I’ll admit that I’ve tried to build things around the house even though I’m not a builder, so I do get the temptation to try and do some graphic design on a budget.
But as the age old adage goes: “you get what you pay for”.
With design it’s more than just some creative flair.
Creative flair helps a lot, but it’s the years of experience that you pay for. Years of understanding how people perceive things, view things, and read things. How different media displays your graphics from blogs to billboards; there is a vast difference. Plus there is also the expensive soft and hardware behind that too.
With that disclaimer out of the way, here are some DIY design tips.
- Good design isn’t about squeezing everything onto the page, it’s about crafting and refining a message until it is portrayed clearly. Take a look at the text on the page, get rid of some, then, get rid of some more; One short and sharp sentence is most often much more captivating than a long winded paragraph.
- Restrict font choices to one or two. Use size, colour, bold or italics from the same font family for variation and emphasis. If you use different fonts all over the page, the overall look will feel disjointed and messy.
- Keep the colour pallet appropriate. Just because you like the colour pink, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the most appropriate choice for a John Deere convention.
- Don’t worry if you can’t fill the page with stuff. ‘White’ or ‘negative’ space is actually a good thing. Letting a heading or product breathe can dramatically help draw attention to it.
- Keep it focused. Just one or two main points will be enough for most people to digest, so keep your design on point and the message will come across clearly.
- Spend as much time as you can researching your topic. Good places to trawl for inspiration on how other people have dealt to similar things are: Pinterest, Behance, Magazines, Books, and yes, Google. To steal an idea from one is plagiarism, to steal ideas from many is research.
- Know as much as you can about the placement of the design. For a billboard: consider larger fonts and less space between the letters. Magazine: consider gutters (the crevasse in the middle of an opened magazine). Vehicle: consider sliding doors that may obscure part of the graphic. Blog: consider legibility of fonts, their size, and colour, plus graphics to accompany it.
- Refine your copy, then refine it again. (Doing it more than once technically brings this point into the ‘more’ category too). Less is more, and all.
- Once you’ve finished your design and checked it once, leave it for a bit, and check it again. Whilst surgeons bury their mistakes, printers will print your mistake in the thousands!
Consider the space between elements. Group similar items closely, and visa versa for different ones.
Repeat ideas or styles throughout the design to help it feel cohesive and easy to understand.
Ensure that the individual elements in the design work as a whole to promote the same message.
You can create contrast in many ways (size, shape, colour, weight, etc). This is a strong method to help pull a heading out from the body copy, or product from the blurb, or contact numbers from the rest.
Breaking the rules:
And of course, once you’re comfortable with the concepts, you can break them if there is a good enough reason to. But conscious decisions are always better ones.