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Top 5 Graphic Design Tips for Marketers

Image of Matt McPartland
Matt McPartland

Using graphic design in marketing is fundamental; knowing the elements and mistakes of design is just the beginning. You can read and learn all the techniques you want but until you put your knowledge to use, you will never get better. Being a designer really is about trying, failing, and improving. Designers never stop learning. There’s always something new to learn and get better at. I have taken classes with some of the best designers in the world and they say they are still learning something new every day. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. Luckily, I have some graphic design tips for marketing about getting started that will help any business produce some great designs. These are really about putting your design knowledge to the test and to give a business a starting point. Without further ado, here are the top 5 graphic design tips for marketers I recommend.  

Download Small Business Marketing eBook1. Use a great color palette 

Whether using your brand colors or starting from scratch, color can really make or break a design. Think of words that describe the project and determine what mood it should express. You can draw inspiration from nature, time periods, feelings, and even other designs! Use a color wheel to find colors that pair well together and use a tool like to explore palettes. Don’t go crazy with the colors unless it’s for a specific purpose. Use the 60-30-10 rule. 60% should be one primary color, then 30% should be a Secondary color, and finally 10% should be an accent color.  

2. Use fonts that pair and contrast well.  

Too many fonts can complicate the design and message. Stick with only using 2-3 fonts for any design. Vintage signs/posters use a lot of fonts, but again it works because it’s for a specific purpose. Those signs are known for that look.  

Always start with a headline font and a body font. You can add a subheading font too, unless the weights of the others will work. Sometimes there is not enough contrast. Pick fonts that match your mood and message. For example, you shouldn’t use a fun and playful font for a funeral home.  

Not every font works well with the body or headline. A nice script font might work well for a headline, but for the body that would be a strain on the eyes. Any decorative font should be saved for headlines because they have low readability, especially as a body font. Serif fonts are known to have a more traditional feel and sans are known for being more modern looking. In theory, serifs usually work well for the body when it’s print, and sans works better for the screen. There are exceptions, of course, and sometimes it’s about what the purpose is and if it is readable. Always test and see.  

Download Design in Marketing eBook3. Use a grid to layout content.  

Grids don’t have to make you feel restrictive. Grids are about giving you a starting point on where to place your text and images, so you are not just randomly placing things. The most basic grid is a column grid. Whether you are designing a brochure or a website, columns can help organize your content, establish hierarchy, and help you group and align elements. Place big visuals at the top of your layout to establish a focal point. Optical line length for text is 50-75 characters. Make sure your columns are big enough to suit that length. If your text only needs two columns, then use two columns. If you need to add an image next to the text, then use three. It’s not rocket science; grids are there to help you. And as always just like the rules of design you can break the grid if you have a reason, too. Check out some of these examples of breaking the grid.  

4. Use high quality images and graphics.  

Graphic designers aren’t photographers but having a solid understanding will help you choose the right material. Use photos with a clear subject and one that is not pixelated or distorted. Stay away from generic stock photos. They are lifeless and awkward most of the time. Nobody is this excited at their office. Instead use high quality photos from Adobe Stock, Unsplash, or even Canva. The goal is to use natural, interesting photography. A good photo should guide the eye through the photograph. See if the photos can be composed using the rule of thirds. This technique lends itself to some interesting and balanced photos. Other than photos, use well designed illustrations, icons, and videos. Don’t use clip art. Depending upon the project, you may need to hire a graphic designer or illustrator to help out.  (I know a graphic designer and an illustrator, cough, cough).  

5. Be consistent.  

Make sure that your design shows unity. I’ve mentioned that brands need to be consistent with their imagery, colors, fonts, etc… It needs to feel cohesive. Being consistent establishes a framework for your designs. It makes everything feel like one visual message and that everything belongs together. It provides stability and helps viewers avoid confusion. If every page on your website looked different, that would be a disaster. It’s Information overload and could hurt UX and UI. People like patterns, it helps them know what to do next. Consistency makes your design better, easier to use, and allows the user to experience your design with greater intentionality. Stick to the same patterns, colors, fonts, and images, and your message will be received much better. 

There you have it: My top 5 tips for graphic design in marketing. I stick by these and use these every day when I design. These are consistent with everything that makes design effective. Graphic design can be an extremely powerful tool for any business. I would ask any business to take it seriously and don’t have it be an afterthought when it comes to a marketing campaign. Take this knowledge and make some awesome stuff. Connect with your audience and get that ROI! And if you need any help, we will be here to empower you.  

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