For those who have little-to-no graphic design skills.
You’re in good hands because I am a pro… Not really but they tell me I’m pretty good.
There has probably been a time where you had wished you knew how to whip up a quick graphic for your marketing campaign. Whether it’s an advertisement, a graphic to complement a tweet or Facebook post, a more engaging featured image for your blog post, or maybe you just need something quick and simple and you don’t feel like hiring a graphic designer.
Buzzsumo found that Facebook posts with images have 2.3X more engagement, and Tweets that included images receive 150% more retweets than without images. Furthermore, Studies by Neilson Norman Group show that Internet readers spend more time looking at information-carrying images than they do reading the text on the page.
So here are some tips on how to create a minimalist design that will look like it was designed by a pro:
Find the right tools and resources
There are many great tools and resources available to everyone whether you’re a pro or an amateur. Software like The Adobe Creative Suite and CorelDRAW Graphics Suite contain some incredibly powerful tools but come at a premium. Adobe Creative Cloud is $599.88USD per year and CorelDRAW will cost you a one-time fee of $494.23USD. While these are reserved for more experienced users, I encourage you to download the free trials, get your feet wet and play around with them to see all that they have to offer. That’s how I started. Don’t be afraid, YouTube is your friend. Watching tutorials online and taking some online classes will help you better understand how the software works and what’s in store. But for now, we will stick to something a little more simple that will still get the job done.
Canva is a free graphic design website used by amateurs and even professionals. It uses a drag and drop interface to increase ease and usability, as well as mobile compatibility. It features many pre-made graphic templates such as social media posts, ads, events, as well as email banners which you can change up to match your branding or design preference, or you can choose to leave them how they are and simply change out the text. Canva also has guides on how to use the software and tutorials on the use of color, images, and fonts. You can take it a step further and purchase one of their premium plans at $119.40USD/year to get even more features, elements, and assets.
Pablo by Buffer offers a simple way to create engaging social media images with just image and text. These graphics can be created in seconds and shared directly to social media all from one website, or scheduled for later. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Vectr offers free software for creating vector-based graphics, such as logos, that can be downloaded or used online in order to make graphic design accessible to everyone. With simplified control panels, Vectr makes designing graphics from scratch simple, without a confusing jumble of tools you’ll likely never use. The website has many tutorials and resources available to help you understand how to use and make the most of the software. One of my favorite features is that projects can easily be shared with others via a custom link generated by the software.
Having images in your graphics helps provide some context and visual interest for the reader. According to Jeff Bullas, posts with images get 94% more total views than posts without images. That’s a big return on such a small investment. Throw some text on that photo with a tool like Canva and how could anyone resist your post? It’s like a click magnet for readers. If you are unable to take your own high-quality photos, there are many great websites that offer stock photos but choose wisely, some stock photos can be very posed and downright awful. I’m sure you’ve seen them; they’re hard to miss. But fear not! I would never steer you wrong. Behold my list of favorite not-so-cheesy stock photo websites.
1. Pexels – This is my go-to stock photo website and they have never let me down. The best part of Pexels is that all of their content is completely free for personal and commercial use. They have over 25,000 free photos with at least 3,000 new ones added every month. For all of the great work they do, they do accept submissions of your own photos as well as donations, so I do encourage you to contribute or drop a donation every few photos. We all like to get paid for the hard work we do :)
2. Death To The Stock Photo – They have stunning images that are not your typical stock photos; hence the name. You can sign up for free and receive 10 free photos per month or pay for a premium subscription for $180USD/year to have unlimited access to their library of carefully curated, high-quality image galleries and videos.
3. Shutterstock – Shutterstock is more of a premium option for a larger operation with multiple team members. Their basic package is about $229USD for 25 images. They maintain around 90 million royalty free images.
With all stock images, or images you did not take or create yourself, be sure to take a look at the licensing agreement to avoid any legal issues. Most stock photo companies will let you use images for personal and commercial use as long as you don’t claim them as your own, sell them, or use them for anything inappropriate such as hate speech or violence. These licenses are to help you, not to trick you. Furthermore, using tools like Tineye or Google image search, you can reverse search images and graphics to see who else may be using them.
Less is more
There once was a time when marketing space was precious and often came at a premium. As a result, marketers would try and cram as much information as they possibly could into marketing materials before passing it onto the customer. How things have changed. In a world where there is so much content, keeping your graphics simple brings the most important content to the forefront and reduces distractions for the user.
- Limit fonts – Too many fonts in a graphic can be very distracting and can hurt the piece. Stick to two fonts that complement each other using one for headers and one for the body. TypeGenuis can help you pair up some fonts that will look great together. Plus, it’s super easy to use.
- Use Simple Backgrounds – When choosing backgrounds keep them subtle by using simple pictures, a simple colour or consider adding a colour overlay or blur to images that are distracting. Noisy or distracting backgrounds will ultimately take away from your design and distract the reader.
- Negative Space – Negative space refers to any spaces that remain unused, such as the space between columns, images, and text. Let elements breathe and try to keep negative space around elements even and proportional.
Everybody needs a little inspiration to get their juices flowing every now and then, even the most creative people. There are many ways to get in the mood but everybody has their own methods, here are a few of mine.
See what everyone else is doing – We call them trends for a reason; because everyone likes them. By following and taking some inspiration from the current trends you will get a good idea of what’s popular and what people want to consume. However, on the flip side, you could even do the opposite of everyone else by creating something unique and stand out among the crowds.
Pinterest – Users can create boards with pins, which you can then use to get a little inspiration when needed.
Behance – A hub for creative individuals to share and showcase their creative works as well as discover some new ideas.
Dribble – A social network for creative minds and a platform for users to share their ideas and design work.
Google Images – Sometimes a simple Google image search will provide some great inspiration.
Ask a friend – Show your work to a couple of people who haven’t seen it yet to get some feedback. This will help give you some direction on how to change things up.
Take a walk – Creative block happens to even the most seasoned professionals. Sometimes you just need to get away from your screen for a while to refresh your mind and stimulate your creativity. Take a walk to clear your mind and come back with come fresh eyes and a new perspective.
Get someone else to do it.
If you are unable to create your own graphics or simply don’t have the time, there are many great outsourcing options. Websites like Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer have freelance graphic designers at your disposal to create graphics for you at a very reasonable price.
Visual content is an important part of marketing your online content. You won’t become a professional graphic designer overnight like I did, but with a little inspiration and the right tools, you can create great pieces to complement your content and help you achieve your marketing goals.