There’s been an explosion of free design resources made available thanks to a number of sites that offer freebies and related tips. In this two part in-depth look, I examine the biggest brands in design blogs and suggest what they can do to make their brands even bigger and better.
This list was compiled and ordered by relevancy as well as their influence on the design community at large. I looked at each groups branding, site design, logo design, the strength of content and resources offered. I also looked at the number of properties each had. Alexa rankings were used to estimate site traffic although a high Alexa ranking did not always equal a higher ranking on this list. I did all this so as not to appear to be biased towards any particular blog or group.
To get on this list entities needed to be web based (so as to exclude existing magazines with high print circulation) and they had to be generally accepted by the public as being pretty damn awesome. This list by Just Creative Design is a more comprehensive list of everything that’s out there for designers. These sites are the 500-pound gorillas of the design community and are incredibly successful (and many of them are incredibly lucrative for the owners).
Founder(s) – Small Potato
History – Small Potato says “I started Wpdesigner.com back in May 2006 because I was not happy with the quality of free WordPress themes at that time and decided to learn how to create one for myself and release it for free. Gradually, Wpdesigner turned from a simple place where I release free themes into a blog, which covered WordPress tips, tutorials, and general web development topics. Along with more than 50 free WordPress themes, I managed to put together a series of articles on how to create a WordPress theme scratch, which is the most popular series of this blog.”
About the Brand – Wpdesigner.com was recently sold and the new owner Pawel Ciszewski better stay on his game because he could really ruin what has become an incredible resource for WordPress Designers and users. The original logo was amateurish but the choice of colors and the design of the site is what branded it so well.
Alexa.com Ranking – 84,743
Other Properties – Theme Club upgrade that is $5 per year offers exclusives that normal users don’t get
Ideas for Growth – I’m not sure what Small Potato was thinking when he sold what had become one of the most well liked WordPress theme sites on the net. He had a solid business model with the Theme Club and a lot of fans. I suggest the new owner focus on branching out into custom design and theme’s a-la-cart for purchase while continuing to release exclusive free themes to Theme Club members and free themes for the general public.
Founder(s) – Andrew Greig
History – DesignFlavr is a breed of website that hopes to deliver the latest and freshest art and design straight to you with no frills and no hassle. The concept behind this website is to help support the vast and ever growing number of Designers and Artists that reside here on the World Wide Web.
About the Brand – The logo is one of the weakest on this list. They’ve got a leaf for their logo which initially strikes me as having nothing to do with the nature of their work. The minimalist layout, however, can easily be used to brand other sites.
Alexa.com Ranking – 102,463
Other Properties – none
Ideas for Growth – DesignFlavr should move into the niche network of DIY, aspiring fashion designers. Their UI would be great for rating outfits and fashion photography.
Founder(s) – unknown
History – Bittbox has been offering free resources for Photoshop for atleast two years now.
About the Brand – While Bittbox itself doesn’t have that impressive of a brand, the reach of the site and it’s impact on the design industry has been MASSIVE! A quote from one of the owners, “It’s always nice to see people put BB freebies to good use, but there’s no way to spot them all. I was flipping through Rolling Stone over the weekend and spotted some of my Illustrator brushes (teardrop foliage) in an ad for Bonnaroo 2008, a huge music & arts festival in Tennessee.”
I too hacve spotted their resources all over the place from flyers and business to TV commercials!
Alexa.com Ranking – 22,750
Other Properties – Outside of a solid Flickr Group, nothing.
Ideas for Growth – It’s unfortunate that the Bitt people haven’t expanded and if they have, it’s unfortunate that they haven’t realized the power of associating their other ventures with BB. Outside of the obvious (a Design firm) I suggest the Bitt people move into a land so far unknown to them….motion graphics. They could give away scripts and resources for Adobe Premier and other programs like Avid and FinalCut.
Founder(s) – Ryan and Gillian Carson
History – I’m not sure how long it’s been around but in March 2007 Vitamin won the SXSW Award for Best Educational Resource.
About the Brand – Largely discusses web applications and the development of social media applications. The site has a very distinctive look much like all the work of the Carsonified design team does. Outside of ThinkVitamin the Carsons also coordinate the massive Future Of web conferences that happen around the globe and use content recorded there to create insightful and useful podcasts.
Alexa.com Ranking – 132,185
Other Properties – carsonified.com, futureofwebapps.com, futureofmobile.com, futureofwebdesign.com and dropsend.com
Ideas for Growth – The Carsons are already media planners, web developers, bloggers and event planners there isn’t much left they don’t do! That said, I think their inevitable next big push should be into Branding, PR and Marketing, after all, they’re already experts!
Founder(s) – unknown
History – unknown
About the Brand – Behance has created a solid brand around beautiful professional and minimalist design. The logo itself, is excellent looking somewhat like an element on the periodic table. They’ve got a web magazine, a new social network for designers and incredible shop of unique and well designed products!
Alexa.com Ranking – 117,857
Other Properties – behance.net (social network), creativesoutfitter.com (store), and behancemag.com (web magazine)
Ideas for Growth – If I were in charge of Behance my next target would be the fashion industry tapping my social network of designers for ideas similar to threadless.com
Read Part 2