DIY design is possible if you follow a few rules
Every designer would be more than happy to tell you that just because somebody has Photoshop or the latest version of InDesign, doesn’t necessarily mean they can design effectively. However, we also know that there may be times you need a professional looking design and you may not have the time, money or desire to hire a graphic designer. While everyone thinks that we right-brain creative types thrive on not following rules, there are some basic design guidelines we follow – and you can, too.
Contrast and Dimension are the two most important words in design. Your layout needs to lead the reader through your content. If everything has equal prominence, where do you go first? Think large vs. small, multiples vs. single, long headlines next to short ones…..
Think of the bigger picture. How will your ad instantly grab attention on the cluttered website? Where will your brochure be sitting? Many sit in literature racks that cut off the bottom two-thirds of the cover, for instance. You’ll want your logo on top.
White space is your friend. Waste not, want not? Not in this case. An effective design lets you have room to breathe. Having a logo, image or headline surrounded by white/blank space, or quite a distance away from the other elements will give it emphasis. The white space draws your eye to the “lonely” element.
Think of type as an image too. Instead of grabbing a stock image, play with your headline or title. Let the typography be your design. How can I make these letters fit together in an interesting way? By eliminating use of photos or clip art, you let your message be the hero of the piece.
Layouts. Look for symmetry and as stated before, avoid competing elements such as boxes beside boxes or photos beside photos. In layout, consistency is king and less is almost always more.
Consider your colours. Colours have different meanings. For example, blue reflects trust and loyalty. Red suggests activity, wealth and warmth. Green can mean pride, security, and sustainability. Select a palette of a few colours, though, not a rainbow (or a double rainbow!).
A final note: Don’t think a great design will alone meet your objectives. The content of a brochure, ad or newsletter has to be solid, too. As your mother likely told you, don’t cut back on substance in favour of good looks.