November 1, 2018

3 Fail Proof Tactics for Graphic Design

Graphic design has become more accessible than ever. Whether you do it yourself with an app or learn some tips and tricks on YouTube, creating a graphic for your business has never been easier. And why shouldn’t it be? Design should be for everyone: to create and consume without constraint. There’s only one problem. While the tools are prevalent and easy to access, knowledge on how to use those tools to your advantage and get the most out of the time that you’re spending on creating is not.

We’ve seen it before, you create this amazing Thing for your website, cross-post to all of your social media, and sit back and wait. After a few hours, your Thing has stopped engaging followers on social media. A week goes by and your website doesn’t have any more hits than it did before you uploaded your new Thing. Why isn’t this working?

A quick Google search of Graphic Design Tactics brings up lists of marketing mumbo-jumbo and a series of white papers that sound more like text books. The democratization of design has increased its accessibility, but it feels like the education piece simply hasn’t caught up.

Today, we are going to change that. Here are our top three tactical pieces of advice for graphic design that are tried, tested, and totally fail-proof.

Know Your Audience

The only way to know what appeals to your customers is to do your research and find out everything you can about them. Part of this will take a little bit of imagination, but you want to create an ideal client for your business. This is like making up an imaginary friend: you give them a name, think about where they’re from, what they do for a living, and what their likes and dislikes are. You can walk through what they’d do in a typical day, where they like to hang out, and what they do for fun.

This is called building a persona in marketing speak, and while this all seems like a very involved exercise, you’ll get a solid understanding of who it is that will want to buy your product or service. All of the details you go into will tell you the potential places for you to advertise, and you’ll find out the kinds of words and images that appeal to them based on their lifestyle.

Once you’ve created a bunch of these imaginary friends, you’ll want to go out and start refining these personas. You can ask friends, trusted colleagues, and if you have them, existing customers about their habits. How do your imaginary friends hold up in the real world? If they’re totally non-existent, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board and bring them back to earth. As much fun as it is to design for unicorns, they probably don’t make up a large percentage of your customer base, so it’s better to be realistic about the types of people you’re targeting.

Be Clear With Messaging

Graphic design is a way of communicating with someone without physically being there to start the conversation. From this perspective, it makes sense that you need to speak the same language as the person you are trying to connect with, and we are not just talking about making sure that the text is in the right language. It means staying true to your message and choosing images and writing copy that won’t be confusing to your reader.

Part of making your message clear is dependant on you knowing your audience and choosing images and words that will make sense to them. For example, if you sell clothes and are trying to appeal to a Canadian audience, having a banner image advertising for “Amazing Pants,” will mean that people can expect to click through to check out jeans, leggings, and track suit bottoms and the like. If you tried to run the same graphic in the UK, people would think that you’re selling a pretty awesome pair of undergarments and wonder why there was a pair of trousers in the graphic.

The other part of making messaging clear is to remove any ambiguity in what you’re saying and what images you showcase. In an age where people are constantly scrolling, swiping, and tapping their way through content, it is possible to be too clever with your wording and images. If people don’t get what you’re trying to say within the first 5 seconds, it’s a good bet that they have already moved on to the next thing on their phones. It’s much more helpful, and much more effective, for you to just say what you need to say to get your message across without trying to get too cute.

Plan, Plan, Plan

The last tactic is the most important. Before you even think about hunting for graphics online, looking through font books, or coming up with a tag line, you have to come up with a plan for what you want to do. Where is your graphic going? Who is going to see it? How long will they have to digest it? What’s going to be competing for their attention while they are looking at it? These are examples of questions that need to be answered before you even get started importing something to Photoshop or downloading that theme your friend used.

Planning has two major benefits. The first is that you maintain focus because you’ve planned out what your Thing is going to do. Staying focused is about giving yourself time to think and to digest all of the the information you’ve gathered about your customers and how they think and react. This will reduce the likelihood that you’ve missed the mark with your messaging, or that your target audience won’t get what you’re saying.

The second is that you avoid rework because you’ve planned out what your Thing is going to do. Rework is the most time and cost consuming part of any project, and without a plan, you can basically say hello to hours of wondering where you went wrong, what you could possibly do that’s new and exciting, and feeling frustrated that you’re just not getting anywhere.

Give these three tactics a try the next time you’re about to start a graphic design project, and let us know how it goes! Need some guidance? Let’s have a chat before you dive in and do it yourself. With over 20 years of combined marketing, design, and production experience, we can point you and your project in the right direction. Contact us today for more helpful advice on how you can make the most of your new graphic design tools. Now where is that Photoshop icon?

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