Grassroots help for graphic design

We've all seen graphic design tragedy unfold. With the best of intentions you, your friend, coworker, boss or distant relative sets out to design something magical. The end result, although sometimes comical, can end up visually unappealing, pathetic, and sad. Babies cry, dogs run the other way, and every legitimate designer throws up a little in their mouth (maybe it’s not quite this bad). 

The fact of the matter is that all of us are designers. Maybe not legitimate or good but in one way or another you're still a designer.  From an early age humans are taught to use words, shapes and images to communicate with others, and this is design. We craft lists, organize our desks, clean our rooms. All of this in some form is design. What makes one person a better designer than the next is their ability to effectively organize and arrange these words, shapes & images into something that is visually appealing. Here are a few important tips to master the basics of graphic design:

Who are your designing for?

As a designer you have to remember you are not designing for yourself but for your audience. This audience will always vary. It can be family & friends, co-workers or a specific demographic, race or region. Knowing your audience before you start will help you create a more effective and appealing design.

Stay in the lines...most of the time

A lot of new designers will start out placing text and images all over the page. This creates an unorganized design. A big drawback to this is that the viewers’ eye doesn’t know where to look. Using a grid system is one of the best ways to avoid this problem. A grid system is a way of organizing content on a page, using a combination of margins, guides, rows or columns. Although the grid is invisible on the final product, following it along the way helps create a clean design. It will also allow you to draw the reader's’ eye to the focal point of the piece. Remember, the grid is just a suggested guide. It’s ok to break out every once in a while.

Choose one font or two

Text is one of the most important elements in any graphic design. Choose fonts that are clear and easy to read. Make sure the font is placed over a contrasting background. Lastly don’t use too many different font styles within each design. I like to use two different fonts max…three if I’m feeling a little crazy.

Use color to boost your impact

By learning basic color theory you will be able to understand color schemes and how to set moods with color. Colors can attract attention, make a bold statement or effect a viewer’s mood. If you can learn how to use colors properly you will have the ability to visually impact your design.

Keep it simple

This might be the most important tip of all. Many times we over think the design process and add way too much. A simple design will look more elegant and keep your audience engaged. A good trick is to use one large image that will captivate your audience instead of using multiple small images. Keep all of these aspects of the design in mind, but in the end -- don't overthink it!

Interested in learning more about design? One of my favorite online references is Digital Tutors. Tweet us your best design tip @ThinPigMedia.