by Liberty Stembridge, Money Columnist
Published in Money on 24th June, 2019
Graphic design is a key part of creating a successful business. Designers create the look and feel of your brand, such as your logo, business cards, packaging, website, and social media content - all of which can make or break a customer or clients decision to work with you or not.
Building and growing a small business is no easy undertaking, and one of the hardest parts of the entire process is your marketing and design and regardless of what you're selling, you need to be able to market yourself well and make your products look good. But how do you do that with no design training?
After all, graphic designers are expensive, and well worth the investment - but you may not be able to afford one straight away.
Although teaching yourself some basic design and marketing skills may not produce the same quality or calibre of work that could be produced by a professional, it can provide a good starting point to promote your business and attract customers, until you get to the point that you can afford professional input.
You can still learn about and apply the core principles of design, without going to design school. These four core principles can really help when you're designing different elements of your brand, especially when it comes to social media posts.
We often underestimate just how powerful the effect of colours are in marketing and on our psyche. As you probably know already, different colours evoke different feelings within you, with red being associated with passion or anger, whilst blue is associated with calm and tranquility.
Every colour has a different association, and these might vary across cultures to (which we'll get to later). Learning a bit about colour theory will help guide you into making the right colour choices and coming up with a good colour scheme that will help you to look more consistent across your brand, no matter the platform.
Composition is another very important design principle. One of the most common mistakes rookie designers make is to brashly create social media posts or advertisements without considering the layout and composition of their work.
Essentially, composition refers to the placement of different elements in your piece, whether its a logo, ad, photo, packaging, social media post or even a video.
Having too many elements crammed together into a space can make your design feel very crowded and difficult to digest, whereas having mis-matched elements spread out all over the place will be confusing and probably put customers off.
A good composition is one that leads the eye, and is easy to read and understand. There are lots of different rules and guidelines you can find to help you create the perfect layout - such as the rule of thirds.
If you're using text to market your business (which you probably are) then having a good grasp of typography is essential. Many people don't understand the power of typography, but it can greatly influence the look and feel of your brand.
Using outdated fonts, fonts that are difficult to read or making your text too small/ big can really change the look and feel of your design, turning it from an aesthetically pleasing post to an ugly nightmare.
You may already have a bit of an instinctive feel for some of these design elements, hierarchy in particular comes easily to most people, since it's fairly common sense. Nevertheless, it's worth researching and practicing so you can critique and improve your own work.
Essentially, hierarchy refers to the size and order of your text. If the title of your post or website is smaller than the main text, it's going to be very confusing for the reader. Hierarchy is essential for good readability.
Understanding your customers and working to design something that will appeal to them is one of the most important steps of the design process.
Just because something looks good to you, or looks amazing on pinterest, doesn't mean it works for your brand or will appeal to your customers. Do some research into your customers - what age are they, what gender, what are their interests and what do brands similar to you're own do to appeal to them?
If you're just starting out with your brand and you don't know where to start, a moodboard is an excellent option.
Once you've done your research into your customers and know what they like, start gathering a collection of brands that you think reflect that and whom you think you could emulate.
Pinterest is an excellent resource for this, as you can search for images and save them directly to a board.
Once you're ready to start designing and taking your business to the next level for real, you'll need some tools to help you do so. Most professional designers will use the adobe creative suite, but these are very complicated pieces of software that are too expensive and too tricky to use for us mere mortals.
Luckily however, there are alternatives. If you're not looking to make complicated and high-end designs, online tools such as Canva should do just fine. Canva is an easy to use design application that lets you create anything from leaflets to logos to posters to facebook ads.
It's got a wide variety of design elements you can easily use to create a fab design and even a bunch of premade templates if you're stuck for inspiration.
The learning and growing never stops when it comes to design and if you're a newbie like many entrepreneurs, you've got a lot to learn. This is where online learning comes in very handy.
With free information on sites such as youtube and pinterest, or cheap online classes on platforms such as skillshare, you can learn and upgrade your skills at your own pace, whenever you want and from the comfort of bed.