3.5 Tools for Busy Communicators

A version of this first appeared on CUinsight.com.

I’m always on the lookout for useful tools. As a department of one, I’m short on time, but have plenty to do. Here are three (plus a half more) of my favorite tools:

Wordmark.it: For finding the ideal typeface.
Don’t let anyone tell you fonts aren’t important. A great typeface is what holds your marketing materials together. Wordmark.it allows you to see how a word looks in all the fonts that are installed on your computer. See them on a white background, black background, all lowercase or all caps. This is a great way to find a new font, or isolate a word that you want to stand out in your materials. Here’s one I did using “credit union.”


  1. Canva: For designing simple graphics.
    I am not trained as a graphic designer, so I don’t know all the tricks of the trade. I don’t use Canva all the time, because it does have limitations. I use it for quick social media graphics, flyers or simple invitations. Upload your own photo or choose from free backgrounds, photos and tons of graphical elements. Here’s a quick graphic I did with one of my photos.Canva
    3. Colorhex.com: For finding the “right” colors.
    Starting a design from scratch? Find hex colors, RGB, tints, complementary and monochromatic colors, plus more.

    3.5 Feed.ly: For managing information overload.
    It’s not really a tool…but a way to wrestle your your crowded inbox. Feed.ly is a news aggregate that allows you to quickly glance at all the news important to you. Use the RSS feed to customize what you want to see, without jamming your inbox with a ton of emails.And these tools are all free…what are some your favorite tools or websites?

Creatively Smart

CreativityAlbert was right on: creativity takes a smart mind. It’s the ability to make connections. It’s marrying two disconnected ideas into something better. It’s taking complex information and creating a simple solution.

Being creative is far from easy, and it’s not something you can switch on or off. Creative ideas sometimes come when you least expect it. It comes from your past experiences. An idea is a hodge podge of what you know, what you have read, what you have seen and what you have heard.

It’s taking something you already know and changing it to fit your needs.

STEM + ART go hand in hand

Art created by my 11 year old.

The focus on STEM cirriculum (science, technology, engineering and math) is big. Schools are targeting lessons around it. STEM summer camps sell out. Companies promote it. Amazon has a STEM dedicated toy shop.

I get it. We live in an “Internet of things” world, and it’s critical for students to get training in The Big Four. All are super important and the job-related outlook is definitely sunny.

But what about art?

My 11-year-old recently said “it’s not fair we have to do so much math. My favorite subject is art, and we hardly do any of it.” His fifth grade class is so busy learning math and science, there’s little room for creative subjects.

But STEM education and art can go hand in hand. Like this, as reported by NPR: Artists in Residence Give High-Tech Products a Human Touch.

Big companies like Facebook and Apple are employing artists to help them with their products. Technology has made it possible for just about anything to be made, but the roadblock is creative thinking and imagination. That’s where artists come in, because artists bring a different way of thinking.

I like this quote from John Seely Brown, who ran XEROX PARC: “The ability to imagine is the key challenge,” Brown says, “because we have infinitely powerful tools to build whatever we imagine. As a result we’re limited by our imagination. Working with artists really opens our imagination.”

The beauty of a product is just as important as what it does and how it works. STEM students can make the mobile app work, but who is going to make it look nice? STEM students can design an awesome web-based CRM platform, but it’s no good if the userface is clunky and ugly to look at. Who will design the next iPhone? And I’m not talking about how it works, I’m talking about how it looks.

Technology needs artists.

It shouldn’t be STEM curriculum OR art. It be STEM curriculum AND art.