Primer: DIY Graphic Design

With Spring right around the corner, now is the time to start preparing marketing materials. Graphic design is a complicated subject, but it’s now easier than ever for the small business owner to create beautiful graphics without training. Photoshop is no longer a requirement. There are plenty of great (free) online design tools like Canva, DesignBold and Stencil that will help you design like a pro.

But before you dive in and start designing your next great work, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Plan Your Content First

Content and design go hand in hand and ideally they complement one another. But does it really matter how good something looks if it doesn’t actually say anything? 

Know Your Purpose

The first step in any good design work is planning your content. Ask yourself, “what is the purpose of this piece?” Are you trying to inform you customers? What do you want them to know? More importantly, what do you want them to do?

Knowing what you want to accomplish with your marketing materials is the first step to creating a beautiful design. Start with a purpose, develop an outline, then write your content before you start designing.

It’s also helpful from a time management perspective to select the photos that you’d like to use first. If the piece is for print, make sure that you’re using high resolution images.

Keep It Simple

While it might make you feel good, using complex words and sentences won’t impress anyone. The best copywriting is at a 7th to 8th grade reading level. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short and avoid flowery language. In brochures especially, use lists to your advantage.

Readable is a great tool that will test the readability of your writing. You can copy and paste a web link, or paste your text into the tool. Using the analysis, make adjustments to improve your writing. 

2. Choose a Color Palette

Color is a major part of design. It’s important to develop a cohesive look for your brand. Ideally, you’ll start with one color (perhaps the primary color from your logo) and develop a palette around that.

Color Calculator is a great tool if you have a specific color you want to start with. To use this tool, start with a base color. Select from the color wheel and use the scale on the side to adjust the shade or enter a specific hex code (the value of a color).

Next, you’ll select a harmony, which refers to the way the colors are balanced.

  • Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel. They work well when used selectively to call attention to something specific. 
  • Analogous colors are adjacent to one another in the color wheel and can be very aesthetically pleasing. Generally speaking, you’ll select one as the dominant color and use the other two as accents. 
  • Split Complementary is a combination of the first two harmonies. Here, opposing colors are combined with an adjacent color. This is a great choice for novice designers. 
  • The triad harmony combines colors that are evenly space in the color wheel. As in the analogous harmony, you want to select one dominant color and use the other two as accents. 
  • A tetradic harmony combines two complementary pairs of colors. This combination creates a broader palette for designers to work with. As with the other harmonies, it’s a good practice to select one dominant color and use the others as accents.

Once you have your colors selected, hit Get Results and the Color Calculator will provide you with the color information to use in your design piece. 


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