Thursday, May 19, 2011

While I believe strongly in "do-it-yourself", I draw the line at some things (I'd never do work on my own teeth for example!) One of the most important things in business is how you market yourself and what kind of "face" you present to the world. There are a lot of people out there doing their own graphics and marketing, and I think that's great, but sometimes customizing a template you bought online is not the best idea, particularly if you have no design experience or eye for colour and layout. I thought I'd share a little bit about what to avoid if you're designing your own materials.

The most important thing to remember is: what is this document going to be used for, and who is your target market? A poster advertising a concert will look and feel entirely unlike a product fact sheet or brochure.

One of the most common errors is the use of too many different type fonts in a document. In my opinion, a “clean” document contains 2 primary fonts; a font used for headlines and a second, contrasting font used for body copy. This makes it easy for the reader to subconciously separate the two so they can skim the headlines quickly and read further if interested. A third font may be used in one or two places as a “counterpoint”, as in a masthead or banner, or to draw attention to a certain section in the document.

Type should never touch the edges of boxes, or run right to the edge of a page. The exception to this rule is a piece where type is used as a design element rather than body copy, and selected type is placed so that it overlays the boundaries of a line or box or runs off the side of the page. As well, any fonts (a family of typefaces, like Times Roman, Times Bold, Times Italic, etc.) chosen for the document should be readable; some fonts are specifically designed for headlines or decoration and are not meant to be used for body copy. As in everything, moderation is the key.

Colour is useful unless it’s overdone. The overall effect should be harmony, not noise (unless that’s the effect you’re going for!) Personally, I find it hard to concentrate if various elements in a document are “shouting” at me for attention. Colour serves to separate areas, to highlight places in the document where attention needs to go, or to “liven up” and add interest to mundane documents. Be extra careful with background colours; the readability of the document will suffer if the type does not contrast dramatically with the background colour chosen.

Graphics in the form of illustrations or pictures add life and meaning to a document unless they are overdone. Unnecessary graphic elements lead to confusion and incomprehension, and the readability of the document suffers as a result. The effect of too many graphics is similar to a website with an animation running in the background; it’s distracting, taking attention away from the subject.

Last but not least, ensure that your documents are SpellChecked, or proofread! There's a time and place for shortcuts (text messaging), but business documents, forms, websites should be error free. If I find a lot of errors in a document I tend to concentrate more on the errors than on the subject of the document that I’m reading. People are inundated with so many messages these days; if you actually manage to capture someone’s attention, try to ensure that there are no distractions while they absorb your message!

I hope this was of some use to you! Let me know if you have any questions.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Welcome to The Beacon! On a regular basis I will be posting short articles on a variety of marketing and design-related subjects. It is my hope that you will find the posts interesting and useful, and I always welcome your comments, suggestions and questions.

If you have an interesting story related to your marketing efforts, or you want to share a success story, you're also welcome to do that.