5 Hacks To Stepping Up Your Design Game

This is a blog post for all those small business owners who have opted to do their own graphic design, which is a great way to use up all of your spare* time, and ultimately save some bucks.

If you’re already an established designer, this is not the article for you (I’m going to mention the words Comic Sans and Papyrus).

Now for those of you who are still with me, welcome aboard! I’ve got a few simple tips for stepping up your design game.

Font Choice

If you are looking for a new font to use – try starting with Google fonts. They are web friendly and there are tons of cool options. I know that lots folks experimented with fonts such as Comic Sans or Papyrus back in high school, and that was great for that time period. As was experimenting with other things. However, now that we’re all grown up and trying to make better choices – I’d advise against those two fonts because they tend to scream: “I have Microsoft Word and I’m going to design our Company Poster on it!” Cool, thumbs up to you if you have that kind of gumption.

Another one to be careful with is Lobster of any variety – If you have a fixie bicycle, a retro camera, and/or a meticulously styled mustache and wear a newsboy cap – then yes, it’s acceptable. If not, maybe just skip that one. (As a side note, I’d like to mention that I have indeed used Lobster font for one project in the last few years, but I prepared for a week for it by dressing like a hipster and making multiple trips to the thrift store. Alas, I was unable to find the right hat for the look, but the clothing was on point.) FontSquirrel, Dafont, and 1001fonts are also good resources to use.

Negative Space

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that people tend to underestimate the power of negative space. The natural tendency is to fill up every inch of space on the surface you’re designing for. While it seems like the most logical way to design, aesthetically the eye wants somewhere to rest, that isn’t filled with type or graphic elements. It also helps to establish hierarchy, which I will get into in a bit. This principal can be applied to headlines, subheads, body copy – really everything in your layout. Sure, sometimes you want big bold letters spelling out your headline and filling every inch of the top half of your poster – maybe even out and off the edges. However, that’s not always the best route.

Here are two very basic example posters thrown together to illustrate my point. The first one has plenty of breathing room around both the title, and the body copy below the image. The second is overly crowded with large type filling every bit of blank space on the poster, making it seem overwhelming and daunting to read.

Poster With Negative Space
Poster Without Negative Space

Less is More

This is more of a suggestion to be played with depending on the dictating circumstances. Sometimes you will have no choice but to jam an absurd amount of copy/content onto a space that is too small for it. (If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about here, a good example is Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar or Bragg’s Coconut Aminos – boy did they manage to fit an unthinkable amount of info on that packaging!).

If you have the flexibility to do so, oftentimes the “less is more” approach can carry more impact than a piece overflowing with content. Similar to the negative space suggestion mentioned above, having less content allows the message to stand out more, and not feel cluttered or overrun by other messages and content. Apple has always done a great job with this concept showcasing clean, simple and stylish designs with easy-to-grasp messages.

Establish A Hierarchy (!)

Maybe one of the most important things to take away from this article if you take nothing else: Not Everything Can Carry the Same Weight/Importance. Period. The human brain can focus on one thing extremely well – if you have 6 messages all competing for attention and all shouting out at your consumer to pay attention to them, then chances are they will be overwhelmed and flee the scene of the crime without gathering any evidence. So choose ONE headline message, ONE sub-headline message, and potentially a secondary “call-out” that can be placed away from the main headlines to call attention to one last thing.

In Conclusion

Look through font websites to see the latest and greatest font options available, utilize negative space, edit your content – paring out unnecessary information, and choose one main message/point to get across making it the most prominent info on your piece. If you have any questions or would like to discuss these points more, feel free to drop us a line. We love open-table  discussions.


*Do small business owners ever have ANY “spare” time??

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