It’s become apparent over the last few years that quality design and an authentic visual representation of your business are essential to success. And it make sense… we live in a culture where what we see helps dictate what we think and feel.
Take Minnetonka, for example, a footwear brand specializing in handcrafted moccasins. Everything on their website, from the color scheme to the chosen fonts, screams comfort and make me feel like cozying up to a fire, hot cup of cocoa in hand, a pair of warm slippers hugging my feet.
The truth is, the “look” of your company is important. The design of your website, your product packaging and social media posts, even the uniforms worn by your employees all help tell your customers a “story” about what your business stands for, the quality of your products or services, and more.
But what if you have ZERO budget to hire a professional graphic artist? Or your favorite design firm is booked out for 3 months? Just because you’re a business owner or marketing guru doesn’t mean you can’t tackle various design tasks yourself when the need arises.
In this three-part article, we’ll learn the basics of visually marketing your company to the world by exploring a few key priciples of design, photography and videography.
By the end of this series, you’ll have the tools to confidently craft infographics, post more attractive Instagram photos and film more engaging YouTube videos – Even if you consider yourself “design-challenged” or “uncreative”.
Part 1 (this article) will focus on some basic design secrets, Part 2 will explore photography tips, and Part 3 will hone in on various videography techniques. Let’s dive in…
A Common Trap
First, I think it’s important to note that though professional designers generally use high-end tools like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, that doesn’t mean you need to use them too… These softwares are expensive and require a serious time commitment to learn how to use.
Professional graphic artists will tell you that design is composed of 7 elements: line, color, texture, size, shape, space and value. But as a business owner or marketer, that’s a bit more information than we’re looking for…
What we need are a few basic principles and ideas to help us create visual content that pleases our customers and better conveys our company values – without tearing our hair out in frustration.
What Inspires You?
Begin by gathering inspiration. Which websites, logos and brochures speak to you? Have you caught yourself looking at a competitor’s social feed and wishing yours was as creative and professional? This is where you should start!
Now, we’re not planning to make an exact replica of someone elses work; that’s called stealing. Rather, we’re trying to give ourselves a starting point. If we have a good idea of what we’re trying to create, we’ll have a much better chance of actually making it happen.
Also remember, your designs need to align with your company values… You wouldn’t expect to see a website for a men’s outdoor clothing store arrayed in shades of pink and purple. That probably wouldn’t relate to their customer base or tell their “story” in an authentic way. So gather inspiration from companies that sell to your customer base or hold similar values.
Observe and Analyze
After you’ve gathered some inspiring designs, ask yourself what it is you like about them. Is there something about the way they combined different fonts or chose to arrange certain elements on their latest infographic that captures your attention?
By analyzing what you like about an artist’s work, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re hoping to accomplish with your own designs.
Next, you need to keep in mind the basic design principles of alignment, color cohesion and readability…
The human eye appreciates uniformity because it allows us to better make sense of what we’re looking at. Whether you’re designing a business card or captioning your latest Instagram post, do your best to keep your creations symmetrical and aim for proper alignment.
Would you wear brown pants, a yellow shirt and a red jacket? Hopefully your answer is no… The same holds true for design. Choose a couple (not 6 or 7) colors that compliment each other and stick with those.
If your design is hard to read or look at, you aren’t finished with it… The designs for your business should flow and easily convey information. Many times, aiming for a minimalist approach is a good bet so resist the urge to keep adding elements. Too much contrast is unpleasing to the eye.
The Rules of Hierarchy
Finally, respect the rules of hierarchy. This means you need to prioritize certain elements over others in your artistic works. What is the purpose of your latest infographic, Facebook header or banner ad? Are you hoping to inspire action, invoke a specific feeling, something else?
The artistic decisions you make need to reflect this purpose. If your latest design is supposed to create a somber, reflective mood, using bright colors is probably counterintuitive.
This is similar to what we were saying earlier in regard to designs that align with your company values, but takes it a step further… Not only should your designs connect with your unique customer base, but they should also accurately represent the feel and tone of that specific piece of marketing material.
So that’s it; a few basic design tips to improve your visual marketing efforts and better connect with your customers. Though these tips alone won’t help you win any awards, they will drastically improve the quality of your designs, infographics and social media posts and that’s what we’re after.