Graphic Design Tips

Graphic Design Tips for the Non-Artist

A.J. Kmetz Graphic Design Leave a Comment

Graphic design is one of those professions that seems intimidating when viewed from the outside. After all, you have to be a skilled artist to become a graphic designer, right? You need a graphic design degree, as well as an expensive computer and a lot of complicated programs and equipment. But that just isn’t true anymore, and we have graphic design tips that can help you start creating!

Anyone with access to a computer can create effective and appealing graphics as long as they keep a few design principles in mind. That’s not to take away from real graphic designers – they’re the experts, of course! But not everyone is (or has access to) an artist. When you need to whip up visual material for your business on your own, keep these graphic design tips in mind to create something beautiful and professional. Let’s start designing!

Make a Plan

When Da Vinci began designing the Mona Lisa, he didn’t just start splashing paint onto the canvas (that’s more Jackson Pollock’s thing). He began with a firm idea and planned out how to get from a blank canvas to a masterpiece. If you had entered his workshop anytime before the painting was completed, you would probably have seen sketch lines and other structures that were later painted over.

Da Vinci may have forgotten the eyebrows, but his masterpiece was the product of a solid design plan. Approach your design projects with a plan as well. Before you begin, determine the goal of the project and what you want your audience to take away from it. Write these ideas down, or even sketch them out. Some of the best logos began as sketches on bar napkins!

Choose a Layout

This is the most important part of the planning stage, but it’s something you can experiment with throughout the design process. Think about the goals of your project and look for graphics that are trying to accomplish a similar task. What do they do well? What could you improve upon in your design?

At Punch Bug Marketing, we use a graphic design tool called Canva when we need to create simple, yet professional designs. It’s one of our favorite free marketing tools that any small business should put to use. Canva gives you a vast array of template options for many project sizes and formats, from newsletters to email headers to Instagram posts and more. You can customize these templates to your liking, or start from scratch with your own design elements. We recommend Canva to anyone who wants to easily create custom designs that look great.

Pick Some Fonts

Choosing the right font for your project is one of the more complicated parts of design. Amateur designers have been misusing fonts for years. But we’re not here to shame anyone; most people don’t know the complexities behind different font designs.

As you sort through fonts, it’s helpful to understand the different categories you’ll come across:

Serif fonts have small decorative lines attached to each letter called, fittingly, serifs. These classic fonts are most commonly found in books. The serifs may look pretty but they actually serve a purpose: they help guide your eyes along the lines, making longer text easier to read.

Example of Serif Fonts

As the name suggests, Sans Serif fonts don’t have little feet attached to each letter. The text you’re reading right now is in the sans serif style! These no-nonsense fonts look clean and are easy to read on phones, tablets, or computer screens.

Display fonts don’t necessarily have anything in common except that they are better suited for headlines and very short bits of text. There are many subcategories of display fonts, from handwriting and calligraphy to slab fonts that look like they’re pulled from a college football jersey. Display fonts are attention-grabbing and are best used for only a few words.

Example of Display Fonts

Mixing and Matching

If you think there are too many interesting and fun fonts to choose from, the good news is that you can use more than one! Using multiple fonts can be an effective way to emphasize the important parts of your text and grab attention. However, there are right and wrong ways to do this. You’ll need to properly coordinate the fonts you use.

We recommend using only two or at most three fonts in your designs. If you’re creating graphics to use across your website or brick-and-mortar store, consider using consistent fonts throughout your designs. Not every font needs to match, but consistency can give your graphics a professional look.

Matching different fonts requires experimentation. In fonts, opposites attract. Two very different fonts can create contrast without conflict. Try pairing larger display fonts with smaller serif or sans serif fonts. Use tall fonts with short ones or expressive and plain styles alongside each other. You can even play around with different sizes of the same font.

Coordinate Colors

It may seem easy to pick colors for your project… or it may seem endlessly complicated to find colors that match. However, there’s an easy-to-use tool that will help you find colors that work well together: the color wheel!

The Color Wheel

As you can see above, the color wheel is made up of the primary colors (red, blue, and yellow), the secondary colors that are made out of their combinations (green, orange, and purple), and the tertiary colors that fill the spaces between the primary and secondary colors. Altogether there are 12 colors in the color wheel, but don’t forget about shades like grey, black, brown, and white that aren’t represented in the wheel!

Here are some terms that can help you use the color wheel:

Analogous colors are found next to each other on the wheel. Light and dark shades of blue, for example, are complementary colors.

Complementary colors are found on opposite sides of the wheel, like yellow and purple.

A Triad is a group of three colors found one third of the way apart from each other on the wheel. The primary and the secondary colors are both examples of triads.

As you pick colors for your design, keep in mind that colors carry their own meanings. Each color elicits a different feeling; that’s just how our brains are engineered. Think about the plan you’ve made for your design. Do you want your audience to feel energized and excited? Try using bright colors like yellows and reds. Blue shades give a feeling of calmness, while you can create a natural feeling with greens and browns.

Be Intentional

We’ve seen that there are a lot of factors to keep in mind as you tackle a design project, but our last graphic design tip is this: the best projects are made with intention. Always keep the focus of your plan in mind as you create your design. Make sure everything you incorporate into your design is intentional and leads your audience towards that focus.

But designing graphics for your business can be an enjoyable part of your job, too. It’s a place where you can show your customers the fun, creative side of your company. Take these graphic design tips to heart and experiment with your designs. You’ll be creating amazing visuals in no time!

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