Are you considering changing up the designs of your branding? Do you run your own business and tackle the creative side of design? What are some of the best design practices that designers recommend following?
In this podcast episode, Samantha Carvalho speaks about 11 best practices when it comes to design.
In This Podcast
Color is without a doubt the most important and complex aspect of any design. It can help to set the appropriate mood, create an atmosphere, convey emotions, and can even evoke a strong individual experience in viewers.
You don’t necessarily want to just go with your favorite colors when it comes to thinking of which color you want to make your brand. You want to put a bit more thought into it and kind of think of what the colors are going to convey, how people are going to feel when they interact with them and what it’s gonna cause them to do.
Ultimately, you want to guide your viewers to perform some kind of action through your website or social media. Using color with your images can guide them to take certain actions.
There are 4 main types of balance in design: symmetrical, asymmetrical, radial, and crystallographic.
- Symmetrical balance works best with illustrations, drawings, blog graphics, and photographs whereas asymmetrical balance creates tension through contrast.
- Asymmetrical balance can be visually interesting and if used incorrectly, can confuse a viewer. Designers recommend sticking with symmetrical design if you are new to creating your own branding.
- Radial – picture a spiral staircase
- Crystallographic – picture a tray of donuts with different toppings
Lines are the visual direction of the image that help to guide the eyes where you want it to go.
Straight lines imply order while curved lines suggest movement.
When you are adding lines to your design, pay close attention to where they draw the reader’s eye across the image. Aim to create a local path for the reader to follow, and if you want someone to land at a certain point on your website or social media, using lines can be incredibly helpful in achieving this.
When selecting which font/s to use in your design, one of the most important aspects to keep in mind is readability.
- Limit your design to a maximum of 2-3 typefaces
- Use font sizing that fits well within the medium you are publishing to
- Traditionally, serif fonts are best for print and sans-serif for web
- Kerning (space between letters) is a great technique to use in your titles
Contrast provides differentiation between elements, making one stand out or pop more than the other elements.
When using contrast, keep balance in mind and use it in moderation. If you contrast your images too much, it can become visually confusing and then nothing stands out.
You can add contrast with colors, with shapes, and with sizes:
- Colors: light typography on a darker background
- Shapes: create contrast between symmetrical and asymmetrical shapes
- Sizes: make certain aspects of the design bigger or smaller to make them stand out and be eye-catching
Scale refers to the deliberate sizing of various elements on your design and can help you bring certain elements into focus, allowing readers to make better sense of a concept that you are wanting to portray.
You include the most important information in the image, and you can have other information in the description. Think: what are the most important elements you want people to take away from your design? Then make those bigger.
Proximity helps to create a sense of organization in your design. Similar or related elements are best grouped together to highlight the relationship between them.
You can connect them by placing them physically together or through other creative options like having them share a similar color or font.
This helps you get your most important message across first. Start with the first piece of information that is the most important, and follow down with the second and third in a hierarchy of importance.
Scale, proximity, and hierarchy overlap but they all emphasize figuring out what is the most important element of the design and making that the focus.
This is also known as consistent branding. There are 3 things to try to be consistent within your designs; color, fonts, and logos.
Maintain consistent branding across all your designs. It encompasses your visual identity and you can pass it along to any design that you work with so that your basic style of design is maintained. It creates credibility to use consistent branding and gives your brand a unique and instantly recognizable look.
The way the human eye moves across designs, images, websites and other elements is unique but often consistent. That’s why it’s important to guide your audience along the path that you’d like them to follow in your image.
Website design research has shown that the majority of readers read the information in a capital F, E, or Z direction. This is a good design tip: place your most important information and elements along the upper left-hand side or all along the left-hand side.
Negative or white space is the area that surrounds images and text. More often than not, what you chose to leave out of your image is as important as what you add. Do not underestimate the power of simplicity.
Extra tip: Knolling: organizing objects at right angles with negative or white space that surround each element. This is also known as flat lays and can be a creative way to set out your design.
