Graphic design tips for non-designers

Graphic design is an important part of your marketing efforts. Your designs are absolutely part of the consumer experience. They can make or break if consumers receive your intended message. And good messaging should be part of your marketing strategy.

We have compiled important graphic design tips for you to know as you create your own marketing materials. After all, a good design can catch someone’s eye, keep their attention, and get them to respond to your call to action.

White Space

In graphic design, areas with white space are called negative space. Positive space is what we call areas with color, text, or elements that stimulate engagement.

Avoid filling all the negative space in your designs. You want a good balance of both negative and positive space. Think of your white space as a road to your call to action. You should use it as a way to increase the chance someone’s eyes go where you want them to go. For example, isolating a “schedule now” or “sign up” area away from other elements in your design draws eyes through the negative space until they find the positive space – and that is where the important stuff is.

Tones

When using color, it is ideal to pair shades of dark and light together to have clear and accessible messaging.

Creating high contrast between tones is inclusive to people who are vision impaired. For example, pairing light on light – such as white text on a light pink background – is difficult for people who are color blind or vision impaired to see. Same with dark on dark. Because people that are color blind only see tones of color, using tones correctly in your design ensures they can still receive your message.

Consistent Fonts

Your brand should have a font that you use consistently among all your designs.

Your font is another way to train consumers to recognize your brand, because your font will feel familiar to them each time they see it again. Since our eyes prefer consistency, using multiple fonts in one design can create chaos and make it hard for the consumer to engage with your message. Aim to use no more than two fonts in a single graphic. A general rule is to use one font 90% of the time, with the other 10% using a paired font to create visual interest. 

Font Families

All fonts have unique characteristics that make them visually different than other fonts. Fonts that have shared characteristics are called font families.

Using fonts that belong to the same family can create enough variation in your design for visual interest without the fonts competing with each other because of stark differences in their lines or curvature. To create variety, you can change the weight of the font by using a thin, regular, or bold version of the same font within your design. This allows different headers or sections to feel unique but still aesthetically consistent.

Cursive

Cursive fonts generally slow people down when reading and should be used with caution.

A cursive font for your call to action is not an ideal font selection because it is harder for people to engage with quickly. If your intent is to get people’s attention and to keep it, avoiding cursive is a safe choice. What’s also interesting to note is that cursive is not taught in most grade schools anymore. This means some generations are not accustomed to seeing it, so if you are creating a design for the masses, this is another reason to avoid cursive.

Imagery

Consumers are highly visual and prefer imagery over text.

Because we live in a visual society, you want to use pictures or graphics to enhance your message as much as possible. Visual hierarchy is important in your designs. Your most important information should be the largest. This means BIG headers using dramatic, oversized text are a good idea, as they add visual interest and tell the consumer what they need to know at a glance.  

Rule of Thirds

Large images at the top of a design, or on a website, are trending. These are called “hero images,” and they are a good way to catch someone’s eye and engage them. How you crop an image matters to how attracted our brains are to them. When using images, consider the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds says to crop your image so it has nine equal parts, and that each of those parts should have an equal balance of elements that appear within them. This makes the image more appealing to our eyes.

Lines

The logical side of our brains are attracted to order. Lines can be a powerful tool in your design to create a sense of order and alignment. They help someone’s eyes focus on exactly what you intended them to see. They can lead people’s eyes to where you want them to go, or help to isolate an important piece piece of information.

Symbols

Consider using symbols in your designs to help send your message across language barriers.

Using a universally recognized symbol or icon in place of text gives visual interest and sends a clear message no matter the language someone speaks. For example, instead of spelling out “phone” followed by your number, you could add the phone icon accompanied by your number. The same could be said for your address, email, website, or social media. They all have universal symbols.

Content

Say only what needs to be said in your designs. Less can definitely be more.

Too much text makes it hard for people to know where their eyes should go. It also clutters the message and makes it difficult for them to know what is important. This makes your message less likely to be received. To be noted, algorithms on social media don’t deliver text-heavy images to people’s newsfeeds very well. In fact, ads that deliver the best on Facebook are images with little to no text. Rule of thumb is less than 20% of your design for a Facebook ad should include text.

Manageable Chunks

People tend to avoid investing time into reading. Putting content in small, manageable chunks (like we have done in this post) helps to keep them reading.

Fact: Over 50% of all website traffic comes from a mobile device. This means when you layout your content in your design, a paragraph on a desktop computer will appear much bigger when it is condensed onto a smaller mobile device. To accommodate this, keep your paragraphs to 1-3 sentence or 30-40 characters, and use white space between your paragraphs.

To learn how to use color in your designs to get the reaction you want, click here.

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