Vb .net interface design question...500 points

This really isn't a blunt question, but rather a request for more of a dialogue on interface design. It doesn't have to be too terribly involved, but there are a few things I need to know.

First, here is my situation. I am working with VB .Net 2003. I've created a windows application that's pretty cool and could be reworked into a pretty darn good program. My issue is that I have no taste for eye candy--that is, I'm horrible and coming up with it or derriving it from scratch. So, I have the basic, plain, depressing gray background on my form with gray buttons and black text. The whole application is depressing. I know there is a tremendous amount of phsycology that goes into gui making, such as using soothing colors and making the interface fun. My issue is I have no clue where to begin.

I'm not looking to become a graphic artist or anything that involved (though I suppose this is inevitable if I'm the only one working on this, eh?). Are there any tutorials on this sort of thing that merge the act of graphical design with programming? A look that I'm trying to create is something akin to Lavasoft's Ad-Aware. Their interface is extremely slick. I would wager a guess that it wasn't coded in vb .net, however, but I still think a similar look can be obtained.

Bottom Line: My application looks hideous. Where can I go to get the programing know-how to tune up the colors and such and make it, at the very least, aesthetically pleasing. I know graphic artists and programmers are, sometimes, two very different animals; however, I think there is an overlap, that even the artistically challenged can do something in this matter. Did that make sense? I am interested in commercial solutions as well as free solutions. Free solutions would, of course, be most preferred.

Wow. That was a mouthful. I could really use the help of you experts on this. A good program with a bad interface is a bad program...it's that simple.

Thanks in advance!

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I am with you I feel as though my interface design equates to about 90% of the entire project lifecycle. What i usually do is try to model my sites (or forms) after something i have found on the web that is visually appealling. I usually try to incorporate some of Microsofts design into my own (bypassing any copyright infringements). I usually try to stick to very soft, cool colors which are easy on the eye, nothing that jumps out (red, oarange, bright yellow). Also be sure to not overdue your site with animated gifs or unnecessary clutter, sometime the best sites are the most basic. That being said you really need only 2 tools to design a professional site - Visual Studio 2005 for the code design (which im guessing you are currently using), and Macromedia Fireworks to assist in your interface design. Both offer free trial versions and extensive documentation. You could an interace quite similar to Lavasoft Ad-Aware with the 2. Hope this helps

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is this an internet ap or a windows forms ap?
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jbaisdenAuthor Commented:

This is a windows application btw.
jbaisdenAuthor Commented:

I'm still looking into the links that have been posted. I don't know anything about Macromedia Fireworks but I'll check it out. I'm assuming it's an image creation / edit program. To rephrase what exactly I'm looking for: I need something more along the line of maybe libraries or code examples illustrating different graphical controls that are at least mildly appealing aesthetically. I suppose the basics are the best place to start so keep posting info on GUI design fundamentals or what not. Any further help would be appreciated. I  know I haven't really defined this material narrowly, but please try to work with me. This is one of those times where I'm not sure what I need.
ty for the points and good luck in your GUI design.
jbaisdenAuthor Commented:
No problem. Thanks for your advice.
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