Graphic design is not just what it looks like. It needs to fulfill a purpose. And that purpose is to convey a message to a specific audience. Aesthetics are important, but if the message isn’t understood, then the design becomes art and the message lost. Graphic design is about communicating a message visually. And if you keep this in the forefront of your mind when you design your next social media post or advert you’ll have won half the battle.
The short answer. Read. Practice. Improve. Becoming a graphic designer doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years to become great at it. However, there are some tips I can give you to help improve your designs right now.
Graphic design is visual communication. This means it’s about the message. And you need to know the who, what, and where of your message in order to create a successful design.
Before you begin your design, answer the following questions:
Take a look at the below examples of the poorly designed website and flyer. Notice how difficult it is to make sense of anything and how the message is lost in all that clutter. Remember, graphic design is communicating visually, and you do not need a wall of text to get your message across. So keep in mind the core of your message and stick to it. Then provide only as much information as necessary.
Example of a poorly designed website.
Example of a poorly designed poster.
Grids are amazing. They keep everything neat and easy to read and they make it simple to design something which works. There are free templates available online which you can use for this. So make use of a grid to layout your design and your message will already be clearer.
Space can enhance your message, and if there isn’t enough space, the message will be lost. In order to get your message across, you need to think of the amount of space to leave around elements and which elements should be grouped together. For instance, you’re creating an event flyer. You need to display the date, venue and time. In general, you want to keep the heading and the details for each of these items together – this is what I mean by proximity. Not only does this make it easier to read, but it also makes it easier to understand.
Below is an example of a well designed flyer which uses grids, space and proximity.
The best advice I can offer is to keep it simple if you’re not sure. Wherever possible stick to one type family and use variations of that type. These variations are “thin, regular, italics, bold and black”. In addition to this, use an easy to read font and stay away from decorative type. In fact, they make it difficult to read which defeats the purpose of your design.
Stick to left aligning (and justifying) blocks of text and keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Only use center and right align where absolutely necessary. Not only do these alignments make it difficult to read, but it also looks terrible when used incorrectly.
Here’s an example of a well designed magazine spread using left alignment.
Contrast comes in many forms, whether it is colour, shape or even size. And when used properly it enhances your message. But be careful of having too many contrasting elements on a page. Ultimately, this draws the readers’ eye away from the message and – again – defeats the purpose of your design.
Below is an example of contrast in size and colour.
In conclusion, graphic design is about communicating a message to your audience visually. Moreover, bad design will hurt your brand. Not only does it look unprofessional but it reduces credibility as well. Lastly, hire a graphic designer where possible. Especially if you have the budget available.