11 Design Tips For Non-Designers
In the ever evolving world of digital marketing, we find ourselves often wearing many hats for our clients or our businesses. Developing some sort of design skill set will allow you to be versatile, self-sufficient, and is a lot easier than ever. Whether you are designing images for social media, paid ads, website banners, or any type of marketing collateral it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of guidance to make the most of your designs. Whether or not you are aware of it as someone who does not consider themselves a “creative”, but the difference between good and bad design is all based on attention to small details and the psychological effects these details have on your brain.
My goal is to provide a useful list of design tips for non-designers that will help you not only improve the quality of your design, but also allow you to approach your work in ways you have never before.
Keep It Simple (Stupid)
As soon as you realize that a little goes a long way, the better off you will be. This will also allow you to simplify your approach, be more efficient, and give your designs an air of professionalism from an experienced designer. You do not want to overwhelm your audience with multiple colors, text, overlays, images, etc.
It will only create the feel of clutter or chaos. Simplicity is a means of creating credibility. Think of what Apple has been able to create with a simple, clean, and sleek approach to their design. Function > Flair.
Use Inspiration And Examples
Inspiration is literally all around you – you just need to start paying attention and use it to your advantage. This is something that a lot of people shy away from out of fear of sacrificing “originality”. I’m not suggesting that you copy someone else’s work to the point of it being obvious in your work. As a matter of fact, I’m strongly advising against that approach no matter the circumstance. However, you should be pulling inspiration from all around you to influence your design until you develop a specific style that works. This can be from direct sources such as competitors in the space, or more subjective sources like a favorite artist, brand, movie, packaging, etc.
Tip: Use Instagram and Pinterest to your advantage and expand from there. Youtube tutorials will also serve as a saving grace for the inexperienced designer (and they’re FREE!). Believe me, starting from scratch with little to no direction isn’t fun… no matter your experience level.
Use Contrasting Colors
The use of contrasting colors is a sure way to increase visibility and readability of what you are trying to display in your design. For example, using light color text over a dark background will make your message pop, while evoking certain emotion based on the colors you use.
See the color wheel below and reference the full list of complimentary colors as they are opposites of each other on the wheel. For example: blue/orange, red/green, purple/yellow, white/black.
Limit Your Color Palette
As mentioned above, keep it simple (stupid) especially when it comes to color. Color theory is a very complex and deep-rooted art, but you can avoid any issues by limiting your color choices to 1-2 primary and 1-2 complementary colors. Adobe Color Wheel and Coolers are two great free resources for generating color palettes.
Limit Your Typefaces
Type is perhaps one of the most versatile and effective ways to take your design to a new level. Just like color, typography is an entire art in itself and with the use of simple techniques you can create the perception of advanced design. Limit yourself to 1-2 typefaces in your design and utilize the multiple versions of each font to your advantage.
Use a Variety of Font Sizes & Weights
Even if you decide to limit yourself to a single typeface, utilizing that font in a variety of sizes and weights will create the illusion that you are using multiple fonts.
Free Type Resources
Don’t want to use your computer’s standard font selections? That’s okay, there are thousands of free and unique fonts waiting for you:
Use White Space
Why? To avoid clutter and draw your audience’s attention to what you want them to focus on. Giving your content a bit of breathing room will improve readability and create a sense of sophistication. White space is not empty space. It is a design element in itself and a technique that you will learn to love once you commit to a life without clutter.
The most important part or focal point of your design should be the most visually dominating. You can achieve this with sizing, color, layout, or a combination of the three. This is why headlines are big, bold, and attention-grabbing and your body copy is a smaller complement of your headlines.
Consistent Alignment & Spacing
Consistency is often the name of the game when striving to achieve professionalism and sophistication. Using a consistent alignment and spacing between your elements will create order, balance, and a proportional layout despite varying sizes of your design elements.
Photography As Backgrounds
Overlaying text on an image is a popular and effective way to create a sleek design by simply using 2 elements: photo + text. Applying a variety of font styles over a darkened photo will increase the visibility of your message and also create a sense of depth as a viewer’s focus will shift from each complementary layer. If I had to choose one technique in this list to drill home, it would definitely be this one as you can create stunning designs with this simple technique.
Use Icons & Illustrations To Your Advantage
Icons are great for reinforcing your content in simple and effective ways. Icons small and large are something every designer or marketer should have in their back pocket to enhance your message in simple, yet effective ways. Keep in mind that they should always serve as the complement to your main message, rather than the focus.
Know Your Audience
It is often easy to get ahead of yourself and begin designing things based on your personal interests. Just like any other marketing effort, you need to keep the customer in mind. Is this something that will appeal to my audience? Will they perceive this as consistent with my brand? The list goes on… just don’t forget it.
Know Your Platform(S)
Every platform has specific dimensions, text rules and file sizes that your designs must abide by if you want to be successful. It would be in your best interest to learn these dimensions, rules, etc upfront or at least do a bit of research with each project before you get in too deep and realize you have to start over. As a marketer, begin with your website, Facebook, Instagram, Google GDN, Twitter, and Email. If you have these prepared beforehand, you will save yourself time and A LOT of headaches.