- Digital Versus Print Design: 6 Things to Consider | MP 36
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Meet Sam Carvalho
Sam Carvalho is a graphic designer living in Cape Town, South Africa, with over five years of experience in both design and marketing, with a special interest and experience in the start-up environment.
She has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs take their practices to the next level by enhancing their visual branding. She loves working with a variety of clients on design-intensive tasks and is always up for a challenge!
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Welcome to the Marketing a Practice podcast with me, Sam Carvalho, where you will discover everything you need to know about marketing and branding your business. To find out more about how I can help you brand your business, visit www.practiceofthepractice.com/branding. And if you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram @samanthacarvalhodesign.
Hi, there. Thanks so much for joining me today on the Marketing a Practice podcast. It is a rainy and cold afternoon here in Cape Town, South Africa, so I do apologize for the noise in the background although I do feel like it adds a nice sense of calm. There is also a bird chirping, so we have some great natural noises in the background today. I hope that that is okay and I do apologize. So today I thought I would cover quickly some tips for improving your designs, just in general. Just some things to keep in mind if you are going the do-it-yourself route. Some kind of general best practices that most designers stick to and that can kind of help you improve your designs going forward. So I’m going to run through them quickly. If you are walking or driving while listening to this, you can review all the information in the show notes for this episode. So keeping in mind that humans by nature are visual beings, and so whether you are a creative at heart or not, design is always going to be important and the way that you present your brand is always going to be important. And that’s why I thought I would cover these things, just to help in any way possible to present your brand that much better.
So the first consideration when it comes to all things design is color, and I did a separate episode all about color a few weeks ago. If you haven’t listened to that, definitely be sure to check it out. I kind of delve into the different meanings of color and how to go about considering what colors you want your brand to consist of. So definitely go check that out if you haven’t yet. Color without a doubt is one of the most important and complex aspects of any design. It helps set the mood, create an atmosphere, convey emotions, and even evoke strong individual experiences from someone’s past. So you don’t necessarily want to just go with your favorite colors when it comes to thinking of the colors that you want to make up your brand. You want to make… you want to put a bit more thought into it, and kind of think what the colors are going to convey, how people are going to feel when they interact with them, and what it’s going to cause them to do because ultimately you want them to take action, and color can be a big part of that in ensuring that people take the action that you want them to take. So use colors in your images that guide your audience through a story. The principles of color theory are a great place to start, and can be used to create a sense of harmony within your images. So again, be sure to check out my episode on color theory and the meanings of colors; it’s really going to help you gain a better understanding of all that colors mean and how you can use them better in your branding. So that’s the first thing you want to really think about and ensure that you put a lot of consideration into what colors you want to use for your brands.
The second one is balance. So there are essentially four different types of balance when it comes to design. There’s symmetrical, asymmetrical, radial – so picture a spiral staircase – or crystallographic – picture a tray of donuts with different topings. So all of these can make for beautiful designs but things to keep in mind is that a symmetrical balance is great for illustrations, drawings, blog graphics and photographs while asymmetrical balance creates tension through contrast, and can be visually interesting when done correctly. So I would say if creativity is a bit of a challenge for you, then rather stick with a symmetrical balance in most of your designs. Asymmetrical is where things get a bit more creative, but as we said it can be very visually interesting, especially when it comes to things like websites, or even your social media. So feel free to play around with that if you like. But I would say, as a kind of best practice, stick with symmetrical balance. And of course, you can delve into radial and crystallographic if you’d like but that is kind of the more complex types of balance.
The third thing to keep in mind when it comes to designs is lines. So lines are the visual elements of your image that help to guide the eye where you want it to go. Straight lines imply order, while curved lines hint at movement. When adding lines to your image, pay close attention to where they draw the reader’s eye. Aim to create a logical path that the reader can follow along with until they come to the point that you intended them to. So lines can be very powerful in guiding a person’s eye through your design, and that’s essentially what they do; that’s their purpose. And so keep that in mind if you specifically want to guide someone through your design and want them to land at a certain point.
