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6 Essential Design Tips for Non-Designers

design-for-non-designers

As a marketing designer at AddThis, I work with designers as well as with non-designers. Sometimes with the overload of requests, I can’t get to everything, which means my non-design co-workers have to create their own images or landing pages. Because I know others out there may be in similar positions, I put together a list of best practices for all the non-designers who may need to design something on their own every now and then.

Here are 6 things you should keep in mind while working on your next design project:

Typography Fundamentals

Typography plays a big role in creating visual hierarchy and contrast. One quick tip is to use multiples sizes. Pick your lowest font size first and go from there. If your smallest is 12px, which is the body copy, then use 24px for the heading and 48px or 72px for the title. This is the sort of methodology I recommend. Here’s an example of how I implemented this in a recent design:

design-example

In this promo design, my smallest font size is 12px. I then go up to 96px to create visual hierarchy and contrast. Also, try not to use more than two typefaces. Stick with one if you aren’t sure what to pair it with. Here’s a great website that helps you pair fonts that look good together.

You should also minimize your use of font weights to two or less. For example, use bold for headlines and light or regular for copy. The more font weights you use, the more chaotic it gets for the reader to interpret.

White Space

We’ve all heard of it, but are we really using it appropriately? Giving elements breathing room makes a world of difference. Refer to the above example for using enough white space. Spacing in between the lines is also very important. Not too much, but not too tight either.

Keep It Simple

I’m sure you’ve heard this from many people, but just to reinforce – simplicity never fails. When in doubt – subtract. That’s the best design advice I’ve ever gotten. Make it easy on your audience. Don’t let it get too cluttered.

Color Theory

Picking colors is not an easy task. But, there are tools out there that’ll help you create shades of a color or find complementary colors. Adobe Kuler is a great tool to help you with this process, as is Palettab. Try to pick 1-2 colors.

Photography

These days every website has a style of photography they use. To match that on social or other marketing collateral, you need to pick the right photos. However, picking the right high resolution photos can be time consuming. For good free photography resources, refer to my other post and you’ll be golden.

Consistency

It’s important to keep your design elements consistent. For example, if you’re using one style of button on one part of the page, make sure you use the same style on the rest of the page or document. If you’re using photography in the header of the page, make sure you keep it consistent with the rest of the art assets.

Also, here’s a graphic design website that has templates you can use for a lot of elements like presentations, posters, social images, and more. It’ll save you a lot of time if you need something really quickly. It’s called Canva. If you’re Mac user – I recommend using Keynote instead of Microsoft PowerPoint to make presentations. They have much cleaner templates.

Keep the principles above in mind and you’ll be on your way to becoming a better designer in no time. Let us know your what you think! What else can we add to the mix?

  • omar

    I really thanks a lot

  • david

    Thanks for sharing! I often wonder how to make my posts more polished and professional, so this is really helpful.

    I do have two questions that may, or may not, effect design quality.

    Is there a suggestion for the number of links to include in a post?

    Also, you don’t mention numbered or bullet-point types of posts. Are these anathema for you as a designer?

  • Jula

    Like your simple approach to subject. Easy to understand for beginners.
    I wonder what kind of font and size are you using in this letter?
    I’m sure there is is way to figure this out without asking but I do not know it.
    Thanks for answer.
    JulaWeg

  • abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

    Your layout is too wide. It should be only two alphabets wide or readership falls off.

  • Hi Jula, I’m glad you found our blog post helpful! To answer your question, the font sizes we use for our blog posts are 64px for the title and 22px for the body copy.

  • Jann Mirchandani

    Right mouse click and select “Inspect Element”; it will show you the CSS for any element on a webpage. (One of my fav tricks!!)

  • Thanks for pointing that out, Jann. Inspect Element is super useful (even if you’re not a developer)!

  • Jann Mirchandani

    I love to share the geek-telligence!

  • nice

  • Slávek Kvasnička

    Mám vše aktivní a nic free mi nefunguje.Všude to po mě chce kódy,které já coby free uživatel mít nemusím.Vy nabízíte free služby,kde po té zákeřně po nás svých uživatelích najednou pod podvrhem kódů bez kterých nás Váš systém dál nepustí chcete peníze.Je to podvod.

  • Thank you so much for another great post. I read you site at a regular basis, and I find a lot of helpful ideas and advice to implement to my blog, I have two questions, that I would be glad to hear your views upon (this might be interesting for other bloggers, too):
    1. – Should I start a blog post with text or a picture?

    2. – Do you think it looks/works best with all text placed on the left hand side, or is it ok to center it, also. (as for today I center the text, however I’m about to transfer my blog from Blogger to WordPress, and this issue is one of a few changes i consider to make in my new design).

    I’m looking forward to hear your opinion.
    Wishing you a wonderful day!
    Best regards from
    Anette Willemine
    (Norway)

  • nice !

  • Appy Vohra

    Thanks for reading our blog, Anette. We appreciate your support.

    1. A blog post ideally should start with the headline and then an image followed by the body text. This way through the headline you give the readers an idea of what this blog post is going to talk about and then a nice juicy image goes along with the title.
    2. Personally I like text left aligned because readers have a tendency to start from left to right. For blogs I would say left aligned is ideal since it’s easier to read.

    Let us know if you have any other questions.

  • Hi David, thanks for your questions! In terms of a suggested number of links to include a post, opinions differ. Some people say one link for every 125 words while others say it depends on the context of the post and that they wouldn’t include more than 4 or 5 total. I would keep in mind that you don’t want to overwhelm the reader with too many options and be sure that when you do include a link, it’s relevant and provides actual additional value.

    As far as numbered or bullet-point types of posts, from a design standpoint they can be a challenge to style, but they do make for great readability and are highly popular.

  • david

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! Really appreciate your post about design and how links works into the design flow.

  • Sure thing, David! Have a great weekend :)

  • Gwen Fisher

    You can also install ‘what font’ to your browser extensions

  • Nelson Manzano

    Nice article, make my days a lot easier and productive, thanks

  • Appy Vohra

    You’re very welcome, Nelson.

  • drewvan

    Here’s a design tip for you, AddThis: Do not use 700k+ images on your web pages. Sheesh.

  • This is really a worth reading for the graphic designers even for the beginners. Thanks for the effort you have put to make this valuable stuff which is beneficial for your readers..

  • dharmpal pancal

    ok

  • ofelia rose

    Helpful piece ! I was enlightened by the specifics , Does someone know if my company could grab a blank IRS 706 example to type on ?

  • NormanSisneros

    Greetings ofelia rose, my business partner worked with a sample DD 2208 version at this place http://goo.gl/9EFyTp

  • This is really helpful. Another good design app for non-designers is Snappa. That’s as easy to use as Canva and good value too.

  • Lisa Suggs

    I have one you could add! I think it is important for designers and non-designers to reference designs online and in print. Good and bad design, so they can see what works, what doesn’t work, and what’s trending.

  • Yes! Great point, Lisa. Thanks for reading :)

  • Nice Article.. thanks for sharing keep posting

  • For the beginners content is very useful. The logo should be clean, simple and contemporary. Don not use multi color gradients, or more than 3 colors in a logo even two.
    Regards
    @logo_guts:disqus

  • Daisy Lepon

    Thank you AddThis support team members for your time and effort in directing us on how to use the 6 Essential Designers’ Tips and for Non-Designer like me, it is very helpful skills and knowledge acquired for my business success.

  • Really good to see the great essential tips for designers as well as non-designers. useful information … Thanks a lot