to thrilling new levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions? These FAQs provide more graphic design asset insights:

What are the most versatile assets every designer should have?

Fonts, colour palettes, patterns and photographic textures make extremely adaptable assets that integrate beautifully across virtually all designs.

Where can I download unique assets like textures for free?

Many sites like Pixabay, Unsplash and FreePik offer limited free assets. But for more options with full commercial licenses, Adobe Stock and Shutterstock balance affordability and quality.

What are the best formats for scalable graphic design assets?

Vector file formats like EPS, SVG and font files enlarge cleanly because their mathematical foundations remain crisp at any size. By contrast, raster images like JPEGs and PNGs lose quality if enlarged after editing.

Why pay for stock assets if I can get some elements for free elsewhere?

Commercial assets often sport higher resolutions, more flexible licensing, diverse selections and unique exclusives unavailable elsewhere for free.

How many assets do professional graphic designers typically use per project?

On average, designers report using 10-15 assets per project, including combinations of photographic elements, illustrations, text assets like fonts and templates, plus textural and abstract accents. More complex tasks like branding guides or editorial layouts may encompass 50 or more assets!

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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