The fourth consideration is typography. So in selecting which fonts to use in your design, one of the most important aspects to keep in mind is readability. We usually suggest that you limit your design to a maximum of two to three typefaces. Use font sizing that fits well within the medium you’re publishing to. So always remember where the end result of your design is going to appear. If it is podcast art, for example, and it’s going to appear as a tiny little square on somebody’s phone, you really want to make sure that the title – or any sort of text that you’ve put included in that podcast art – is quite big, takes up quite a large portion of the design, to ensure that it remains legible in its end result. So that’s really something to keep in mind when it comes to design. Traditionally, serif fonts are best for print and sans-serif are best for web. And kerning is another thing to keep in mind. So kerning is the space between letters and it’s a great technique to use in your titles. So I often space my letters quite far apart in titles because it actually adds a really great effect and it looks really nice, and also only adds to the ease of being able to read the title. So that’s something to consider playing around with. Make sure that the letters aren’t too tightly pressed against one another and makes it difficult to read, and also isn’t so great from a design perspective. I have also done an episode just on typography, so if you want to delve more into that, be sure to check that out.
The fifth consideration when it comes to designing is contrast. So contrast provides differentiation between elements, making one standout or pop more than the other elements. It’s important to maintain a certain balance when it comes to contrast. Without it your design runs the risk of being flat, but with too much contrast, your design can become cluttered and nothing will stand out. So some things to keep in mind with contrast is to add contrast with colors. So this is something I do often. An example of this is a white font on a dark background. And some tips if you are using Canva, or any sort of other free design templates out there, a tip is to… if you’ve chosen an image and you want to use white font over that image but there are many parts of the image that are light and that make the white font difficult to read, add a layer… so add like a square that appears above the image but below the font and make it black and then make it transparent, so make it like maybe 30% transparent. That will mean that the image below that layer will obviously appear a lot darker but you’ll still be able to see it, and then your text will appear a lot clearer. That’s a great way to add contrast and make the design look really nice, and obviously then you’re able to read the content. You can also add contrast with shapes. So mixing symmetrical shapes with asymmetrical shapes, for example, or you can add contrast with sizes. So making certain aspects of the design bigger or smaller than others. So that’s just what to keep in mind when it comes to adding contrast to your design.
Another thing to consider is scale. So scale refers to deliberate sizing of various elements within your design. Scaling helps you bring certain elements into focus and allows your readers to make sense of a concept. So, if you’re thinking of a social media post, for example, that’s promoting an event. So just quickly before I even get to that, another thing to keep in mind with a social media post, is that you have a description. So you don’t need to include all of the content into the actual image of the post because you can do that in the description. You just need to include the most important information in the image in case people don’t read the description. But for example, if you are creating a social media image about an event, you’ve got the event’s name, and you’ve got kind of the tagline of what the event is about. Now, you wouldn’t make those the same size; you would make the event name the biggest, and then you would have the tagline appear a lot smaller than that because it’s not as important as the name of the event. And then again, the date of the event you’d make big because that’s an important element. So that’s what we’re talking about when we refer to scale, is kind of looking at your design and thinking what are the most important elements that you want people to take away from this design and making those appear the biggest.
Another thing to consider is proximity. So proximity is important to help create a sense of organization within your design. Similar or related elements are best grouped together to create a relationship between them. This helps declutter your design. You can do this by physically placing objects near each other or connecting them in other visual ways, such as through similar colors, fonts or sizes. So again, it’s a way to kind of organize your design and make sure that it appears congruent as opposed to just chaotic. So making sure for example, that maybe all your text appears in one section of the design, or making sure that certain parts of the text are one color and other parts are another color, and kind of just figuring out what makes sense but using proximity to add an element of organization to your design. In a similar kind of vein, hierarchy is also something to consider. So it’s a great design tip to make sure that you’re getting your most important message across first, and it’s kind of touching on what I said earlier about the headings versus the taglines. So to do this, you need to establish the most crucial message as the focal point, and then use the other design principles mentioned previously to make it stand out. Once that’s in place, you can start to build your second or third piece of information in without taking away from the overall goal. So scale, proximity and hierarchy are a little bit similar – they overlap. But they all kind of emphasize the same thing of figuring out what it is that is the most important element of the design, and making sure that that is the focus, and that that’s what stands out the most.
