How to create a beautiful social media template in Canva

Well!! I must say I didn’t plan to be away from my blog this long; I’ve been incredibly busy with clients (yay!), having holidays at the beach (yay!), planning out my business for this year (just you wait 😉 ), and then getting the kids organised to get back into school (phew!). So thanks y’all for sticking with me. I PROMISE I’ll be back to blogging on a regular basis, with lots of great tips for small business, and with particular emphasis on building your brand beautifully, of course.

This year, I’ve got tons of stuff lined up; I’ll be digging into branding, design principles, marketing, and more, and looking at quite specific things such as website layout, customer touchpoints, social media, packaging, and your workspace. Look out 2017!

 

Right now, I’ve got something a bit spesh for you; I’ll be doing a series of tutorials on how to make some really gorgeous things in Canva, that you can easily adapt to your own business.

Canva’s great and I love it for all sorts of reasons, but I hear lots of people getting frustrated with it – on the tech side, not being able to figure out how to do something in particular (yes, it does have limitations, but there’s always ways around everything), and also on the design side, when their graphics end up looking messy and confused and nothing like they imagined. I go into a bit of both and show you how to consistently get good results in this series of tutorials I’m publishing throughout the month, because the tech and the design work hand in hand to produce beautiful things.

Here’s the first. Enjoy.

 

 

How easy was that!?

I hope it also sparked your imagination and you realised just how much you can actually do in Canva with a little practice. It’s great for social media posts, creating ebooks, blog images, posters, invitations, and a whole heap of other things too.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’ve got a MASTERCLASS happening very soon – it starts on Thursday, 2nd March. If you’re launching anything anytime soon, I suggest you check it out. Learn next-level Canva skills and create a whole social media campaign from the ground up, with tons of individual attention in a small group setting – find out more here.

See you there!
Julie X

 

Best 5 tips for branding: Part 1 – Graphic design essentials

5 best branding tips- graphic design essentials

 

This is the first in a series of my five best tips for branding, and I think they’re absolutely essential whether you’re selling a physical product or selling a service. Get these five things sorted, and you’ll be a very long way in front of your competitors. The first one’s on Graphic Design Essentials.

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Basic graphic design mistakes are something I see ALL. THE. FREAKING. TIME.  And it’s really the main reason that made me want to get started in branding (toooooo many ugly Etsy shops). Because before your customers even get to your lovingly crafted words and inspect your lovingly crafted goods, that mess just stops them in their tracks. They’re spoilt for choice, and something prettier’s only a click away.

I KNOW technology’s made it easy for us to DIY everything (yes, Google’s my friend too). But in this age of DIY everything in five minutes, there is a huge amount of excellent knowledge that’s lost – through abbreviation, through translation, through dumbing down – with inevitably poor results. And bad-looking websites with terrible layouts and awkward graphics make me sad.
(OK, getting off my ranty high horse now.)

Now that I’ve said that, I would also like to say that these simple fixes are super duper easy. You don’t have to be a graphic design guru to get these things right; heck, you don’t have to have any kind of design training – anyone can do them, with even the most basic of image editing programs.

 

ALIGNMENT.

Please. Make sure things are lined up. A header on the left and a thumbnail pic in the middle and a quote that’s kinda halfway across the page and random assortment of different sized pics doesn’t convey “free-spirited and creative” – it conveys “disorganised, messy, and unprofessional”. Yes. You’ve seen those websites too. And you’ve cringed a little bit, haven’t you. Actually, you’ve clicked away. Haven’t you.

Especially in graphics, if things are supposed to be centred (like your name in your website header), make sure they’re actually centred. Don’t do it by eye; use whatever snap tool or guide functionality you have in your image editing software. (And I know PicMonkey doesn’t have a guide, so I’ve made a very handy free downloadable grid overlay here.)

Make sure that when you use images in a straight line, that they’re all the same size (i.e. if they’re in a column, make sure they’re all the same width; if they’re running horizontally across the page in a row, make sure they’re the same height).

Text needs to be aligned properly too. If you’re writing a document and you want to put in sub-headings, make sure they’re all aligned with each other – whether that’s left or centred doesn’t matter so much, as long as you’re consistent through the whole document.

When you’re working with a space that is going to present only a small amount of information (such as a website header, a business card, or a social media graphic like an ad for Facebook or a pin for Pinterest, make sure it’s all aligned together.

 

alignment tip for FB

 

 

HIERARCHY.

Make the important things stand out more. When it’s text, and you’ve created variety through size, colour, italics and bold, think about what your eye is drawn to the most, and use that for your most important headings. Newspapers are experts at creating hierarchy within text – check out how they arrange their articles for headline, subheading, author byline, and article text.

