Businesses spend as much as 20 percent of their gross revenue on marketing to be effective, according to the US Small Business Administration.
A big chunk of that budget goes towards designing marketing content, from web content and landing pages to printed media such as flyers and brochures.
What if you could save some of the time and money you spend on designer fees by creating content yourself?
With the simple and intuitive design tools available today, you don’t need to learn complicated software to create impactful marketing.
If you’ve never designed something before, these tips and best practices will help you get started and develop your ideas into successful marketing.
Simplicity often makes for the most memorable and appealing designs. Complex designs and layouts take longer for your audience to process, losing some of their initial impact, and are harder to remember. This rule applies to everything from logos and page layouts to your web copy and marketing messages.
For images such as logos, a simple shape with only a few colors ensures your work is recognizable and impactful at any size or distance. This is vital for creating images that can be used as thumbnail images or large posters and billboards. Take a look at these famous brand logos:
These logos can be placed on products, storefronts and websites at any size. Thanks to their simple shapes, they are still so recognizable you don’t even need anyone to tell you which brand they belong to.
Aim to communicate your content’s message as directly and succinctly as possible, so that it pops up in your audience’s head the next time they think about product and services within your industry.
Look for Inspiration
Borrowing from and improving other designs and content is a great way to create impactful marketing using proven methods. There is a big difference between being inspired by an effective design and simply copying someone’s work, so don’t be afraid to use design ideas you see from other businesses that could be adapted to your own.
Keep a list of great designs and why you love them. It’s best to do this as soon as you see a design you like, so you still remember why it had an impact on you. In addition to taking notes as you research design ideas, get in the habit of snapping pictures of marketing that caught your eye. This could be anything from a TV ad to a billboard or storefront.
Don’t just throw your favorite ideas together without thinking. Remember that this is just for inspiration. Always think about whether each idea would work for your business, and how you could adapt and improve it to better fit your brand and audience.
Pay Attention to Color
Different colors and color responses can impact the way your audience will interpret images and designs. For example, blue can make people think of reliability and professionalism. This is very important to consider when choosing color schemes for your brand as it helps both to grab attention and to convey the tone and personality of your business.
Limiting the number of colors makes for a simpler, more striking design, especially if you use contrasting colors to highlight your call to action and other key information. Online palette picking tools will help you pick color combinations that complement each other and match the tone you want to establish.
Pick a Font That Fits
Stick to one or two fonts to keep things simple and recognizable at a glance. Much like your choice of color, fonts say a lot about the personality of your business. Is your brand fun and informal, or dependable and down-to-earth?
For example, a bold sans-serif font is a great way to communicate simplicity and dependability, which are important values for a postal company such as Fed Ex to get across, The font used by Fed Ex is Futura, and is often associated with functionality and order.
You don’t have to break the bank to find a unique font. There are plenty of online resources to find free fonts you can use; just do some research to make sure none of your competitors are using the same font!
Keep Images Relevant
A well-placed image can help communicate your message as well as draw your audience’s attention, and make your content more memorable. Adding relevant images to your content can increase customers’ ability to remember it by as much as 50 percent.
Don’t just use any old images though. Use custom graphics and screenshots to illustrate specific features and benefits of your product.
Using royalty-free images can save you time and money but be careful when using stock images with actors in them. They are usually easy to spot, and can make your marketing feel false or insincere. Incorporating images of your real employees, customers and locations make it easier for your audience to relate to you and make your business feel more trustworthy.
When using stock images, it is usually a good idea to edit them or overlay your own text and graphics to make the image more relevant to your marketing content. For example, this stock photo of a man using a laptop has been personalized by editing it to include an infographic containing relevant statistics:
Use Empty Space
If you’re not careful, using too many elements in your marketing design can confuse and distract viewers, leaving them uncertain of your message or where to focus their attention.
Increasing your use of empty space can improve interaction rates by almost 20 percent. Empty space can de-clutter your design and ensure there is nothing to take your audience’s gaze away from the most important text and images you want them to look at first.
Color theory is extra important when using lots of empty space, since your primary color will dominate the blank space.