So the ninth thing to consider when it comes to design is repetition. And this is one of the easier design elements to enhance your images, and it’s also what people often refer to as consistent branding. So you’ve definitely heard me speak about that on this podcast. But there are three things to always try and be consistent with in your designs and those are fonts, colors, and of course, your logo. And this is especially true when it comes to social media, but also your website, pretty much all your branding. And I’m always talking about a brand style guide to ensure that you maintain consistent branding across all of your designs, and that’s something that yeah, I’ve spoken about a lot. But it basically includes your logo, it includes your brand colors, it includes your fonts, it includes some theoretical things like your mission and your vision, and it just basically encompasses your visual identity. And it’s something that you can pass along to any designer that you work with to ensure that the basic style of your designs stays the same. And there’s a lot of power in that, and there’s a lot of credibility that comes with consistent branding. So over time, repetition of those three elements – fonts, colors, and logo – will give your brand a unique and instantly recognizable look. So that’s definitely something to keep in mind, especially when it comes to your social media posts. Make sure that you’re using consistent branding. It’s really powerful and it means that when people come across your post, they know straightaway what brand they’re dealing with.
So the second to last design tip is direction. So the way the human eye moves across designs, images, websites and other visual elements is unique, but often consistent. That’s why it’s important to guide your audience along the path that you’d like them to follow in your image. Website design research has found that we read in a capital F pattern, a capital E pattern, or sometimes a Z pattern. So placing important and eye catching elements on the upper left and left side of your design is key. So how interesting is that? Have you noticed that when you come to a website, you browse it in one of those patterns? And have you noticed that there’s a consistent theme with each of those patterns – so that capital F pattern, capital E pattern and Z pattern – is that there’s always an upper left or all along the left, that’s kind of the focus. That’s where people always look. So that’s a great tip to keep in mind when it comes to design, is to include the most important elements like we were speaking earlier about hierarchy and scale and things like that, to include the most important elements either in the upper left corner of your design, or along the left side of your design. And that will ensure that just naturally, that’s what people look at the most. So that’s a really awesome tip.
The last one is to do with space. So again, I’ve spoken about this before, but negative, or whitespace, is the area that surrounds other objects in an image. And more often than not, what you choose to leave out from your image is just as important as what you add. So try not underestimate the power of simplicity in your design. Space can bring a certain aesthetic quality to your image, while also highlighting the most important elements. When adding shapes, fonts or colors to your design, consider what shapes or outlines are forming around them and use them to your advantage, you may quickly realize that your design is taking shape in ways you hadn’t originally planned. So definitely make use of negative space as much as possible. It really only can add to your design, and it can add some interesting shapes in itself, without you even meaning to.
And the last little tip that I wanted to include is something called ‘knolling’. So this is a nice design style you can play around with. It basically means organizing objects at right angles and including whitespace around each element. So another kind of term for it is ‘flatlays’. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that, but there was a huge trend about maybe a year or two ago with flatlays. And it’s those images that you see on Pinterest or you see on your social media, where it’s kind of a bird’s eye view of like a desk, for example, and everything is positioned at a perfect right angle with space around it. It’s really effective. And if you do happen to want to post a number of objects it’s definitely something that you can play around with. It looks really cool and yeah, it’s very effective.
So those are eleven tips just to help you guys improve your design and things to keep in mind when you are going about designing something next. I hope it’s helpful, and I’ll see you in the next episode.
Thanks for listening to the Marketing a Practice podcast. If you need help with branding your business, whether it be a new logo, rebrand, or you simply want to have a print flyer designed, head on over to www.practiceofthepractice.com/branding. And if you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram @samanthacarvalhodesign. Finally, please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast on iTunes if you like what you’ve heard. Talk to you soon.
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