Top Five Design Tips
Great graphic design looks effortless, but it requires lots of attention to details. Think back to an
eye-catching advertisement, publication, or flyer you saw recently. Do you remember why you liked it?
Perhaps it was something specific like the use of a cool graphic or font. Or, more likely, the layout
and the words worked together to create an eye-appealing, memorable message that you're still thinking about today.
A lot of thought, money, and skill probably went into that design. But you don't have to be a design
guru to achieve expert results! Follow these five tips to create effective, professional-looking
marketing materials for your small business.
Select appropriate font treatment: More is NOT better when it comes to fonts. Pick no more than
two typefaces per document - one for headlines and one for body copy. Stick to a simple, clean font for
easy body copy readability. Headline fonts can be a little more creative. For emphasis on certain words
or phrases, use italics, boldface, or underlining sparingly. Also try to make the typeface match the
personality of the service or product you're representing.
Use white space wisely: Just because the space is there doesn't mean you have to fill it! Good
designs contain well-planned white space. ("White space" is simply the areas in a layout that are left
bare - without text or graphics.) It gives the eye a break and helps to highlight the important points.
Make sure to have enough space around the edges and in-between columns and articles. And remember that
there is a fine line between not enough and too much white space. Consult well-designed magazines and
ads or computer templates for layout inspiration and ideas.
Find effective graphics and photos: It's always better to use too few than too many graphics.
One great graphic is so much better than four weak ones. Sometimes they are not even necessary. When
you do use graphics and photos, make sure they help illustrate your point, rather than just inserting
them to take up space. Likewise, be sure their sizes are appropriate to the space.
Stick with high-quality graphics - in this age of affordable, quality clipart, there is no excuse to
use any image that isn't perfectly clear and neat. Never use a "gif" file in a print document; those
are created for web use only. Make sure the graphic element illustrates your main point - it's the
first thing the reader sees, so it's important it portrays your message accurately. Lastly, don't mix
differently styles of illustration or photography - keep a consistent look to create harmony.
Keep copy short and neat: Readers are more likely to read short sentences, paragraphs, and
articles written as if you're having a friendly conversation. Break up large blocks of text with bullet
points and subheads. Instead of using fancy multi-syllable complex vocabulary, use everyday words that
your audience will understand. A good rule of thumb is to write at a sixth-grade reading level. Finally,
always have someone else - whether a professional copy editor or a skilled friend - proofread your work.
It's impossible to catch all your own typos.
Watch the flow: People generally read a page from top to bottom and from left to right. Draw
people into the top left corner of your ad or newsletter with a headline or strong graphic. Then, pull
their eyes down and through the text in the mid-section of the page, and finish up in the lower right
corner. Picture a "Z" shape. Finally, be sure to include a "call to action" at the bottom to get the
results you desire. For example, give readers your contact information and special offer, and tell
them to "Call today!"
© 2005 Time to Organize. All rights reserved. Sara Pedersen
firstname.lastname@example.org Learn more about Graphic Design for
Small Business. Sara Pedersen, veteran professional organizer and marketing specialist, is the author of
the FREE e-newsletters "Organzing Dreams" and "The Marketing Fairy's Guide to Simple Self Promotion."
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