 

5 best branding tips1- graphic design-fonts

 

Also: “Show me where to click.” I love Seth Godin, and this little gem from him’s been stuck in my head for quite a while now. You can use contrast to create hierarchy too – if your brand colours are mostly black and white with a pop of red, DON’T fall for the next-to-useless ‘make your BUY buttons red’ rubbish; you need to make them contrast so that they stand out, so make those buttons bright blue or green or yellow, so they pop!

 

 

NEGATIVE SPACE.

Don’t try and jam everything into the smallest amount of space possible. I won’t know where to look. Too much choice = confusion and as I said before, there’s bound to be something prettier that’s just a click away.

Let things breathe. Surround them with enough space so that it’s easy to look at, and easy to read. Your products, your images, and yes, this goes for text too.

When you’re photographing your products, make sure it’s obvious what it is that you’re selling, and don’t crowd your shot with props. When you’re placing images on your website, ensure they’ve got a bit of blank space around them so that they’re easy to focus on without distraction. And break up a big slab of text with headings, and/or important snippets – solid slabs of text are for academics, not for your sales page, or for your “About” page.

 

5 best branding tips1- graphic design-text1

A BIG slab of solid text.
Boring, right!? Did you even read past the first line?

Let’s try it again –

5 best branding tips1- graphic design-text2

 

Now doesn’t that look a whole heap better? Think about it. You scanned the second article, didn’t you? And then you got intrigued by the fabulous house, and read a bit more. Ha! The text is absolutely no different; it’s all to do with layout.

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OK, go fix up your websites!! Go on, I’ll wait 🙂

(And come back here and tell me when you’re done, ‘k? I’d LOVE to have a look!)

See you next week with the next tip.
(Update: You can find all the tips here)

 

Julie x

Rebranding tractorgirl – video #4 – it’s all in the details

We’re up to video #4 for rebranding tractorgirl – go me! I’ve been having lots of fun working stuff out – including working out how to edit video, which has been so very useful. And I still get butterflies about actually doing the video in the first place, but the ONLY way to get better is to practice, right!?

Let’s look at today’s content.

So once you’ve got your colours and fonts sorted (peeps on my special Rebrand list will already have had the reveal on where tractorgirl’s going with this ;D ) – now it’s time to add in the finishing touches (which my peeps will also already have seen!). I start this video with two of my very favouritest quotes from the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe –

“Less is more”

and

“God is in the details”

They’re NOT contradictory statements – it’s all about getting to the essentials of what you want to express.

 

As I say, your graphic design fundamentals (they are ESSENTIAL) are Alignment, Hierarchy, and Negative Space. PLEASE consider them each and every time you lay out any of your visual stuff – website, business card, brochures, social media posts, memes, … EVERYTHING. To ignore these things is doing you damage. OOOOH! It totally gets me ranty.

 

Get your audience concentrating on your message, not the mess.

 

Right! Now I’ve got that off my chest, I wanted to let you know that I’ve got one more video to go – it’ll be the wrap up of the rebrand, and I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the whole process, as well as winners of my meme comp (if you’re on my Rebrand list, all the details are in my last newsletters and you’ve only got until MIDNIGHT TONIGHT to enter), and I’ll announcing some special offers on conjunction with the rebrand!

Stay tuned.

Julie x

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(p.s. As always, if you’ve got any questions, comments, suggestions, anything {and TOTALLY include a link to your site and ask for feedback}, pop a comment below. I’d love to hear!)

Graphic Design Trends for 2016

Graphic Design Trends for 2016 – a guest post by Brian Jens.

This article is particularly useful if you’ve got some tech knowledge – it talks a bit about the stuff behind the screen and how that’s all going to happen in 2016; but even if you’re like me and a bit scant on this knowledge, it’s still got some fab pointers on what everything’s going to look like! Read on…

Graphic Design Trends 2016

graphic design trends for 2016

Web design trends come and go all the time. But unlike many other areas, web design has constantly changed under the pressure of ever-evolving technologies that constantly changes and moves forward. Therefore, new web design trends are often the result not of designers’ changes in taste, but of the emergence of new functionality in the industry.

No doubts about it, 2015 was quite interesting. The overall picture remains almost unchanged compared to 2014, except for a greater promotion of minimalism which is gained popularity in recent years. But no one can dispute the fact that the technology platforms underlying the production evolve. First of all, browsers of mobile devices: a growing “mobile” trend forces the majority of Internet users to move to mobile gadgets at least when browsing the web. These changes have resulted in the focus on the quality and usability of websites to make them adaptive for mobile.

All the above means that this year web design will be a playground open to experiments, innovations and creative approach. Up-to-date designers should use all their skills and abilities to create something new that contributes to the industry.

To be on the crest of a wave, you should be able to predict the upcoming trends. To help you a little, we decided to collect the strongest tendencies that will dominate in 2016 in our opinion. Let’s check them!

