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4 Small Tips to Improve your Design

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

Back in August, I talked about some "big tips" to improve graphic design. I thought I would revisit this idea to give you some "small tips." You know, in case you don't have the resources to pursue those big tips!

The term "graphic design" can intimidate or doesn't intimidate enough. Studies have shown that good graphic design increases user satisfaction, ease of use, and even business revenue. Good graphic design can even increase your credibility as a company! However, what if you've been given the task to do your organization's graphic design but have a degree in Liberal Arts, not Fine Arts? It can feel daunting, especially if you care about doing it well/right. It's common for someone with a sales or marketing role to be tasked with creating a design because sometimes management just doesn't want to/can't afford to hire a freelancer.

If this is you, I have a few tips to (hopefully) lessen your anxieties.


1. Hierarchy

If you're going to remember only one thing about graphic design best practices, remember hierarchy. Good hierarchy increases usability and makes documents easier to read. In a busy world of short attention-spans, most of the time people skim articles and ads. You can use size, weight, color, position, and more to create hierarchy.

Beginning with a large, specific, short headline tells the reader just enough to perhaps incentivize them to stay longer. You don't see ads with "SALE!" small in the bottom left corner. It's usually big, bold, red, and at the top-center of the ad.

For blogs (like this one!), sections are broken down with headers to help the reader digest content. I think we're all guilty of skimming blog posts and only reading the headers. Well, if there weren't any headers, skimmers wouldn't get anything out of the blog article. Indeed, it would be nice if people read blogs in their entirety, but alas, that's not the world we live in. Internet users are generally lazy. Break it down for them into bite-sized pieces!

2. Color

Color psychology is such a fascinating topic. We have associations with different colors depending on our personal experiences, culture, and where they are in the wild. Green can mean money, nature, or evil (Disney, anyone?). Red could symbolize anger, love, or blood. Suffice it to say, what color you choose matters because whatever you choose will communicate what personality your brand is. A funeral home isn't going to have a pink logo, unless their business strategy deems it appropriate. Pink communicates femininity and energy. It would be strange for a fast food restaurant to choose black. Black usually communicates sophistication and mystery.

Color can also be an effective aid in hierarchy. I'm sure "suffice" is much easier to find than "personality" in the above paragraph, all because I turned that single word into a different color than the surrounding content. Restrained use of color is impactful, like the above example and in the below poster series I designed.

3. Typography

I'll make this one easy and fun for you. Here's a list of commonly known typography commandments:

  1. Thou shall not use more than two different fonts in a single document unless you know exactly what you're doing. Use fonts that have multiple weights and styles instead. Also, prioritize fonts with "Italic" typefaces over "Oblique."

  2. Thou shall not distort fonts (stretching or skewing). Graphic designers meticulously craft the proportions with precision and care even I can't even imagine as a professional graphic designer who doesn't design fonts.

  3. Thou shall not use Papyrus, Comic Sans, Trajan, Lobster, or most fonts found on the Microsoft Word from the 2000's (Curlz, Times New Roman, Century Gothic... Arial and Helvetica are okay). Ever. and have plenty of alternatives.

Here are a few humorous videos/memes about common typography struggles graphic designers face:

My all time favorite: Papyrus - SNL

Trajan is the Movie font

The meaning of Keming

Font Conference

4. Free Tools and Resources

I generally don't advocate for free tools since it hurts my business. However, I'd rather help than leave you hanging!

Free graphic design for very basic layout. Great for social media. You could design a tri-fold there, but it might cause issues when you're ready to print.

Create color schemes using keywords or images!

The Futur

A group of people striving to make graphic design education accessible to all. If you're going to go to YouTube to seriously learn graphic design, watch The Futur.

There you have it: Graphic design 101 in a 3 minute blog post! I hope you feel better equipped to attack graphic design. You'll be surprised at how far these pointers can carry you to better design to make you and your organization look awesome.

Did I miss anything? Still confused about something? Let me know in the comments! Let's start a conversation.

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