• Mark Benny

5 Graphic Design Tips for DIY Marketers and Designers

Updated: Apr 15

Do you visit your customers wearing pyjamas? Of course, you wouldn't, so why would you have your advertising look like you don't care who sees it. You get up, clean up and get dressed to meet your customers in person. Your first impression is everything, and your website, sign, brochure etc., should reflect the same. It should reflect your business professionally and accurately. If you can't afford to pay for a professional designer, here are five must-know tips for creating engaging media for DIY marketers and designers.



1. White space. Less is more.


What is white space, you ask? It's the space around photos and text that allows the items to be easily read and understood. It doesn't have to be white; of course, it can be the background colour or image that doesn't have any text. Having too much information on one page can lead to your customer just giving up.

Most people will skip through information and will rarely read all the details. So for customers to digest what you're trying to say fast, you need to have your content set out clearly. To achieve this, you need to create space around each of the essential items. The most famous brand for doing this is Apple. You know an Apple product straight away because of their excessive use of white space. (Source:Apple) Now I'm not trying to say you should stick a product on a white page, and that's it because that has taken Apple decades to achieve that ability. You will still need to communicate enough information for customers to understand who and what you're trying to sell. However, you still need to consider white space in your design. The brochure example below from Giga Naturally is the perfect example of using way too much information and not enough white space.


Source: PrintPlace


You can see how the information is tough to follow or even read. The vine in the background makes the text a strain to read, and the use of multiple fonts and colours makes it much harder to follow. Also, the inconstant use of different style images has been deep etched (background removed), and others haven't. It all makes for one big mess. Below is an excellent example of how similar information can be presented. This example from Khan Asma Akther shows how using white space and layout makes for a more consistent and more manageable read brochure.

Source: Dribble



2. Fonts aren't just fonts


Fonts are more than just letters on a page and the style you choose because you like it. They will set your businesses tone and personality immediately; they are significant. The font you choose for your business should reflect the type of business it is and what your company stands for. Every day I see businesses that use the wrong fonts, and sometimes using the wrong font can also cause you all sorts of problems. Like the Click Lovers logo below, they ended up with many disappointed clientele walking out the door.


Source: Imgur


So when choosing a font for your business, think about how the font makes you feel, does it represent your business in the right way. Here is an image for you to get some understanding of what I mean. Choose the corresponding letter on what you think represents the business the best.

Source : Mad Monkey Media


If you choose C or D, you're on the right track; if you chose B) Playtime Child Care, we need to talk. See how the fonts in C & D represent the business immediately.

Although I will say be careful using scripted fonts like the one in C, especially on moving vehicles or signs for road traffic. Scripted fonts can become very hard to read when in motion. How do the other fonts make you feel? Does A) Playtime Child Care look like an institution or a road sign? Does A) Trust Bank looks to carefree to be giving them all your money? Also, colour can play a massive part in the fonts you choose as well. I discuss this later.


Now here are some other hints when using fonts. Using too many fonts will over complicate your message and make it very hard to understand. There should be one or two designer style fonts for your products' headings and critical features, but you should keep these to a minimal. All paragraph text should be in a basic font like this. It would be best if you also stuck to using these two to three fonts on all your advertising, and the fonts you choose should never change on anything you do except for maybe festive promotions like during Halloween. Fonts should remain consistent throughout all your websites, brochures and signs.


3. Colour


People make a subconscious judgment about an environment or product within 90 seconds. Between 62 and 90% of that assessment is based on colour alone!

So choosing the right colour for your business is crucial for your first impression. It has been proven for centuries that colour has a massive effect on people and customers. Colour can sway thinking, effect moods and cause reactions; colour can even increase or decrease appetite. If you don't believe me, then think about most of the fast-food chains logos. Did a colour come to mind? If you thought red or yellow, then there is a reason behind this. Colours can make people feel hungry. If your thought of Subway, and you know it has green in the logo (but also use yellow). So what's with Green? Greens and browns are great colours for cafes and juice bars, and health food businesses.


Ok, so you're thinking I don't run a food business; if your business is in finance or investment, stick with blues. Blue's are proven to show trust and loyalty, while greys can show authority and stability. The image below might be able to help you chose the right colours for your business. Do give it some thought to what appeals to your customers and what the colour represents before deciding.


Source : Percolate


Here are some other pointers about the use of colour.

  • Don't use too many colours. Choose a couple and use the same ones on everything.

  • Don't use too many bright colours; use one only for critical points.

  • Don't make all the text look like it survived a rainbow explosion, keep coloured text to a minimal.

  • Colours can't lack contrast from each other that is, they have to stand out from each other. A good example is yellow text on white or light blue. That says yellow if you can't read it. Another example is red on black, you would think it may contrast, but the red text may dissolve into a black background—especially when used for roadside advertising and being read at speed.

