The look and feel of your tangible marketing materials can make a significant impact on your business.
How do you know when it is time for a change? When you find yourself picking up a competitor’s piece of marketing and realizing that your current game plan is falling flat.
The reality is that if the current design plan not working, it’s time to fix it.
Creating a hypothesis for design
Remember doing simple experiments in high school science class? You were given an assignment, and then you used the scientific method to explore and solve the problem.
This is method might be helpful again to narrow down your personal tastes against effective design models. Think about how colors, patterns, fonts, and textures can impact how your feel about certain products.
Things to consider
- Less is more: Do not try to tell everything about you and your business in a tiny space; this clutters the design and suffocates the most important message.
- Research the style that you want to present: Look for examples and perhaps create a Pinterest board or portfolio to reference. This includes colors, fonts, and photography. Take screenshots, rip pages from magazines, and narrow your focus on what attracts your attention.
- Check with your brand and brokerage for specific guidelines and restrictions.
- Find design tools with ready-made templates that you can customize to help curate the look you are trying to capture.
- Respect plagiarism and copyright laws. Check with your franchise about restrictions, and the correct use of colors. This is difficult, but if you start with this top-of-mind, it will help you create appropriate boundaries. Do not look to your local competition for inspiration. Check out areas outside your market for inspiration. East Coast look to the West, and vice versa.
Canva: One tool to rule them all
This powerhouse is not only free, but it is incredibly easy to use. I have been using Canva since beta testing, and I have designed everything including flyers, Facebook ads and Instagram graphics.
I have been using the premium service for our brand for about six months, and I have have found that it has paid for itself 10 times over with the time it has saved me on design projects.
Under the premium setting, Canva has saved my preferred design colors, options for my logos, and I can easily resize ads for different platforms. It helps me keep focused on the tasks at hand and execute projects efficiently.
How Canva works
You create an account, and then you instantly have access to free and paid templates to design your chosen project. Dedicate a nominal amount of time to their tutorial series. Then grab your inspiration book and begin drafting out your new branding campaign.
Design takes time. Normally it will take several drafts to end up with a polished product. The good news is that once you have a finished product to work with, creating other materials that match it will feel more natural in the creation process.
Special note: Please, please, please have a few people proofread your final draft before you go to print!
Templates and Layout
There are so many ready-made designs that are affordable to use; it’s ludicrous not to use the ready-made work. Most of the design work is modern, fresh, vibrant and cheerful. I will say that the design work is not always gender neutral, so be sure that you choose work that fits your brand’s message and your target audience.
This tool can take care of all of your basic marketing and design needs. Facebook ads, postcards, brochures, business cards and flyers — it is the Willy Wonka Factory of design templates.
The sky’s the limit because you can also alter the “canvas” to fit any size project with the “choose your dimensions” option. With minimal design training, I have been able to use this tool to craft most any basic design project that I have been asked to dream up.
Where to use your new totally rad designs
- Create a great portfolio of your services, keep it on hand for networking.
- Take your business card design, and marry it to some luxe stock paper at www.moo.com.
- Craft up a design for unique closing gifts, and grab some swag at www.zazzle.com. (Phone cases, coasters, and ornaments can be customized!)
- Freshen up your social media profiles and website with new coordinated graphics.
- Make your custom stationary to write thank you cards to all your favorite people.
- Do not forget to download the mobile app on your smartphone for design work on the go.
Canva, as magical as it sounds, can be touchy at times. Sometimes the finished work saves askew; sometimes the server is working at capacity.
You will also need to consider that this will not always save templates in a high enough quality for detailed print work (either very small or very large impressions). Resolution is key. Work with the highest resolution logos that are available to you.
A word about personal logos
Need a logo in a hurry? Try Fiverr. I have used it a handful of times, and I have learned that communication is key.
Make sure to review the designer’s portfolio and reviews before selecting someone to work with.
Keep in mind this is not a huge risk. To be honest, the pricing is so dirt cheap; you could hire a few designers for the cost of what you normally spend at Starbucks in a month.
Quick logo tips to make sure you get what you want
- Send the designer Pantone colors that you want to incorporate into your design.
- Select the fonts, and send their names and desired stylization: fine, bold, italics.
- Ask for a square avatar version. This is very useful for social media accounts and watermarking design projects
- Make sure your package includes several different artwork design files so that you can have a type of logo for any project including embroidery and print; AI, EPS, TIG, JPEG, PNG are typically included in a basic purchase.
Send the designer some examples of what you are looking for, and be very specific. Sizing, spacing and layout instructions can save you from sending drafts back and forth several times.
Most of the time the reason there are 50 tweaks back and forth between the customer and the designer is that the customer was not specific with what he or she wanted in the first place.
Parting thoughts on design
Remember that efficient design does not just appeal to you; it should appeal to a general audience. It should tell a story, but should not be so busy or crammed with information that it is not pleasant to look at. Embrace white space.
Time management is critical when taking on projects like this yourself. Make sure that you do not spend more time on designing for your business than actually building it and managing your pipeline.
Read up on marketing and design to grab a little know-how. I love Gary Vaynerchuck, Seth Price, and Seth Godin. You cannot go wrong with any of their books. Enjoy, and above all, let your creativity take flight!