Design isn’t hard. Anyone can do it, even you.
Mastering good design is simply a matter of learning and applying a series of rules. Once you’ve understood and assimilated these rules, you’ll be able to easily make the series of decisions involved in putting together a well-designed marketing piece for your business.
This post covers seven of the most important design rules I know. I use these guidelines every day and I want to share them with you so you can use them, too.
Inject Your Pages with More White Space
Design, first and foremost, is mastery of white space. I’ll bet you thought it was all about colors and typefaces, didn’t you?
Before you work with text, images, or colors, it’s important to look at your blank page and decide:
- How wide your margins will be
- What shape your content will take: one, two or three columns? Horizontal or vertical?
- Where your headlines and subheads will go
- Where you’ll place page numbers or footers
Start your design by carving up your blank page into sections. Display your content carefully, and leave some white space so your reader isn’t overwhelmed with your information.
Pick Two Colors and Use Them Consistently
There are two parts to this equation: the colors themselves, and time.
I’ve written about this idea before here, but the reason you should choose two main colors is that it’s easier for your viewer to register and remember two colors than it is three, four, or more. It’s also easier for you when it comes time to make color decisions, because you’re choosing between only two options.
Over time, your consistent use of those same two colors will build your visual brand in the mind of your viewers. Here’s an example:
Last week for a few hours (that seemed like an eternity), the Big Brand System member site was down for some people. I could see it, but some people couldn’t.
One of my trusty members, Marlene Hielema, emailed me throughout the afternoon with updates on what she saw on her end. The problem took a few hours to finally resolve, and when it was all over, Marlene’s last email said “I’ve never been so happy to see red and blue in my life!”
That was the moment I realized my colors had become an integral part of my visual brand!
Break Up Large Chunks of Text
We’re all busy people, aren’t we? When you’re presenting information to your time-challenged audience, keep in mind that it will be easier to consume your message if you break it into bite-sized chunks.
- Writing enticing subheads that make your reader want to dig deeper to find out more
- Crafting concise sentences that say what you mean in as few words as possible
- Shaping short paragraphs that express one idea and move on
And throwing in a bulleted list once in a while can’t hurt, either! 😉
Use Call Outs and Deep Captions
Call out text is a sentence or two that you pull from your main text and repeat somewhere on your page. Call outs are longer than subheads, and go into more detail. The best call out text is provocative and engages the reader in your information.
Deep captions take advantage of people’s natural drive to read any words placed under a photo. They’re typically two–three sentences long, but can be as long as a paragraph. A page full of photos and deep captions can be a very effective way to communicate your message.
Pick Two Typefaces and Stick With Them
In order to establish your visual brand, you need your audience to remember the visual “language” you establish. If you “speak” using too many different typefaces, your viewer won’t be able to discern your unique voice among all the noise.
That’s why using two typefaces only is the best way to go. Pick from typeface families that have a lot of weights. (This might be the only time extra weight is a plus!) Look for regular or book weights, plus bold, italic, bold italic and more.
Crop Your Photos
One of the quickest ways to improve on a mediocre photo is to crop out all but the most necessary portions.
Delete distracting backgrounds: hone in on what you want your viewer to focus on and remove the rest. Don’t be afraid to end up with a photo that’s an odd shape: this is a great way to get your viewer’s attention.
Pump Up the Volume
Here’s the most important tip of all: be bold. Make your design decisions with a firm hand. This is no time to be wimp! Your brand is at stake.
- If you’re going to add white space, add more than you think you need.
- Pick two colors that contrast with one another, and don’t be afraid to choose bold hues.
- Be ruthless about writing tight, concise paragraphs and break them up with subheads, call outs and bulleted lists.
- When choosing from within your two typefaces families, use fonts that contrast with one another in weight and size.
- Crop photos tighter than you think they should be. Unhappy with the result? That’s what the undo function is for!
Do you have questions about any of this? Need clarification? I’m happy to go into detail in the comments.
Want to learn more? Sign up for the free Design 101 e-course here. You’ll receive ten lessons that cover the basics of design and marketing. Lessons cover everything from defining your target market, to white space, color and typography, and include a “Next Action” suggestion so you can put the information to work right away. All at no charge!