It’s almost 5 o’clock on Friday afternoon. Do you know where your newest marketing pieces are? If you’re a small business owner, they may be buried on your desk because you’ve got so many other important details to handle. Or they’re still sitting on your assistant’s desk where she’s staring at them hopelessly. She’s an admin assistant, for heaven’s sake, not a designer, and she knows what she’s produced so far is not very memorable or effective.
All of us would like to think our product is so good, our services so unique, they’ll simply sell themselves. Not so! Strong branding, powerful images, compelling web pages and outstanding marketing pieces make or break that upward sales curve you crave so urgently. In today’s market, your customers and clients are influenced more than ever by the visual presentation of your marketing pieces. If they are well designed, they’re likely to be read, remembered and respected.
Here are five simple, but essential tricks of the designer’s trade that you can use immediately, at little cost, and with excellent results to profit you both short and long term.
1. Take advantage of quality clip art and stock photos
Chances are you’re not an illustrator or photographer, but that shouldn’t stop you from using professional illustrations or photos in your marketing piece. You can use clip art–sometimes at a very low price–to enhance your layout. Check out the Internet for sites that feature clip art or stock photo libraries that provide a wide variety of quality and prices to choose from. Use the same style of graphics throughout your piece to create a consistent look.
2. Add dramatic contrast
Using contrast means having clearly apparent differences among the design elements that come together on a page, business card, or computer screen. These include contrasting colors, shapes, fonts, and sizes of text and graphics. A high degree of contrast helps create dramatic interest and draws the viewer’s eye to specific areas of your page. White space also provides contrast, aids legibility, and gives the reader’s eye a resting point. Controlling the amount of white space you use affects the overall page design.
3. Repeat certain elements
Good design calls for repeating certain elements throughout your piece to make the whole piece come together visually. For example, use the same color, shape, and size for all your bullets. Also make all your headers the same size, color, and font. Go for more and repeat specific graphic elements (e.g., boxes, banners, rule lines, etc.) throughout the piece. A word of caution: When you review your work, make sure you’ve used all of these design elements consistently.
4. Pay attention to proximity
Proximity refers to the exact spatial relationships between elements. For example, you create visual relationships between photos and their captions by keeping the captions close to the photos. For subheads, a pro positions them closer to the text below than the text above. Apply this principle of exact spatial relationship to all other graphic and text elements where appropriate. When you review your work, make sure you’ve applied this spacing consistently throughout.
5. Know when to use serif and sans serif fonts
In general, when you have a large amount of text, it is best to use a serif font because it is easier to read than a sans serif font. Serifs are the tiny horizontal strokes attached to the letters which help the reader’s eyes flow from letter to letter. Bold sans serif (without serifs) are good for headlines and subheads because they slow the reader down thus bringing more attention to each word or concept. Some examples of serif fonts that are good for body copy are: Times, New Century Schoolbook, Garamond and Goudy. Some examples of sans serif fonts that are good for headlines are: Arial Bold, Helvetica Black, Univers Bold and Trade Gothic.
It’s 9 o’clock Monday morning. You’re smiling because you have incorporated these important design elements into your marketing strategy. You’re ready to face a new week with vastly improved opportunities to keep smiling at a growing bottom line.