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The Frustrating Reality of Most Design Decisions

business branding depends on many factorsTo almost all design-related questions, there is a single answer, and I’m afraid you’re not going to like it.

It depends.

It pains me to say it. Why? Well, because it’s so incredibly unhelpful. But it’s true.

I wish there were hard and fast answers that applied to every single design question you’ll encounter. Instead, we have general rules. Isn’t that frustrating?

It turns out, design isn’t completely a science or an art. It’s a little bit of both. And the right solution to any design problem can only be arrived at by asking great questions.

In the end, you have to develop your eyes so they can see what looks right, and that can only happen through trial and error. (Lots of error).

To shortcut that process, you can stick to the general rules. Let’s go over them here, because no matter what you’re putting together for your business, these principles will serve you well.

When you’ve absorbed them (no Depends pun intended), you’ll be able to make design decisions naturally without having to review the rules or agonize over your choices.

The Basics

  • Know who you’re communicating with, first and foremost. What you know about your target market — the people you want to reach with your product or service — should be the guiding light to all your marketing efforts. It’s not about creating marketing materials that appeal to you. It’s about communicating with them in a way they’ll understand and respond to.
  • To make a quick visual impact, choose two main colors. Just take a look at the Depends package in the photo. See how they’re using two main colors? You can do this, too. Find two colors that represent your business. Use them together in every single marketing piece you produce. Over time, these colors will become identified with your brand.
  • Choose and use no more than two typefaces. Find two typefaces that are readable, reflect your brand image, and look good where you want to use them, whether in print, on the web, or both. Use them consistently — just like your colors — in everything you do.
  • Inject ample white space. White space is a great way to set off your information. Use it around your content, surround important headlines or calls to action with it, and don’t be afraid of the blank page.
  • Be consistent. Be consistent. Be consistent. Get time on your side by implementing your marketing efforts consistently day in and day out.

The key to getting better at making design decisions is remembering and using these general rules. Over time, you’ll begin to train your eyes to see what works.

  • You’ll know when colors are working well together.
  • You’ll see what typefaces blend well (but not too well).
  • You’ll “feel” when there’s enough white space.
  • You’ll see the visual hierarchy.

You’ll. Just. Know.

You won’t need to think about the rules. You’ll be able to apply what you know naturally, without overthinking things. You’ll even know enough to break the rules on occasion to get the effect you want.

That’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?

Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is an online educator, author, keynote speaker, and the founder of BIG Brand System.

Pamela Wilson

I want to help you take the next step. Pick your free workshop topic and let’s do this!

5 thoughts on “The Frustrating Reality of Most Design Decisions”

  1. Pamela,

    Thanks for all your design tips and tricks.

    Yes, It Depends is frustrating. Which is why talent is almost worthless without salesmanship. Once your gut tells you what works, you’ve got to sell it.


    • I believe talent can be developed, Tom. And you’re right: salesmanship is important. You’ve got to believe in what you’ve created enough to promote it.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Pam,

    “It depends” actually applies to the science involved with research instruments as well. You often trade one physical property to get the other property that you need more (Physics says “you can’t have it all”). You trade resolution for speed or sensitivity, sometimes you trade money (lots of it) to get what you want.

    Guidelines like these are great (because they help us get started without looking like rank amatuers), but I love the way pros like you sometimes do the unexpected, carefully weighing which rule to bend or even break. Makes it interesting.

    Thanks for your newsletters. If I don’t learn something brand new, I’m usually reminded of something I knew and needed to have reinforced.


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