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6 Rules for Creating Brilliant Visual Content (Reminder: You’re Not a Professional)

While creating or growing a business, team, or marketing strategy we’ve all come across situations where we need beautiful and professional assets. Whether it’s an invite to an upcoming event, poster for a new product launch or infographic for a timely blog post - we don’t always have the resources (time or capital) to access a professional designer.

The following are some thoughts and tools to leverage in those situations where professional help may not be possible, but you need something you and your brand can be proud of.

Before we start, I’ll add this disclaimer: you’ll be hard-pressed to create the quality of asset that would come from a talented designer that you work well with. In upcoming blog posts we’ll discuss the importance of hiring a professional as you continue to build a cohesive brand and marketing strategy.

Time to Take a Second and THINK

Before working on your final product it's important that you think carefully about the project you're embarking upon so that in the end it portrays the right message and most importantly resonates with your anticipated audience.

Start with a Design Brief:

This is a planning asset that every project should start with, and would almost always be required as an important first step if you were working with a professional. In this step you’ll ask yourself questions like:

  • What is my message
  • Who is my audience (specific customer segment, new employees, prospective client, etc)
  • What response am I looking to elicit
  • What tone am I trying to portray (uplifting, urgent, exciting, etc)
  • What is the physical output of my work (poster, invitation, sign, etc)

Do a quick search online - there are tons of free templates out there that you can leverage depending on your needs.

Consider your brand:

It is important to consider your brand when working on any creative project that will ultimately be a reflection of your company. If you’re working for a larger company, there may already be formal brand guidelines that you can leverage (you can normally get this from the marketing team). If not, make sure you carefully consider your company's overall tone and brand presence. Company colours, fonts, logos, etc. These elements must be top of mind when starting your project.

All the colours of the rainbow?

In short, no - if your M.O. is to go straight to tons of colour, or on the flip side, monotone. Take a step back and think about what is going to make your message shine (maybe not literally). If you have them, take company colours into consideration. If not, think about how different colours may highlight your message. For example - yellow can portray happiness and optimism while tonal greys may portray a more serious or professional tone.

Once you’ve decided on your key colour(s), you can always use tools like Pictaculous or Adobe Colour to help choose additional colours that will compliment the look and not clash.

What the font?!

Again, if you have brand guidelines, they will generally specify the fonts you’ll need to use - if not, there are a few online tools that can help you choose the perfect font and complimentary fonts for your project. As a general rule - stick to only a few fonts and ensure that you are consistent throughout. Here are a few tools to try: Font Combinations and Google Fonts

Have a picture of a font but don’t know what it’s called? Try uploading to What the Font - it will help get you the name you’re looking for.

It’s getting a little blurry here:

A key piece in many design projects will be images and photos - here is where it is really best not to DIY. If you’re looking for specific images, hire a professional or ask a colleague where to access previous photos.

If you’re able to be a bit more broad it is best to leverage paid or free stock images. These days there is a huge variety and they will be sure to add an element of professionalism to your work. The online tools in the next section normally provide both free and paid images, if you don’t find what you need there, you can use sites like Shutterstock and iStock

Ok, now you’re ready:

Alright - you’ve done your due diligence, you’ve planned, you’ve been thoughtful and you’ve leveraged a few great tools along the way to help set you up for success. It’s time to execute your plan. It’s now time to choose your tool. Since you’re not a designer you’re likely not a pro at creative layouts and therefore likely not in a place to be able to effectively use Photoshop and Indesign. No fear, all inclusive tools like Canva and Be Funky are here to the save the day.

Both online tools have free versions that allow you to choose your project (invite, infographic, etc) and then customize from there. The biggest benefit of these tools is that the layouts have been created by professionals and give you a professional canvas to start your project on. Once you’ve selected your tool and project, ensure you have your fully filled out design brief by your side to guide you as you create.

All in all, get your creative juices flowing and enjoy creating - however, if it becomes a habit and you’re continuously creating the assets for your brand or company - it’s probably a good time to start looking into hiring a professional and giving yourself some time back while ensuring your brand is in great hands!

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