Tuesday, May 5, 2015

3 Tips for Marketers: Don’t Let Poor Design Hold Your Awesome Content Back

If content is king, design is queen. Design is content’s partner; it’s better, more eye-catching half. Emphasis is always on the message, but you need good design to help you deliver it. As a graphic designer, strategic communicator and graduate student in Northwestern Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications [IMC] program, I have a few easy lessons that will help you marry your awesome content with good design.
Design has a big impact on how audiences understand and receive messages. Communications scholar and professor Curtis Newbold, also known as "The Visual Communication Guy," in Top 5 Most Common Design Mistakes that Will Make You Look Like an Amateur outlines some of the most common problems in designing communications: center alignment, all caps, overemphasis, small margins, and tacky fonts. He says that while most people know poor design when they see it, they do not know why it is bad or how to fix the design issues. He is right and offers practical advice for avoiding a typical #designfail.

Design skills are necessary for marketers and communicators who want to better communicate to, interact with and serve their audiences. Tips are useful, but even more so when combined with design thinking. Designer and AIGA member Emily Hamre speaks to the process of solving communication problems with design in her article 3 Tips For Becoming A Better Design Communicator: understand the problem, gather insights from others, and make ideas tangible. Just as you plan your message and carefully craft copy, design is planned. 

Universal design principles and theories can help guide your understanding of what makes good graphic design — but you don't have to learn them all. I've synthesized my knowledge of good design into three key design rules that you can keep in mind the next time you plan the design of your marketing communication:

1.  Make it readable. 

Readability is twofold. Think legibility and comprehension. Knowing your objective and audience is just as important to design as it is to marketing. Ask yourself, is the text easy to read at a glance, and can my audience easily take away the key message I am trying to convey? 

2.  Make it consistent.

Clear and consistent use of type, graphic styles, and graphic elements gives your audience a framework for receiving your message and understanding the information. You want to provide an overall visual system for your content that brings all elements together into a more easily understandable whole. Consistency makes things instantly recognizable, simplifies learning, improves user experience, and ultimately builds trust. 

3.  Make it pretty (or make it C.R.A.P.).

For some, "making it pretty" comes naturally. For others, some things to think about when arranging elements in a composition: structure, order, harmony, balance, which translate into the main principles of design – unity, variety, and hierarchy. You can achieve unity, variety, and hierarchy using different strategies. One of the easiest is the C.R.A.P. or contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. The best way to get better at making things look pretty is to look at pretty things. Look here and here.

These are my mantras. You too can learn these simple design rules to make your communications look more professional and let your awesome content shine.

Maggie Hutaff
I am a graphic designer and communicator in North Carolina. I hold a bachelor’s in visual communication from the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication and am currently working on a master of science in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University’s Medill School. I have taught Introduction to Graphic Design at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Follow me at @designmah.

No comments:

Post a Comment