Material Design

graphic design trends for 2016That’s a sphere where there was a small revolution last year. Google has adapted all of its services under the developed “visual language” named as Google’s Material Design. Material Design is the intersection of good visual design, and usability for users.

This trend reflected in the habits of many users: Material Design is now used on Android, as well as on the popular services like YouTube, Google+, and so on. Looking at the extent of its spread, we can say it has opened the new era of design.

CSS3 as the Basis in the Markup of a Page

graphic design trends for 2016

Support for CSS3 has been developed very actively in the past few years, and finally it reached the stage when new cool layout modules could be safely used without any fear of being displayed incorrectly. CSS3 Flexbox works well in the latest versions of popular browsers.

Flexbox offers a simplified solution as compared to the layout-paradigm, which was used on the Internet for a very long period of time. Flexbox increases speed of loading pages and reduces number of vulnerabilities; when using Flexbox, layout becomes a kind of creative work.

In 2016 the layout principles won’t be changed, but the process will be significantly simplified.

Bright Typography

graphic design trends for 2016The use of typography is an important marketing tool. With the help of typography and color, you can create a strong association with your brand in customers’ minds. Every designer knows that the choice is often constrained by the technical limitations and what the means for the safety of the brand’s identity. We expect this will change soon.

The last couple of years we’ve seen a general transformation in web typography: web fonts became much more affordable, giving some “freedom” to designers. Colours remained muted, but designers have become much bolder when choosing fonts, so the typography plays a lot bigger role now. Consequently, large text became a kind of web design trend. 2016 will be marked as a year of colour experiments n typography. Actually, they’re already begun!

Cinemagraphs’ Growing Popularity

graphic design trends for 2016

Looks like there’s nothing new…cinemagraphs can be seen in the past few years in a form similar to the present one. But 2015 had brought us a few events that somehow refreshed this field both among designers and consumers. The strongest influence was made by the “Live pictures” on the latest models of Apple smartphones. When the smartphone takes a picture, it captures a short period with the movement (on the same principle as it captures video), and when you look at this picture a few seconds after you start watching, it “comes to life”, playing captured movement. Cinemagraphs represent a similar visual effect.

Another change that has contributed to a renewed interest is improving the technology that underlies the effect. HTML5 Canvas makes possible to display effects in real-time without any restrictions.

Illustrations Prevail Over Photos

graphic design trends for 2016

The era of websites with huge super-quality photos has come to the end. This may seem contradictory to the previous trend, but in fact we’re talking about a different thing. “Live pictures” look like the homemade variety; and when we’re talking about photos that headline websites, we mean the professional pictures.

What 2016 may bring is illustrations and drawings made from photos. The advantage of an illustration is that it can be stylized during its creation, giving you something that distinguishes you from competitors and increases your brand’s awareness. Some illustrations may even become a part of your style, or lie at its core.

So the essence of the trend is that photos will be replaced by illustrations, which will connect with the audience in a more personal manner and become a part of an individual style.

Patterns Instead of Pages

Modern design teams have moved to a new operating principle: to develop UI [User Interface] -components as the base for pages of the website or service. In 2016 this principle will be used by the teams all over the world.

Animation

CSS, HTML5 and jQuery already allow you to create full-fledged animation effects, similar to Flash. Until now, not all designers have learned how to use animation in the interface; however, in 2016 there will be more successful examples of how to use these animation effects.

Blur Images

graphic design trends for 2016

Facebook uses a blur effect and scaling when loading image and web pages. Thus, the user can see the image before it’s fully downloaded. According to Facebook, this speeds up page load time by 30%.

Scrolljacking

Scrolljacking is a technique whereby the content changes as you scroll your mouse.

However, according to many designers, this method is not always convenient for users, since the content changes are not synchronized with the scrolling. Because of this, the use of this interface may be uncomfortable for some. But we still expect that in 2016 there will be more and more pages with lots of effects and animations, so it will be more difficult to interact with the interface.

Eaten Hamburger

graphic design trends for 2016

In 2016, designers will abandon the use of the “hamburger” icon with hidden menus in favour of visible elements. For example, YouTube has already moved from the “hamburger” to the horizontal menu with tabs.

Heavy pages

Despite all the efforts to accelerate the pages loading speed, it’s indefatigably growing. In 2010, the average size of one page was about 700 KB, while in 2015 it was approximately 2200 KB. It seems that no one thinks about the limitations of this growth – of course, if the loading speed is acceptable.

2016 does not promise us to be a year of great upheaval. So, stay alert and continue to monitor the development of the web design industry.

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Brian Jens, a blogger and designer of DesignContest, is always on the crest of a wave. He tracks the latest marketing trends, as well as technical innovations and even crucial politics changes. Novelty is Jens’ primary passion.

