Thoughts on free design resources?

Im conflicted on this. I was just cruising through facebook for a moment and saw 3 different ads for free design resources, like Freepik. While I’ve used their site a handful of times, i know that these items just didnt magically appear…somebody took the time to actually create them.

For a little while now Ive had a growing distaste for how people treat, and view, the creative world and makes me question a desire to continue a career in it. People view it as something that should be free, or very cheap and believe it devalues my work but also my love for it.

When I have people come to me, although rare, asking to pursue a career in the design field, I always tell them stay far and away. Not to deter them from their passion or a “fear of competition”, but because of the lack of support and value the public tends to have towards this field.

Does anybody share some similar views? maybe some experiences that maybe has you question the future of graphic arts? I’m very interested to know.


I’m at the point where I could retire soon — maybe sooner than I really want to. I’ve never thought about retiring much until lately when things have slowed down due to the economic fallout from the pandemic. I’ve always enjoyed this whole field of work. I’ve been very lucky, and it’s treated me well.

All that considered, the whole profession of graphic design has become increasingly dysfunctional over the last 20 years. I was remembering back to when I first graduated with a design degree and began working full-time and picking up my own clients on the side. My very first freelance job was a logo design for a small business that built kitchen cabinets. I charged them $650 for the logo and the artwork (paste-up back then) for stationery and business cards.

When considering inflation (looked it up), that $650 would be the equivalent of about $1,500 today. This wasn’t an outrageous amount of money for a new designer to be charging for a logo back then (early 1980s). It was pretty much the going rate here in Salt Lake at the time. The metro area contained, maybe, a million people, but I personally knew, probably, half the graphic designers in town — there just weren’t that many of us. Today, the population is upwards of three times that big, but the number of people calling themselves graphic designers numbers in the thousands. It’s sort of ridiculous.

Since my freelance work has been slow recently, out of curiosity, I decided to check UpWork to see what one of the more reputable crowdsourcing sites had going on. The going rate for a logo there seems to be around $50 or, counting inflation, some 30 times cheaper than when I first graduated from college.

I was talking to a friend from a former employer a couple of months ago. He was working on the design of a relatively small WordPress website for a government agency. They were charging them a quarter of a million dollars for what was basically off-the-shelf software that involved a small amount of custom server-side scripting.

Fifty dollars for a logo. A quarter million for a fairly simple website. I mentioned in my second paragraph how dysfunctional this whole field has become, and this is a good example. There’s still good money to be made for the select few who graduate into the upper echelons of savvy (or foolish) clients with money. The other 95% of those studying to become designers will likely be selling shoes or waiting on tables for a living. Wannabe designers might as well set their sites on becoming professional basketball players — the chances are about the same.

Anyway, would I encourage anyone to go into this field? Nope, not unless they were so committed to the idea that they were willing to bet a big part of their life on the unlikely chance of succeeding.


Just-B gets the award for post of the week. Unfortunately, there is no cash prize.

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Just-B wins the internets.

If I ran a 3-star Michelin rated restaurant and had a $25 hamburger on the menu, it would not concern me that McDonalds was selling a $2.50 burger. There are different segments of the market, and a clientele for both types of products.

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Thats hard for a student to hear haha.

What would everyone say is the biggest factor in a successful graphic designer vs a wannabe designer?

The right combination of schooling and experience, plus a whole lot of talent.
And a whole lot of luck.

The problem right now is that most schools that offer design degrees make absolutely no effort to determine if students are right for the program. They don’t fail students who don’t make their deadlines. They only take their money and run. A lot of them don’t even require an admissions portfolio or pre-admission skills requirement. A lot of them don’t offer structured internships. And most unfortunately, most of them are taught without any regard to the actual working conditions and requirements for producing the graphics in the real world. They are more arts focused.

In my many years in this industry, it’s actually been the tiny handful of interns that were going to a trade high school who were most thoroughly educated in graphic design. Far more than college students because the trade school kids actually worked in a working printshop within the school BEFORE being allowed on the computers to design. Sadly, that course no longer exists at the school. It’s all about the intertoobs now.

And even more sadly, those kids today would need a college degree even to be considered for a job opening at any kind of agency.

As far as free design resources go, two things.

  • You often get what you pay for.
  • The artists offering the free stuff know exactly what they are going to get for their hard work. Some get off on the thrill of their stuff being used.

As far as using free stuff, hey, it’s out there. If it suits your design and you do your due diligence on the provenance and actual acquisition of the piece, that’s fine. But free, and to some extent high royalty stock items, can be…uh…not original source. Buyer beware!

As far as cheapening the industry, I’m with Mojo. I just don’t care. Same for crowdsource. There is obviously a market there. They deserve each other.

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In addition to what PrintDriver mentioned about schooling, experience, talent and luck, I’ll add the ability to market oneself effectively.

In most design programs, instructors are designers themselves. They’re often teachers first and designers second, but they still know the difference between good and bad design. Consequently, students are graded on the creativity and innovative nature of their design work.

Once out of school and working in the real world, the qualities the led to good grades in school often (usually) take a back seat to business issues and the whims of clients and employers (mostly in-house situations) lacking design savvy.

I’ve been lucky enough to occasionally work closely with some very successful designers — people with recognizable work and names. They’ve all been different, but their design talents and abilities, although good, have typically not lived up to what their reputations might suggest. The designers I’ve run across with the most unmitigated talent have been those working in relative introverted obscurity, behind the scenes, for other people.

The thing that’s separated the most well-known from the runners-up has not been design ability. Instead, it’s been varying combinations of luck, ambition, ego, business acumen, self-promotion, and personality (social skills). For that matter, some of the most financially successful designers I know are not especially talented designers at all. Instead, their genius lies in their ability to successfully run a business and sell themselves to others.

I guess what I’m saying is that, although important, design talent will only get a designer so far. Longer-term success in this profession today involves a whole lot more.


Free design resources are:-

  1. Photo Creator
  2. Nappy
  3. Humaaans
  4. Google Fonts
  5. Videezy
  6. Canva
  7. Social Sizes

The OP isn’t looking for free design resources.
Just about all the things you list actually illustrate his point about the devaluing of the entire design industry. Canva in particular.
The absolute BEST thing about Canva is they run their own print division, so the people that use it aren’t bothering ME to print their uh…stuff.

Yes, Canva’s business model, in essence, is one designed to dumb down design by making a facsimile of it available to everyone who knows how to push buttons and check boxes in a browser.

Guy Kawasaki is their “Chief Evangilist” (an actual position at the company) has come right out and stated that the goal of Canva is to enable everyone to create good design themselves. What neither he nor the company says is that good design is about far more than just about picking pretty colors and various predetermined options from a template

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