For example, Apple’s brand thrives on its reputation for the sleek, minimal designs that make their products fashion statements as much as useful devices. Apple makes heavy use of empty space to reinforce the simplicity of their designs, by letting nothing distract from the product itself:
Ensure Consistency Across Content
When you have chosen a style for your marketing content, create a style sheet and templates for every marketing channel, from your brochures to your web pages and marketing emails. This will help make sure all your marketing is consistent.
Your audience should be able to instantly recognize your brand regardless of how they were first introduced to it. Ensuring that key design elements and style rules are replicated across all your marketing makes this much easier. For example, Home Chef shoots all of their social media photos using the same angle and filter to help their images be more recognizable and stand out from the millions of food photos on Twitter:
Observe Object Alignment
Object alignment is as obvious as it sounds. The different elements of your design should line up with each other along the horizontal or vertical axis. This makes your content easier to read at a glance and look more professional.
Use grid lines and snapping features in your design tool to keep objects aligned, and create rows and columns to automatically align content as you add it to your design.
Use a Varied Scale
Using a varied scale is important for similar reasons to why you should make use of empty space. Scaling elements based on their importance allows you to influence what your audience focuses their attention on, and can emphasize the main message of your content.
Take Piktochart’s front page for example:
Thanks to the difference in scale, visitors can’t help but read the largest, most important information first, and once their eye has been drawn to that part of the page they go on to read the more detailed description.
Use Content Hierarchy
Content hierarchy simply means the relative importance of different elements in your marketing content. The color, scale and placement of objects in your design tell your audience what to look at first, and the central message of your content that all other elements tie into. This is important because you often only have a few seconds to communicate your message before your audience loses interest.
To take websites as an example, 40 percent of site visitors will leave without interacting within 10 seconds. With such a short time to give visitors a reason to stick around, you need to make sure they view your most important content first.
In simpler forms of marketing, content hierarchy is mainly just a matter of what comes first in your message. For example, when sending a marketing SMS you should start with a short introductory sentence to give your recipient a reason to open the text just from the snippet that appears in their inbox.
Creating unique icons to use as buttons, bullet points and other design elements lets you add more personality to your marketing, while increasing its visual consistency. For example, if you are listing the headline features of your product, topping each section with a custom icon representing that feature can be more appealing than just a title. Custom icons are also a great way to visually differentiate your service packages and pricing plans.
For example, this travel brochure template uses icons to communicate at a glance what each section is about and add visual variety to a page that would otherwise only include text:
Infographics are a great way to get a lot of information across quickly, in an appealing and highly shareable manner. Discussing your product’s specifications and comparing industry statistics can be made much more engaging and easy to understand through clear visualizations. High-value content, such as informative infographic, is a very effective way to reach new customers.
For example, TechGirlz, an organization dedicated to increasing interest in STEM subjects among young girls, uses infographics to clearly quantify their impact visually:
This is much more appealing and easy to digest than a paragraph of text or a list of bullet points.
In addition to letting you talk about details and technical information without boring your audience, infographics are shareable content that can link back to your site or social media, making them a useful tool for increasing brand awareness.
Take a Break to Iterate
After hours of working on small details, it can be hard to see the bigger picture. To properly review your work and improve your content, it helps to take a step back. Take a break from designing for as long as it takes so that you can return with a fresh perspective.
Research has shown that breaks of even just a few minutes can significantly increase your creative output in a given time period. You will find it easier to find new solutions to your design problems when you have given your mind some time to reset.
Recognize Design Dead Ends
Every good designer knows that not every idea is a winner. Don’t kid yourself about a design that isn’t working or that isn’t receiving positive feedback.
Acknowledging a failed design isn’t just about cutting your losses and avoiding wasting time on a lost cause, accepting a design dead end is a learning experience that you can use to improve your future efforts, even if all you learn is what not to do. Be prepared to have to switch strategies and start redesigning your marketing if it isn’t having the desired impact.
Honest feedback is critical to ensuring your content communicates its intended message clearly and has an appealing design. Show your work to friends and family you can trust to give honest criticisms, and continue to gather feedback after your marketing is launched.
There are numerous ways to request feedback on your marketing from leads and customers, from email and text to online polls and surveys, so pick the most suitable feedback method for the answers you need.
Following these rules and best practices will set you on the right track to designing your marketing content, but remember to respond to feedback along the way in order to create marketing that both appeals to your target audience and accurately represents your business.