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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 sara@time2organize.net 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." Sign up today at the Time to Organize website to receive your FREE subscriptions and to find dozens of organizing and marketing tips, before and after photos, an interactive quiz, and much more. Time To Organize

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