Toolbox Blog: resources, tips, tricks & info for creative professionals

Posts Tagged ‘graphicdesign’

May 7th, 2009

Websites with Inspired Background Designs

Nothing influences the overall design/feel of a web page more than the background. Unfortunately, many sites often overlook this element.

Here are a few sites we’ve come across that deserve recognition for their great use of background design.

The Hotel Bellwether:

Hotel Bellwether

Elitist Snob:

Elitist Snob

Kris Nyreen’s Twitter Page:

Kris Nyreen's Twitter Page

Dara’s Garden:

Dara's Garden

ndesign Studio:

ndesign studio

Doghouse Wines:

Doghouse Wines

Jobs on the Web Designer Wall:

Web Designer Wall - Jobs

Not Your Average Joe:

Not Your Average Joe

Scrapbook Your Memories:

Scrapbook Your Memories

Philippe Plaideux:

Philippe Plaideux

Like what you see? Here are a few resources for finding or creating your own site backgrounds:
Oustanding Website Background Guide: 60 Impressive Resources
Free Background Textures
13 Sites for Beautiful Patterns & Backgrounds

February 24th, 2009

Creative and Fun Site Navigation

Navigation is one of the most important elements of a website design.  It provides your users with a road map and guide to your site and gives them a sense of direction.  Therefore, well-designed sites tend to have navigation menus and bars that are simple.  But as we’ve seen before simple doesn’t have to be boring.

The sites below have succeeded in creating nav menus that are creative and fun, while not confusing (and thus probably losing) their visitors.

Design Jobs on the Wall

Jobs on the Wall

Hug My Mac


Sarah Hyland


Simple Art








Waters Media


MB Dragan


Our Memory Of

Our memory of

Tasty Planner




February 16th, 2009

Designer’s Block – Tips for getting out of a Slump

Some days you kick out great work like it’s nobody’s business.  Some days you can do nothing right and feel like you’ll never design anything worthwhile ever again.  Everyone has been there, and its incredibly frustrating – especially when your deadline is looming. So next time you’re wrestling with a bout of Designer’s Block, try a few of these tips and strategies that AgencyTool gathered from a few fellow sufferers.

1. Sketch it Out
Go old-school and pull out a pencil and paper or whiteboard.  If you find yourself stuck do some brainstorming sketching first.  If you are completely stuck just doodling can help to get the creative juices flowing.  If you have a vague glimmer of a plan formed you can cross out, change, and put fresh ideas down faster than with any of the design programs out there.  This way if you suddenly don’t really like how the design is going it will take you all of 2 seconds to scratch it out and start again.  Voila, no “but I’ll lose all the progress I’ve made” dilemmas.

2. Just Let it Go
Say you make some type of kick-a** component, an awesome button, icon – whatever.  But this great piece of art just doesn’t fit into the design you’re currently working on.  You spent so much time and effort making your icon that you find yourself trying to change the entire design (and possibly getting stuck)  just so you can include it.  Words of advice from great designers…’Just let it go’.  Save your glorious button for another day and get your focus back.

Also under the ‘let it go’ category – don’t be afraid to step away from a design that’s just not working.  Let it go for a few hours/days then come back to it.  Then, if you’re still stuck, consider just letting it go altogether.  Instead of forcing something that isn’t quite right you’ll open up to ideas that might work better.

3. Switch it Up
Don’t use the same techniques over and over again.  When stuck, people have a tendency to fall back on tried and true components, resulting in a design that looks like everything else you’ve done before.  Force yourself to branch out and create something that looks different from your previous work.  Experiment with color, technique, layout or change locations by getting out of your office – just switching up your routine may be enough to get you out of the slump.

4. Take a Look at Galleries
There are a lot of gallery inspiration sites around, set aside an hour or so and just take a look through them.  Sometimes all you need is a kick in the pants.  Just be careful not to cross the line between being inspired by someone else’s work and stealing it.

5. Ask for Input
Ask people whose opinions you trust and who will be able to give you specific feedback and constructive criticism.  Steer clear of people who don’t have any design experience or tell you that ‘it just doesn’t feel right’, you’ll end up spending hours trying to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix something that may be perfectly good.  This can be a bit tricky – see the  SEOmoz blog on this topic: How to Ruin a Web Design

6. Relax
It’s cliche to use the batting average example but it does fit.  You’re not going to knock one out of the park every single time you sit down to complete a design.  It might be a good thing to lower your expectations just a bit – not everything you produce is going to be great.  Once you take the pressure off and realize that even the best designers run into this wall you’ll be over it in no time.

photo from

January 20th, 2009

9 Inspiring Interviews with Designers

A lot of design-related sites and blogs publish interviews with respected/well known people in the industry.  It’s a great way to gain insight and hear about others’ experiences and inspirations.  Plus a lot of these people are really really interesting…so here are a few interviews that are definitely worth a read through:

#1 – MarketingSherpa’s Interview with Steve Krug
A little older, but still relevant.  What works, what doesn’t, best practices…in audio and text format.

#2 – CrazyLeaf’s Interview with Lauren Marie
Interview with the creator of the successful graphic design blog CreativeCurio

#3 – SEO Blog, Marketmou and Aaron Wall
“Top SEO Expert Aaron Wall Speaks Out About SEO’s Bleeding Edge”

#4 – Fuel Your Creativity’s Interview with Fabio Sasso
Freelancing, inspiration, favorite tools and other random tidbits

#5 – Abduzeedo’s Interview with Chuck Anderson
Interview with Chuck Anderson, design mastermind behind

#6 – Interview with Collis Ta’eed
Web Design and Print Design focused

#7 – Just Creative Design’s Interview with Jeff Fisher
Logo design, branding and blogging

#8 – OutlawDesignBlog Interview: Adii Rockstar of Woo Themes
Premium wordpress themes

#9 – FreelanceFolder’s Interview with Adrian Diaconescu
Freelancing, blogging, wordpress and more…

These are great places to start, if you’re looking for more head to Spicy Web Designers – they interview top designers from around the world constantly.  The actual interviews are usually short and sweet, great for random inspiration!

August 19th, 2008

Can Pink Be Professional? 15 Pink Websites You Have to See

It’s a question the designers have asked for a while now.  Can pink be used in a professional design?  I think the answer is a resounding YES!  Nixing the color pink all together can stifle the creative process. You decide…here are 15 websites utilizing the wonderful color pink

Some uber professional sites: A financial/trading company, an advertising agency, and a large well-respected mobile phone service provider…all using pink!

Even a few professional web design firms…

And even if the pink seems overwhelming, keep in mind the type of company and intended audience.  Character design or a stuffed animal designer for example…

Then again, you don’t want to get too carried away…

DreamTemplate - Web Templates     Host 6 Domains on 1 Account    

Website 120x60 Logo    

ABOUT AGENCYTOOL At its core, AgencyTool exists to serve as a resource for creative agencies, whether they be into web design, print, advertising or anything else. Here on the AgencyTool Blog you'll find a mish-mosh of resources and thoughts that we think are worth sharing.

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