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

5 best branding tips- graphic design essentials

 

YESSSSS a brand new series for you – and a short one so that you can get back to doing what you do best! Five posts on the five things I think are absolutely essential for branding your business, 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. 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 (soooo 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 too 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 in translation, 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 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.

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 this 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

Bonus! Free downloadable PicMonkey alignment grid

PicMonkey Alignment Grid
free downloadable

free downloadable picmonkey grid

 

 

You know how in yesterday’s post I was bemoaning the fact that it’s stupidly hard to align and centre objects in PicMonkey because they don’t offer any tools to do so, or any kind of grid? Well, I’ve fixed that! I’ve put together a really simple tool – a grid as a transparent overlay, marked in convenient halves, thirds and quarters. I’m providing this as a FREE DOWNLOADABLE, so use it for yourself with your next project, and/or you are most welcome to share, share away!

 

How to use it.

1. Download your transparent grid HERE, and save it to your computer in an appropriate folder.
Make sure it’s saved as a .png file, so it retains its transparency (saving it as a .jpg will automatically give it a solid white background).

2. Open your background image in Picmonkey.

3. Click on Overlays, and Your Own. Choose the grid (it’s called “picmonkey alignment grid”), and click on Open.

4. Resize to cover your whole image by dragging the corners to the edge of your background image. My grid is square, but if you hold the shift key down while you drag the corners, you can change the proportions so that it will cover rectangles too.

5. If your background image is dark, the grid might not show up very well – no probs, just play with the Colour settings and Blend Mode in the Overlay pop-up box until it’s got the best contrast against your image.

 

picmonkey tute - alignment grid1

Overlay colour set at black shows the true colours of the grid. Some lines on the grid are difficult to see.

 

 

picmonkey tute - alignment grid2

Overlay colour set at white shows the grid much more clearly.

 

6. Add your other elements, and align them with the grid by dragging them around when you see the four-headed arrow, which should appear when you hover over the highlighted object box.

 

picmonkey tute - alignment grid3

 

7. Delete the grid. You should be able to select it by clicking on the solid circle in the bottom right of the grid.
And there you go! Perfectly aligned text.

(p.s…. You can also download my beach pic as a free stock photo, here.)

 

picmonkey tute - alignment grid4

 

How easy peasy was that!? I’m actually a bit gobsmacked that nobody’s thought of making something like this before. But I’ve searched and searched… aaah well. Now it exists! Hooray!

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Now. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say if you’d like better alignment tools in PicMonkey, then just don’t. Get yourself onto Canva instead. PicMonkey is set up for photo editing (especially photos of people – and it’s fab for this) but not graphics; it’s unlikely they’ll be adding any alignment tools anytime soon. Canva, on the other hand, is specifically set up for graphics; it has a fabulous ‘snap’ functionality which allows you to have text and images that line up perfectly, every time. It also allows you to put in your own guidelines, display grids, and you can display the pixel position of any element. And it’s free. Yes, there are some things it can’t do (the paid version has more functionality of course), but there are workarounds to just about every shortcoming.

I’ve been teaching people how to use Canva over the past year or so (and no, I’m not affiliated with Canva in any way; I just want people to make better graphics). If you’re interested, my free 5-day challenge to ‘Conquer Canva’ is starting again soon. It’s aimed at teaching you the tech, as well as the design skills you need to create great graphics, so you don’t have to waste time learning everything by trial and error, AND you learn how to create beautiful images your audience responds to and loves. You can find out more about it here – bit.ly/ConquerCanva4.

See you there?

Julie XX