06 Jan Brain Glue: Making Sure your Graphic Designs Stick
First impressions with your marketing are important. What potential customers see first sets the stage and gives your audience a gauge of quality and understanding of key messages quickly and easily. The substance and design of your marketing materials are both crucial elements to your marketing efforts, so it’s important that your content works with your graphics to communicate a single, unified message.
The science behind information consumption.
To better understand how to create effective graphic design, it’s important to first know how your audience consumes it. A whopping 65% of people are visual learners and most subconsciously relate emotions with visuals, making them more impactful and memorable than text-only. And our brains receive this information fast, with the ability to see images that last for just 13 milliseconds. With our brains processing visuals 60,000 times faster than text, it’s no wonder graphic design continues to increase in importance.
Graphic design elements to consider.
Studies show that tweets with an image receive up to five times the engagement of those without. But that doesn’t mean you should just throw up any old image to meet that criteria. There are certain design elements that should be considered to ensure your visuals are strong and convey the right message. Here are a few to keep in mind:
- Fonts: Find a font you like, that fits your brand and stick with it. Filling your marketing materials with different fonts and sizes can be distracting, uninviting and can turn your audience off.
- Colors: While it’s OK to use colors that aren’t in your designated brand color palette from time to time, be sure to choose colors that provide the same visual experience to your audience. The graphic elements should still look like your brand. Branching too far outside of what your audience expects from your brand can create a disconnect and confuse your audience.
- Unintended symbolism: Consider the images you use from the perspective of your audience. What an image symbolizes to you might mean something entirely different to your audience. Take a step back and consider all interpretations of the images you’re selecting.
- Consistency: Train your viewers to know your branding. In an integrated marketing campaign, you want all visuals to look and feel like they came from the same place. For instance, if you have two visual posts and one uses illustration and the other photography, you may lose out on creating frequency and momentum with your messaging. Keeping the look and feel of your materials consistent will help your audience recognize your brand and will reinforce your messaging and branding each time they’re presented with a campaign piece.
Learn from the teachers.
It may be easy to assume that providing a more in-depth explanation of your brand, products or services via text will help it resonate more clearly with your audience, but that’s not necessarily the case. Let’s take a lesson from the world of education. Visuals have been found to improve learning by up to 400%. For example, when an individual uses Rosetta Stone® to learn a new language, images are heavily relied upon to communicate clearly and help the viewer develop associations with the content they are consuming. The language-learning software never offers explicit definitions to foreign words, but instead forces the student to infer the answer using visual context clues. Providing that visual assist to remove any confusion and concretely convey your message is just as important in marketing.
Don’t make these graphic design mistakes.
Just as graphic design can help elevate your marketing, it can also derail your marketing efforts if you’re not careful. Consider these graphic design danger zones:
- Hold the cheese, please. Don’t use corny or cheesy stock photos or overly generic images in your marketing materials. If the stock photo looks familiar to you, there’s a good chance it’s already been used by numerous companies on websites, brochures, social media posts and beyond. If you’re using a stock photo service, avoid results that appear on the first page of an image search and do a little additional digging to find an image that is unique and more-closely resembles your company or brand, or crop a more common photo in a unique way. Better yet, take your own photo. You don’t even need an expensive camera to get high quality photos.
- There’s no excuse for poor quality. It’s 2021. In the era of 4K video, smartphones with telephoto lenses and the ability to purchase quality imagery online, there’s no excuse for pixelated, low-resolution, over-compressed or badly-resized images. If you want potential customers to see your company or brand as quality and reliable, you need to make sure your visual elements are clear, crisp and appealing to the eye. Take the extra time to check specs and make sure your image is sized appropriately.
- Too much of a good thing. I love graphic design as much as the next guy, but there’s a fine line between quality-designed and over-designed materials. Just because you CAN do something in InDesign or Photoshop, doesn’t mean you HAVE to. Over-designing makes your audience’s brain work too hard to gather information. As a result, chances are they will skip over the information, retaining nothing.
- Don’t rely solely on the ‘easy button’. Design templates are a great way to quickly and easily develop materials even when you’re not the most experienced designer. It’s efficient and can help save money compared to hiring a pro, but can also result in poorly-designed visuals and overly-used templates. Don’t let a time-crunch force you to abandon basic design principles or settle for a generical looking visual. Use a pre-created template as a starting point and then make it your own. If you publish that generic visual, you’re going to get generic results. Force yourself to step up your design game even when using templates to ensure your work stands out from the rest.
- Remember the visual hierarchy. Visual hierarchy is the principle of arranging elements to show their order of importance. You should have a primary message that drives users toward a certain action. However, a second or third message is okay as long as the messages are properly balanced with the primary message. If you try to cram too much into one visual, your audience will get information overload, which leads to less memorable marketing materials. Ensure that your most important messages catch the viewer’s eye first and are prominently placed. People tend to consume visuals like they read a book—from top to bottom, left to right.
I’ve only just scratched the surface of the do’s and don’ts of graphic design—there’s a reason people go to school for years to learn it all! But we hope these basics have inspired you to take a more strategic look at your visual marketing elements and that you’re on the right path to design success.
Matt joined the Writing by Design team in June 2020. Matt’s previous work roles include Client Development Manager at iResponze, (hospitality brand marketing), Social Media Manager at Extended Stay America Hotels and Copywriter at JUICE Pharma Worldwide. Matt earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass media from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and his master’s of mass communication from the University of South Carolina. Matt enjoys using research, insights and innovation to provide quality communications for clients. From Twitter posts and video scripts to CEO presentations and training modules, Matt loves finding creative ways to gain and keep an audience’s attention.