I am creative and appreciate beautiful things but I am not a graphic designer. The point of this article is not to teach you how to be a designer. I wouldn’t dare to presume. However, I firmly believe that marketing research needs great graphic design like a cupcake needs frosting. Great design pulls in your audience, helps you clearly communicate the story and makes the content more engaging.

To that end, I often do work with professional graphic designers to help take my decks and reports to the next level. But I don’t always have the time or the budget to do that or frankly, sometimes I just need a deliverable that’s “good enough.” Over the years as an independent insights consultant I’ve discovered a handful of resources that can make marketing my own business and creating proposals and reports for others more beautiful, more interesting and just overall more professional-looking.


Something I’ve picked up from working with actual designers is that a few, well-placed icons in a consistent style and color palette can really add that final level

of polish to a report or other deliverable. I use The Noun Project and find it valuable enough to have actually ponied up for a paid subscription (very          

reasonable at $40/year currently).

Sometimes icons are purely decorative but they can work harder too. For example, if you use specific icons consistently throughout a report to represent particular consumer groups, those icons can stand in for text in complicated charts or graphics to make them easily readable.

Stock photography

There is a lot of terrible stock photography out there. To avoid it, you basically have two choices. One, you can pay for a subscription to a high-quality stock image service like Adobe Stock or Shutterstock. That may be a good option if you need lots of images for commercial use but it’s not cheap.

Alternately, if you just need im...