When you decide to do some DIY graphic design work for your business, don’t be tempted to just jump in and create something on a whim.
There are a lot of cool templates out there, to make it simple for you, and you may think they are oh so pretty, and make designing a graphic for your business easy as pie. The problem with this, is you are jumping ahead, and not first establishing your visual identity or branding, and you will end up looking hodge podge and all over the place, with a lack of visual consistency, and this will not do your business any favors.
Even if you are a bit of a design novice, you will have a much stronger and identifiable business, if you are consistent, stay on brand, and plan ahead.
Just imagine if a well known brand like Coke or Apple, just threw together a poster using a Canva Template. It might look nice, and well designed, but it wouldn’t look identifiable as coming from their brand, and would just appear fake, novice and poorly executed.
If you don’t follow these steps first, it’s easy to find yourself just following trends, mucking about with pretty pictures and the latest font that caught your eye, and lacking any cohesive look to all your graphics.
Something as simple as consistency and planning, can make a big difference to your visual identity.
What you should do before designing any graphics:
1. Define your Target Audience
Decide who you are actually targeting with your graphics. Rather then creating what you like, and what you think looks pretty, or even what is trendy right now. Think about who your audience is and what they would appeal to them and draw them in. Speak their visual language, not just your own.
2. Have a Clear Visual Style (Mood Board)
Create a mood board or Pinterest board, filled with images that define your brand’s style. Have a range of images including photography, graphics, illustrations and typography, making sure it has the overall vibe and fell you want your brand to portray. Be sure to refer to it all the time, to keep your designs consistent with your style.If you use Pinterest, add to it regularly as you find images that suit, to keep yourself in that visual mind frame, and prevent the temptation to stray or get caught up in trends.
3. Have a Set Colour Palette
Be very specific about your brand colours and stick to them. I often see people mix things up, and randomly use different colours. Choose a set colour palette of 3-5 colours, that suit your brand, and work well together. Consider the psychology of colour, and if your colour choices are sending the right message about your brand. If you need help putting colours together, you can try a tool like Coolors.co or Adobe Color CC
You also need to write down the hex code or Pantone number for your colours, to ensure you always use the exact same colours.
4. Get a Logo
Whether you decide to design it yourself, use a pre-made logo or get one professionally designed. It is important to stick with it, at least for a good amount of time, and use it consistently in your graphics. This is your brand mark, and it is important to have it in place before creating any graphics. When I design for clients, I always start with the logo first. I feel it sets the tone for everything else, and is quite often required for most other graphics, as it is a central part of your visual identity. If you are designing it yourself, remember it needs to be scaleable (look good small or big), easy to read and identify and timeless (don’t just follow trends, think long term)
5. Choose Fonts, and Stick to Them
I have long been a notorious font changer. I love typography, and playing with fonts, but switching fonts all the time is not good for consistent branding. Nor is using too many fonts. Choose about 2 (no more then 3) fonts, that suit your brands style and vibe and stick to them for all graphics. I know it is very tempting to use the newest cool fonts! You can always throw in a fun font for a special promo headline, event or program, but always stick to your main fonts for all body copy, and on the majority of your graphics. When choosing fonts, think what would work well as a body text font, and something for headlines. A great tool for testing font combos is fontjoy.com. or reliable psd
6. Consider any Branding Elements you may want to Consistently Use
Elements such as patterns, illustrations, graphics or icons. Rather then always using different design elements, create, buy or outsource some set design elements, that you can use again and again, to create consistency in your branding. While it may seem lazy to use the same graphics all the time, it make your graphics recognizable as coming from your brand, giving you a consistent look.
7. Decide Exactly what Graphics you Need
Plan ahead and nut out exactly what graphics your business requires. I wrote an in depth post on this, with a worksheet to help you work out exactly what you need. That way you can get organised and also decide what is of greatest priority, and what you can make now to save you time in the long run (like templates). Read the post here- How to Decide What Graphics Your Creative Business Needs
8. Create Templates for Graphics that you will use Over and Over
For graphics you will be using again and again, it will save you a lot of time in the long run, and create consistency if you make templates, that you can just edit the text and/or replace the photo on. Think about the things you share again and again, like social media images, promo banners, blog post graphics and featured images. By creating templates for these it will give your branding a cohesive look for every graphic you create, as all the image are based on the same templates. So as soon as someone seems your graphic, they will recognize it as coming from your brand. Plus it will making your blogging process more streamline if you can create the post and promo graphics for it very quickly.
9. Find an Ideal Stock Photo Source and Collect Images.
To save you spending hours looking for the perfect image every single time you create a graphic, start a folder on your computer and fill it with images that fit your brand image. Spend time looking through free and paid stock image sites to find images that suit your industry, message, style and colour palette. Buy up and download in bulk and set aside as a stock image folder. You could also take your own photos- See my post – How to Start Your own Personal Branded Stock Photo Library
This will save you a lot of time in the long run. If you have a large collection, considering categorising the images into sub-folders.
10. Organise folders on your computer with all the elements, for quick easy access.
As with the stock images, start another folder for all your templates and brand elements. This allows for easy access, making your graphics making easy and fast. Have a folder for your stock images, a folder for brand elements (like logo, patterns and icons) and a folder for templates. You may also want to include a document with a style guide, for referencing your colours and fonts.