3 Graphic Design Rules To Live By

3 Graphic Design Rules To Live By

From business cards and brochures to websites and social media, potential clients will first judge your business based on what they see. No matter how top notch your products or services are, your efforts to promote your business could fall flat if you don’t have high quality designs to match.

Good graphic design brings marketing content to life—and it converts. When people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of it three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later, according to Brain Rules author and developmental molecular biologist, Dr. John Medina.

These three graphic design best practices will help you create meaningful designs that balance form with function to achieve your business goals:

1. Less is more. Always.

A cluttered design can blur your message. Keep graphic designs minimal to ensure that your message is not only in focus, but also powerful and effective. Some of the most striking ads are one single sentence or just a couple words long, but they really make an impact.

Take the two Siemens advertisements below for example. The first draws you in with a minimalistic, balanced design. It has lots of white space, little text and the message is crystal clear: cook slow food, fast (with a Siemens oven). The second ad is more off-putting. It’s cluttered with text, uncertain what the image depicts and difficult to identify a single message.

When creating a design, whether it’s digital or for print, try to be very thoughtful of the space you’re given and be intentional about every single element that goes on the page. People sometimes think if you have fewer things on the page, it took you a shorter amount of time to create—but that’s a very traditional way of thinking of design. It’s actually on the contrary; the less you have on the page, the more thought likely went into it. To create a balanced design with strong messaging, there needs to be a reason behind every font choice, image size and element placement. Achieving this tends to require many renditions before the design feels right. If your design ever starts to feel cluttered, remember:

  • Try removing an element from the page
  • Consider using fewer colors
  • Don’t be afraid of white space

2. Don’t stick to the status quo—push boundaries

It’s easy to create something that merely checks all the boxes of what was asked of you. But it takes a skilled graphic designer take something that looks “good enough” and elevate it to the next level. That’s where graphic designers should try to live—at the next level, beyond expectations. Working as a designer in the 21st century, you need to be able to adapt and figure out new trends. Try to always have a few ideas on hand of how to change up what you already have. Don’t use the same ad design all the time. Don’t redo your website to have the same look it had two years ago. Educate yourself on what’s new and reflect the need for change to your team—that’s the real value of a graphic designer. Understand your business and stay consistent with its messaging, but don’t be afraid to push for something new and improved.  Always try to go to the extra distance and ask:

  • How can this be more user-friendly?
  • How can this convey a better message?
  • How can you connect it to an overarching theme?

3. Communicate 

Thorough communication is essential every step of the way to make sure the design, copy and concept converge nicely into a compelling and on-brand design. Make sure you understand the goal of a project before diving in and have regular check-ins with your team when working on long-term projects to make sure you’re still on the same page. That way, you can easily tweak the direction of the project if it’s not coming together as desired.

Keep in mind that it can be challenging for your team to conceptualize your vision from just a preliminary sketch, and they may be hesitant to accept something that pushes boundaries. Explain to your team what you’d like to create and clarify why you think it’s be better, fresher, more modern or more forward thinking, and how it enhances messaging. Oftentimes, clashes between creative professionals and those in other departments stem from merely failing to take the time to grasp the other person’s perspective. A team that wavers on the direction of a project will produce weak results, but a team that has a unified and well-communicated vision will work together more effectively to produce a great graphic design.   

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About The Author

As director of graphic design, Lynn DeChant manages and oversees the creative process behind our clients’ integrated communications projects. She has the perfect balance of keen business acumen and creative flair to deliver key messages with high visual impact.