Entrepreneurship 101: Storytelling through Product Packaging

Entrepreneurship 101: Storytelling through Product Packaging

Guest post by Ana Stanojevic

 

chocolate packaging

 

When shoppers enter a store where your product is displayed, they are faced with a wide range of choices. If their minds are not already firmly set on a specific product they want to buy, your product has only one way to differentiate itself among the competition: through its packaging.

Graphics, color and textual (product) information on a packaging label, along with prior knowledge or popularity of the brand, are the main things that influence a buyer’s decision. While the strategy of building product popularity involves many different factors and a lot of time, branding a product using a product label is very concrete and can be summed up in six words: Let your label tell a story. The best way to attract a customer is through visual storytelling. In that sense, a packaging label assumes the role of your product’s salesperson.

 

4 Important Questions to Answer to Earn Your Customers’ Trust

So, how do you make these three key packaging label elements attractive enough so people would want to buy your product? The first thing to do is consider the following questions:

  1. What are the things that distinguish your product from the competition? (Exceptionally fast shipping services? Very rare ingredients? Low product cost?)
  2. What feelings do you want to evoke with your product? (Excitement? Desire? Calm? Safety? Pride?)
  3. What are some words/traits you want your product to be associated with? (Strength? Trust? Reliability? Quality? Elegance? Elite?)
  4. What promise are you making to the customer?

Yes, all of that can be communicated via graphics, colors and short text that fits on a label. If it’s a beverage or food packaging label you are creating, you want it to communicate the product’s unique taste and smell. If it’s a toy label, it should probably emphasize the product’s entertainment value. Clearly, writing out “delicious” or “fun” is not enough, because why would a buyer believe you? You want all these factors to combine together to create the right effect that will earn your customer’s trust.

 

The Message behind Color Combinations

There are extensive studies on color symbolism and how different color combinations affect our judgment. In order to match up appropriate colors with the story you are telling your customers, it is necessary to do some serious research. Simple Internet search will quickly provide you with some basic information about color psychology:

  • Blue is considered to have calming, soothing effects on the viewers and is usually associated with trustworthiness and reliability.
  • We think of green as the color of nature and harmony, because it is everywhere around the majority of us. It is peaceful, “environmental” and is perceived as the perfect color to soothe anxiety and depression.
  • Red and orange energize us and radiate warmth. These are the colors that call to action.
  • Purple sparks imagination and has traits of both red and blue, so it can both uplift our mood and soothe our mind.
  • Brown. This earthy color is used for conveying that something is natural or organic, and it is associated with home, order and stability.
  • In Western cultures, white symbolizes purity and encourages us to de-clutter our physical and mental space.
  • Black invokes a range of emotions. It can be associated with power, emptiness, mystery, potential, etc.

These color meanings and associations are very general and are valid only for the standard shades. For example, while blue is associated with calm and rest, there are shades of blue, such as electric blue or turquoise, which have quite the opposite effect on people. That is why it is very important to do an extensive research on colors and choose those combinations that will properly represent your product.

Also note that colors are not chosen independently of text, logo and the rest of the label design.

 

How to Tailor Your Label Design

Depending on your product and the message you are trying to convey to customers, your design can be simple or elaborate, modern or retro, blatant or subtle. It can consist only of a simple logo, or of rich, beautifully illustrated images. Your professional designer should choose the right elements to come up with appropriate visual match for the story behind your brand.

If you want to save on design and professional photographs, you can look for appropriate stock images from popular websites such as Pixabay, Photopin, iStockphoto, etc. Designers can find lots of inspiration on Pinterest, Behance, Deviantart, and many other websites featuring inspirational label design.

 

Choose Your Words Wisely

This is easier said than done. It takes a lot of research, creative thinking and engagement with (potential) buyers to come up with the right words to deliver your message to the customer. You want it to be clear, but not too conspicuous. Not too long, but to include all relevant information. You don’t want to use overly exploited phrases.

In some cases this advice doesn’t apply. For example, for food labels you’ll mostly be governed by strict food labeling regulations and your storytelling will rely primarily on color and design. In some other cases your label will consist of only one word, so it’s very important to get that one word right.

Once you are happy with the text, you should also consider its font, style and size, because you’ll get potential buyers to actually read the text only if they like the visual side of your copy.

 

Embed the Label with Your Product Brand Spirit

Of course, there are more things to consider when creating a product label: its shape, size, material, how it is printed, whether it is professionally applied to the product packaging, etc. You may create the perfect text copy, logo and design, but if you fail to partner up with professional printers, you may end up with labels that will start peeling off the product as soon as your customers leave the store. As much as your exceptional label design is admired, the final product will not reflect professionalism.

In conclusion, think about how you can make the best of that palpable part of your branding strategy – the product label. Invest resources in embedding it with your product’s brand spirit and an appealing message to your customers, and watch how your customers connect with the storyline you so carefully built.