As a toddler, whenever someone tried to help me with something, I'd always say, "I do it myself!" Like many kids, I was very independent and I made sure everyone knew it! My poor mom had to watch me make things ten times harder on myself. She clearly could've given me some helpful tips, but I had too much pride to listen to her.
Even though I'm still the same stubborn and independent person that I was when I younger, I've learned that sometimes, my mom knows more than I do. Rather than struggling to do something myself, I'll just ask her, so I can get things right the first time.
I like to think of myself as the design version of a mom. I tell other professionals what they're doing right with their design, and then I point out areas of improvement.
If you're designing by yourself, without any help, don't! It's OK to not know everything, and it's fine to ask for help. As your design mom, I'm here to provide you with basic tips to make your next DIY design project Brilliant!
Whether you're creating a newsletter or an event flyer, be sure to follow these important design rules.
Implement a grid
Great design starts with a solid foundation. Start by using a grid. This allows you to properly order your information so it makes sense to your reader.
Steve Jobs once said “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
He makes a valid point. Design isn't just about being pretty, or looking nice. It's about taking information and organizing it in a way that's easy for your readers to understand and follow.
So what does a grid do exactly? A grid is a series of lines used when laying out information. Don't worry, these lines won't be visible when printed. You can make your own or you can search for grids online—there's plenty to choose from!
Tip: Your text doesn't have to stay inside each little cube. What's important is that your text blocks and images are aligned with your gridline.
No, I’m not talking about social classes, like kings and peasants. I’m talking about visually ordering your information.
For example, your headline, sub-head, titles, and body text should have different sizes, fonts, and styles—not all at the same time of course. Some might be bold or italic, and some will be regular text. Some fonts will be bigger than others. Keep in mind that you'll typically order your information from top to bottom.
Hierarchy is important because ordering your content helps tell your reader which information they should pay attention to first, second, and third.
Center your text sparingly
This is a mistake I see people make all the time. Centering your text is good for a headline or a sub-headline, but that’s about it! Centering blocks of texts is a major DON’T!
When someone is reading your content, they should be able to read it easily from left to right. If your body text is centered, it becomes complicated to read, and pretty soon your head is going back and forth like a cat looking at a swinging yo-yo.
Take a look at these two examples below. The first one has everything centered. While the perfectionist in you might think that centering everything makes it look...well...perfect—trust me it's not.
Our brains are programmed to read left to right. When body text is centered, it becomes confusing and difficult to read. Instead, when using body text, be sure to align it to the left—your readers will thank you!
Pick the right font
There are fonts out there that are so awful—Comic Sans and Papyrus, I’m looking at you! These are the kinds of fonts you should avoid at all costs...here's why.
They’re overused and tacky. Comic Sans is probably the worst font out there, and yet businesses still use it. What started out as a childish font for comic books, has turned into a font that’s used for almost anything and everything. I’ve seen it on ambulances, restaurants, and even on a job posting. If you're using a font that is unoriginal and unprofessional, people will associate your company with being unoriginal and unprofessional—something you definitely DON'T want! The font you use speaks volumes of your company's credibility—choose wisely!
Another mistake I see is companies choosing fonts that don't match their industry or business. For example, the font for a law firm versus a clothing boutique store, will be totally different. Why? Because they give off very different vibes. A law firm is serious and very professional, whereas a boutique is about fun and fashion. Whatever your industry, make sure you pick a font that matches it!
If you want to use a creative font, how do you know what's appropriate? Like I said, fonts that are overused should be avoided. My rule of thumb: if this is a font that you used in Microsoft Word in the 90's... you know, the ones that give you some serious Windows 98 flashbacks (Comic Sans, Papyrus, Bradley Hand, Brush Script, Curlz) — STAY AWAY! There are an endless amount of fonts out there that are fun and quirky, but aren't overused. One of my favorite font websites, www.dafont.com, is a great resource to use for finding free fonts.
Don’t leave a word or a sentence by itself
In the design world we call these orphans and widows. An orphan is a word that’s by itself at the end of a paragraph, and a widow is a sentence that is left all alone at the top of a page. So why should you check for widows and orphans? Having words or sentences that are isolated, makes your design look out of place and awkward. Fix it by making adjustments to your paragraph so your words are never alone. Having a buddy system is important!
Have Proper letter spacing
Sometimes letters don’t behave themselves, and get a little too close for comfort. The result can totally alter the meaning of your words, usually for the worst—which can be damaging for your brand. For this design guideline, I don't even need to give you an illustration. I'll let Google do that for me. Search, “bad letter spacing”...you’ll see what I mean.
So how do you fix poor spacing? Depending on what program you're using, you should be able to adjust the space between individual letters or entire words. If you're using a word processing program, like Microsoft Word, you should be able to find it in the character settings.
Use Your Design Knowledge!
Now that you have some design tips and tricks, it's time to make your next DIY project Brilliant! Or, if this blog post has made you realize that you'd rather leave it to the professionals, the Be Brilliant team is here to help. Fill out the form below, and we will be in contact with you!
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Crystal Wimperis helps businesses stand out from the crowd by combining strategic thinking with captivating design. As the marketing and design specialist, she creates visuals for clients to drive their marketing efforts. Whether it’s designing graphics for a business’ social media page, website, or an event—her priority is creating designs that gets clients noticed and enhances their credibility. You can follow Crystal on Twitter at @brilliantcryst or connect with her on Linkedin.
Be Brilliant!™ | Brilliant Lens LLC is a branding, marketing and social media agency based in Fort Myers, Florida. Our work and experience have taken us around the globe, working for clients ranging from local entrepreneurs to global, Fortune 100 companies. If you’re on Facebook, be sure to Like our page. Follow us on Twitter @BeBrilliantSWFL.
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