  • Don't use light objects, text, or graphics on light backgrounds. You won't seem them, much like a polar bear in a snow storm.

  • Don't choose colours based on your preferences. Your favourite colour may not be sending the right message to your customers.

  • Always choose to compliment colours for your palette, and there is an effortless way to find out what colours work well together. Use this tool here https://www.sessions.edu/color-calculator/


4. Consistency

"Consistency isn't essential; you should change things up and make things look different ", said no professional designer ever.

Consistency is one of the essential rules of design and branding 101. How bad does it look as soon I changed the formatting for the blog for this subject? So why would you use multiple colours and fonts? Look at this example DJ poster; it seriously looks like what someone threw up on the dance floor after trying to read it.

Source: Pinterest ("Straight Club Classics.."? not very PC)

Fonts

Limit all design work to three fonts as the absolute most. I recommend that two are the same, but bold and medium. Then one other with a bit of style that suits your business. Use these fonts on everything and everywhere; this will help your brand be more consistent and recognisable.


Colour

Colour follows the same rules as the fonts, no more than three colours, and keeps the same colours. The only deviation to this would be "sale" tags or festive promotions, maybe.


Images

Do not have images deep etched (background removed) and others not. (exception) They should appear to be the same, mainly if you are producing is a catalogue of products. It looks very unprofessional if you start mixing the formats up. Logo's should always be deep etched or placed on the same background as their background. Take the Sons of Soul and Axiom Logos above. These would have looked allot better if placed on a white stripe on the bottom of the poster. Here is a link to free tools you can use if you don't know how to deep etch a photo or logo. However, suppose you are creating a catalogue, and you need many images to look the same. In that case, I recommend paying the money to a professional designer and photographer to have them done for you.

Product photos should always be of high quality, taken at the same angle and lighted the same-way. This will make for a professional-looking store of products. For more understanding on how to use images correctly, check out my other post here.


Exception - An exception to this would be a background image to cover most of the artwork piece, like the girl above (poor example). The image should be contrasting to the rest of the text and not contain content that makes it hard to read. Here is an example from Prime. Can you make out what the movie is called?



Source: Prime



5. Check before publishing.


"We do quilty repairs".

This sentence is plastered across a business card I recently received from a plumber that I had out to do a quote. Trying not to laugh, I wanted to ask him what quilts he had repaired lately. I thought it best to keep my mouth shut until I get the quote. Suppose you're not great at spelling or grammar. In that case, I strongly suggest getting feedback from a few of your friends and family before you publish or print anything, and it's free! Also, a cool and easy tool to check your spelling and grammar is Grammarly, and it's also free!

You might not think spelling or grammar matters because of the type of work you do, but trust me, your customers do. If your spelling and grammar are wrong, customers will think to themselves, "will they give my job enough care if they don't care about their own business".


Always ask for critical feedback from your friends and family, and don't be offended by it. You don't have to accept everyone's opinion. Still, the few might come up with a great idea or find spelling mistakes others haven't. Don't share unfinished or drafts in the public arenas, like Facebook or LinkedIn etc. This can do more damage to your business than good, as the majority of people seeing won't judge it as a rough draft but a final piece. Trust me; I see this every day still. I will provide a rough draft to a client that clearly states it's a draft, and they always make comments like I have provided them with the final artwork


Source: Trendhunter



Here are a few other things you need to check before publishing.

Websites

  • Are all your links correct, including the tiny footer links at the bottom of the page? I've often seen social links on websites heading back to Wix or WordPress because of the templet they have used.

  • Make sure that images displaying correctly and aren't covering text on different size screens. Check on your phone, PC, tablet and ask your friends to check as well.

  • Check your website on Mac and PC if you can and different browsers like Safari, Firefox, and Chrome.

  • Check to see if someone fills out a form on your website that the notification goes to the correct email address.

Print

  • Please make sure all your images are in CMYK so they print correctly (you can find out more about image types on my post about Images here.)

  • Ask for a proof from the Printer before processing it, and share it with friends and family to check it for you as well. Remember, if they provide a digital proof (sent via email), the colours will look very different on a screen to when it's printed; find out why here.

  • Check to see if all your images appear on the proof; sometimes, they will vanish if they are in the wrong format. Your Printer should highlight this to you; however, sometimes they don't.


If you apply these five tips, your first impression will make a big difference. Spend the time and make your business look presentable. You wouldn't get out of bed and go straight to see a customer without first getting clean and dressed appropriately. So make sure the first thing customers see out there is a professionally presented business as well.


For more helpful insight and tips on Graphic Design, Branding and Marketing for DIY Designers. If you enjoyed this post, I'd be very grateful if you'd help it spread by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on LinkedIn or Facebook. Thank you!





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