It’s a common problem that most startups in Southeast Asia (and the rest of the world) face. You have the vision and the passion, but lack that design skill to make your startup standout in the crowd.

However brilliant your idea or awesome your tech skills are, nice visuals and storytelling is the best way to communicate to a wider audience. But how can cash-strapped startups manage these.

In lieu of hiring a professional (we highly recommend that you do), here are some tools that can help you at the start.

1. Free stock photos with Unsplash

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All photos on Unsplash are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means they’re completely free to be used for any legal purpose, including commercial use.

So feel free to modify, copy and distribute the over one millions photos without asking for permission, or even attribution..

Another good alternative is Pexels.

2. Free icons with Noun Project

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Icons are vastly underrated by anyone who is not a designer. Whether you’re designing your website, marketing materials, app UI or even a business card, good quality icons are critical to make it seem professional and easily understandable.

Enter Noun Project. According to their website, they focus on ‘creating, sharing and celebrating the world’s visual language’, and has a database of hundreds of thousands of professionally designed icons. Yes, these are all free to download and use under Creative Commons Attribution, but the original creator must be credited.

3. Basic graphic design with Canva

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We’re big fans of Canva as you may have seen earlier and if you’re not a trained designer, this is a great starting tool. Tutorials and training are not required to become a Canva expert.

Offering both a free and paid version, Canva has an easy-to-use drag and drop interface for the design-dummies. It can even let you create both print and web designs easily, as well as allow you to get printouts delivered to you from the service.

4. Basic image editing with Pixlr

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For the design-inclined, but budget conscious Pixlr might be the best option for you.

Pixlr is simpler to use, and free, so in that way it is better than Photoshop. It does have a similar interface to Photoshop’s, but as a web-based app you don’t have to download anything. Some of the features are quite advanced, so a bit of knowledge and training is required if you want to use blending modes, masks, layer styles and levels.

5. App prototyping with Invision

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Designing apps isn’t only about the code, but also the design and UI/UX of the application. Services like Invision allow for startups to prototype first without having to invest cash upfront.

This tool is simple as users just need to click and drag to transform your static designs into fully interactive prototypes with this free prototyping service.

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