Design tips for the non-designer | Los Angeles graphic design

March 9, 2012


It gets brought to my attention everyday than not every start-up company has the finances to hire a graphic or web designer. When that happens, small business owners have to take matters into their own hands and design their own marketing collateral which can be…well…sometimes pretty scary quite frankly!

Contrary to popular belief, simply having a brochure or website does not guarantee you’re going to create any business. You could literally hand out 1000 brochures or have 1000 web visitors yet never receive one single call if it’s not designed properly. As a matter of fact, a poor design can actually repel business by giving the impression that your business provides low quality service due to the low quality nature of your materials.

So what constitutes a proper design? There are many different factors that play into graphic design. Most of which are wayyyy too detailed and lengthy for the purposes of this blog post. Factors such as color psychology and typography are ginormous topics. However, there are some basic principles you can apply to a do-it-yourself website or brochure anytime that will give you a more professional, cleaner appearance until you can dole out the $$$ for a professional.

Readability and user-friendliness are the main two components. To achieve these, take the following into consideration:

Fonts: The use of typography can make a design excel or break it. When creating advertising, choose two fonts and stick to them. One font for the headers and titles and a second one for the body paragraphs. Using anything more than your chosen two fonts are going to potentially look busy and messy. Always remember to use easy-to-read fonts. They don’t have to be boring, but anything too scripty or stylized can be a turn off for people.

Colors: I definitely encourage the use of a color wheel if you feel your color challenged (link at the bottom). A good rule of thumb to follow is to use 3 colors maximum and make them complimentary. This is left for debate, but the 3-color rule I follow is this:

• One main color or texture as a matting (website background, brochure background, etc)
• One color as a main color for graphics and larger title fonts and headers (which I coordinate with the background color)
• One accent color for smaller sub headers, accent graphics, etc.

All of this is while matching the colors to the logo. If you have a logo then your 3 color choices must match the colors of the logo. This is an easy to use principle of business branding.

Additionally, I happen to be a huge proponent of the use of photography because I believe it adds a very human element to something that is otherwise non-human such as a website. So look at your photos you’re going use and allow them to inspire your color choices so everything flows and compliments one another.

Logo + colors + photography = must compliment one other.

For an amazing color wheel tool, click here.

Create a hierarchy: When everything is important on your page then nothing is important. In other words, too many large fonts and/or too many words in bold colors such as red actually confuses the viewer and makes everything non-important overall. So choose one thing on your page that is the most important and highlight that only. This way your viewer will get a clear understanding of what you’re trying to emphasize.

White space is a good thing: Have you ever seen a house so cluttered with furniture and wall coverings that it made you want to run out screaming like your hair was on fire? That’s what happens when you clutter up a website or brochure.  So don’t be afraid to leave plenty of white space in your brochure/website. If you cram too much onto one page then your viewers won’t have a clue what to look at first. They will most likely click off your page screaming like their hair is on fire (okay not literally, but sort of).

Photo resolution: If you don’t know what resolution is, check out my article about it here. If you’re printing a flyer or brochure, I BEG OF YOU to use a high resolution photo. If you are in need of stock photography and can’t afford a photographer, a good place to find some is here:

Consistency: Simply put — your website, business cards, brochures and postcards should all match. Everything from colors to fonts should all match and look like they are all part of the same suite. You don’t want your marketing materials to look like they were created by someone that had multiple personality disorder! That way when someone reads your brochure and then visits your website, they will instantly recognize that they are in the right place because they coordinate.

Enjoy and have fun!

Tasty Vino
Welcome to! I'm your hostess for all things wine and everything that pairs with it! Share your appetite with me here as I drink tons of wine, eat food, post photos and vacation around the world! Cheers!

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