Design Tips for Beginners

Posted by on May 23, 2017 in Design

Guest post by Stacy Kleber of Stacy Kleber Design

At some point or another every business is faced with the need to make decisions regarding design. Whether designing your own materials, or hiring a designer, knowing the basics can help make the process a little easier. We’ve put together a few tips to help you along the way.

Choosing Typefaces

You should choose your typeface with both your audience and your medium in mind. Serif typefaces work best for readability in print, and also tend to come across as more traditional. San Serif typefaces allow for easier readability on screen, and also appear more modern. Stay away from default typefaces like Times New Roman and Arial. While they aren’t necessarily bad typefaces, they are so often used that they fail to be memorable.

There are many good resources for typefaces out there. If you have invested in Adobe Creative Cloud, I highly recommend using their Typekit resource. They have typefaces for both print and web. If free typefaces are more your style, Fontsquirrel is a great compilation of options that they say are free for Commercial Use.

For a long time, web typefaces were challenging and companies were either limited to what can be found on all machines or to paying for pricey web font kits. But now, Google Fonts have wonderful alternatives that are viewable on every screen, for some variation from the default typefaces that come with Mac or PC.

Choosing Colors

Colors invoke feelings in the viewer and can be warm or cool. Warm colors include red, orange and yellow. Generally, these colors are seen as positive and energetic. A bright red can be indicative of danger, but red has also been proven to make you hungry, which is why you often see red in restaurant logos.

Cool colors include blue, purple and green. These are seen as calming and peaceful. Blue invokes the feelings of being trustworthy, which is why, for example, you will see blue in many banking brands.

Pantone is a great resource to refer to for popular color trends, both in fashion and the larger world.  They also have some useful articles on color personality. 

Choosing Photos

Not everyone has the budget to hire a photographer, but even so, you can still have great photos in your design.

When choosing photos, you should always keep in mind that you want something that looks natural and appeals to your target audience.  Look for photos that appear less posed, and more candid. Remember to consider any sensitivities that your audience may have to certain imagery.

When using a stock website spend the time to dig a little deeper, and find a photo that hasn’t been used by everyone in your industry. For print, stick with photos at 300dpi and above.  For web, 72dpi should work just fine.

As with typefaces, there are an array of stock photography sites out there to choose from. For a affordable professional photos, I would recommend Dreamtime or iStock. These sites have both monthly subscriptions, as well as an options for purchasing a single image with credits.

For high quality free photos, websites like Unsplash have become a wonderful resource as well. As always, I recommend keeping an eye on the licensing to ensure whatever you choose is licensed for Commercial Use so that you can use it freely in paid projects and advertising.

Putting it All Together

You have your fonts, your colors and your photos – now what? For the professional designer, this is where Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator would come in.  But if you don’t want to invest in the expense or the time to learn these programs, what can you do? Luckily, there are options out there for that as well.

Canva is a wonderful resource for designing items for your business. With presets in size for social media and other common items, they make designing just a little easier. Plus, they have tons of freebies, in addition to some affordable paid template options.

Infogram is another nice resource for the person who shares a lot of statistics. It easily helps you to create a visually appealing chart or graph that depicts your data and stands out from the crowd.

What other design challenges did you face as a novice?  What are your favorite solutions?

Stacy Kleber Jensen is owner of Stacy Kleber Design, specializing in branding and design for nonprofits and small businesses. She works with clients nationally and internationally as a the primary designer or as a supplement to their internal design team to ensure brand consistency and high quality design output.



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