Easy design tips for #DriveForChange

Design is powerful, not only is it beautiful, it lets you tell a story and share a message. With design you can change behaviors, make an impact, and create something that comes straight from your own imagination.

Written BY

Sarah Obenauer

Sarah is the Co-founder of Purpose Craft. She runs Make a Mark, 12-hour design and development marathons benefitting local humanitarian causes. She also publishes Limitless, built to create a community of women surviving and thriving with Rheumatoid Arthritis. She has been working with nonprofits and purpose-driven organizations and businesses for nearly a decade.

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October 29, 2020

Design is powerful, not only is it beautiful, it lets you tell a story and share a message. With design you can change behaviors, make an impact, and create something that comes straight from your own imagination.

I hope that these simple design tips will take away some of the guesswork from graphic design and let your creativity fly free.

1. Create a mood board

Mood boards are compilations of ideas when you start a design project. These are meant to give you inspiration. Mood boards can be digital or physical and contain anything from fonts that you like and colors that speak to you; from textured materials to packaging that inspires you. They help you determine which design aspects you like to help create a unique visual identity that doesn’t simply copy what already exists.

You can use a tool like Canva or even something as simple as PowerPoint to collect your ideas digitally, or a big sheet of poster board for a physical version.

2. Pick a color scheme

Developing a color scheme (or color palette) reflects the personality of your design. There are plenty of guides that tell you which colors evoke which emotions. For example, yellow spurs optimism, blue builds trust, and purple impacts creativity. While you can use this as a guide, it is more important to find a color palette that best represents your design and message as a whole.

You can use a tool like ColorSpace, Coolors, or Color Hunt online to choose a color scheme. You can even take a trip to a home improvement store for paint samples as inspiration. As a word of warning, more colors don’t necessarily mean more exciting!

3. Avoid using pure black

Black offers too much of a contrast and is harsh on your eyes. It simply does not feel natural. And why is this? Well, because pure black is not naturally occurring. Don’t believe it? Read more here. Try using shades of grey to accomplish what you would with black. HEX #494949 (seen above) is one of our favorites.

4. Select a typeface (font) that matches your vibe

Fonts can be very powerful — they can set a tone and tell a story. Choosing a font that is suited for the occasion is critical and can be a lot of fun. Your typography evokes emotion just like your color palette. The best way to start is by identifying the attitude you want to convey. Typography is a tool in your toolkit to help you tell your story and create an emotional response.

Google Fonts is an easy resource for free fonts. They are simple to download and use, and are supported online almost universally so your font will always look the same, regardless of whether someone has downloaded the font or not.

5. Don’t overdo it with your fonts

We’re still talking about fonts? Yes, but I’ll keep this one brief. Don’t choose too many fonts for your design. This can be harsh on your eyes. Select one or two fonts, and consider looking at the whole font family (bold, light, medium, etc.) if you want to play around with your options.

6. Don’t fear white space

White space doesn’t necessarily mean space that is white, it means space that is empty, and not all empty space is bad. Take advantage of extra room to move around text and images. Not only does this make your design more visually appealing, it makes it easy to scan, read, and understand.

7. Not everything needs to be centered

Not all text and images need to be centered in your design. By mixing up the alignment, you add an element of uniqueness. However, your alignment needs to feel intentional. For example, aligning your text with a photo makes a design feel complete and intentional. It also creates order and makes it easier for your audience to understand.

8. Use grouping to send a message

The principles of grouping prove that “humans naturally perceive objects as organized patterns and objects.”

This applies to design specifically in the case of proximity or nearness. The principle of proximity states that “objects or shapes that are close to one another appear to form groups,” but this also applies to text. By grouping you decrease clutter and make a more pleasing design.

9. Use hierarchy to guide your eyes

Hierarchy is something you already know. If you open up almost any word processor, like Microsoft Word, there will be settings for headers, subheaders, body text, and more. By varying how you present your text, you are guiding the eye and drawing attention to certain components of your design.

10. Use contrast to your advantage

Contrast is exactly what it sounds like, elements of a design that are in contrast with one another. This is interesting because it allows you to draw attention to certain elements of your design, or remove attention from elements. It also helps with visibility as you are scanning a design.

11. Adjust your levels

Making changes to your brightness and saturation on an image can make the text more clear and easier to read. Brightness refers to how light, or well, how bright something is. Saturation refers to how dull or how vibrant a color is.

You can do this in most design tools, but Canva makes it very easy by having an “Adjust” tab with sliders that you can play with until you get the look and feel that you like.

12. Play with spacing in letters and between lines

Fonts come with default spacing between letters that might not always look ideal or fit your vibe. Luckily, Canva also has easy ways to adjust spacing. You can use sliders to change the spacing between the letters and even between lines of text if you have multiple lines. Still not happy with the look? Let’s talk kerning.

13. Make your message clear

Make sure that your designs and the words that you use are actionable and clear, and channel your own creativity and individuality. Communicating in a simple, visual way won’t just make you memorable, it’ll help people more clearly understand what you want them to do. You don’t want to leave your audience guessing.

14. Be creative and unique

Let’s talk numbers. The average person sees up to 5,000 branded communications a day! 5,000! A day! How are you supposed to stand out from the crowd with those numbers? Clean, unique design is key to making your message stick. Design trends come and go, but your ideas are all yours and will build up your design style, or aesthetic. Let your personality shine!

15. Make use of easy-to-use tools

Not sure where to start? Try using tools like Adobe Spark, Canva, and Picktochart  to easily create attractive graphics. Find icons for your designs at The Noun Project, Flaticon, or Iconfinder.

Still have questions? Feel free to reach out at hello@sarahobenauer.com. I’m happy to help!

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