Winning the Internet

Graphic Design Hacks for Non-Designers

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

Sarah BakerAs we gear up for Netroots Nation 2013, we’re taking a closer look at some of the convention’s hottest training sessions. We’re interviewing the trainers and taking you inside some of online activism’s most popular and elusive topics.

Today we’re interviewing Sarah Baker, who’ll be leading Graphic Design Hacks for Non-Designers.

NN13 Training Session

Graphic Design Hacks for Non-Designers

Do you wish you could make that killer graphic you envisioned? Are you jealous of your friends who are proficient with Adobe Creative Suite? Do you feel like the internet is a giant pool of visually appealing content, but you’re stuck on deck because you don’t know the tools? If you answered “yes” to one of these questions, this session is for you. This training is designed for anyone who is looking to gain basic design skills to enhance their (or their organization’s) online presence. We’ll cover some bare-bones basics of design, then spend the bulk of the time showing you different ways you can use software already on your computer (or available for free) to make shareable graphics, content headers, infographics and more.

A laptop is helpful, but not necessary to have for this session.


Q: Tell us about your experience with graphic design.

A: I graduated from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art where painting was my concentration, but student government & politics were my passion. After college, I moved to Brooklyn where, strangely enough, the painting factory wasn’t hiring [insert laughter here]. So I honed my design skills and eventually became a sort of modern seasonal worker – working on NYC democratic primaries in the spring/summer/fall, and doing freelance graphic design in the off season.

As a freelancer, my clients ranged from the Writers Guild of America East to the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau to local candidates and more. These days, I use my design skills on a daily basis as the Creative Director for the New Organizing Institute.

Q: In your opinion, why do many people shy away from creating graphics?

A: I think a lot of people are under the mistaken impression that you need a ton of special training in order to create presentable graphics. While it’s true that professionally trained designers are well equipped to knock your socks off on big and small projects, almost anyone with an interest in design can learn some basic skills that will allow you to start producing simple graphics. If you’re curious (or incredulous) I would encourage you to come to my Netroots session — you might surprise yourself with what you can pick up in a short amount of time!

Q: What is the most important thing for non-designers to keep in mind when designing a graphic?

A: The idea of gestalt — A good design has a sense of unity with individual elements working together to create an organized whole. Another way of thinking about this idea is that you want the design elements to look like they live in the same universe. But that doesn’t mean sameness & boredom.

Q: Why should folks attend your session at Netroots Nation, and how can they connect with you?

A: Visual content is an increasingly large and important part of the online landscape (think about how Facebook showcases more images than text status updates, or how Upworthy gets millions of shares from simple graphics), and progressives – especially those in the trenches of grassroots fights – can’t all rely on professional designers to create the visuals that will give life to their online campaigns. We need more people in the movement who can do basic graphic design, and you should be one of those people! 

Also, I’m pretty fun both in life and at trainings. For proof, follow me on instagramtumblr or my unfortunately uncensored twitter account, @bakerbk.


To attend this training, or one of the 39 others at Netroots Nation 2013 in San Jose, register now.

About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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