One of the key components of creating a strong brand is consistency.
Ultimately people like to feel safe, they like to know you’re going to show up in the same way as they’ve come to expect you to show up.
Inconsistent, bland, messy marketing collateral can turn people off your brand without them even knowing why. Sometimes they may not even know what it is that makes them feel a bit ‘off’ about you, it’ll just be a feeling they get, and that’s because the basics of good design are hidden in a few principles that can be invisible to those who don’t know what they’re looking for.
When it comes to any sort of design, there are five design principles you can follow to make sure you create a cohesive, memorable, and appealing design that will give your brand the consistency it needs to connect with the people you want to connect with.
Alignment makes every element in a design piece feel like it’s connected, so if you’re working on your logo and you want to include your business name, perhaps a symbol and a positioning statement, the principle of alignment will help them all fit together so they look like one neat little cohesive bundle rather than looking like you spewed up the alphabet all higgledy piggledy onto a page.
Every element of your logo should have a visual connection to the other… it’s very subtle but one of the most important strategies in making sure that your eyeballs, and your customer’s eye balls can easily recognise order.
There are a few ways you can use alignment in your design, but an easy place to start with a solid alignment strategy is in your margins: before you start designing, make sure your page has margins and columns for you to work in (these won’t be seen in the final design, but give you the right space to work in). In graphic design this is also called a grid, you split your working area up into columns and rows that allows text and images to appear in consistent spacing throughout the design.
This is so very important, and one of the simplest ways to make sure your design is consistent and beautiful. In design, if you do something once, you need to do it at least twice. Repetition gives a feeling of consistency, order and familiarity.
It helps people understand that everything is tied together.
It helps them get to know you and trust you without them even knowing they are.
So if you use one font for a heading, use it for all headings, use the same font for body text, and a handful of the same sized images. Sure, you can mix things up to keep it interesting, but don’t pick a different font for every heading… stick with a handful of creative concepts (five at most) and use them throughout the piece you’re creating
Hierarchy is your design road map. It creates visual organisation through font, colour, size, contrast, positioning and spacing to tell your customer where to start and finish reading and in what order to read it. It actually makes buying from you easier!
For example, if you’re creating an ad, the headline should stand out the most, sub headings next, body copy next, then your contact details or call to action should also be prominent. It also helps you group information into easily digestible chunks. If you design your ad with a heading hidden behind an obscure image and then follow with 500 words of tiny text, your reader will be turned off before they even start. Break things up in easily digestible chunks.
Possibly the trickiest of all the design principles, balance can be the deciding factor in what makes or breaks a good design even if you have all the other principles nailed. Balance is all about symmetry:
A symmetric design where everything balances on a centre point of the page or design element can appear classic, harmonious, luxurious and stylish (but it can also feel ‘done’ or boring if used with the wrong brand). It can add stability to a fun quirky brand or timelessness and prestige to a luxury item.
Asymmetric designs are often received as more edgy and fun and create some tension with the reader.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get this right the first time, it takes a bit of trial and error to get the hang of it.
Is what makes things stand out so what you’re looking at doesn’t meld into one big blur. It makes your design interesting. Contrast needs to be pretty obvious otherwise it’ll look like you just messed it up.
You get the effect of contrast by using opposites in your design – big and small, colour and black and white, sans serif font with a script font, lots of space around a stand out image or illustration.
In one short word, it creates OOMPH.
In printed material, texture can also give that contrast… things like matt versus shiny or letter-pressing or a special paper stock or foil. These things can also be pretty expensive (although with advances in technology they’re becoming more and more affordable), so if you can, create your contrast in your design first, then add textural embellishments (unless texture is a big part of your brand strategy, of course!).
And one last tip…. these principles need to be applied consistently to your WHOLE brand, not just each marketing piece. When you look at your brand as a whole, your ultimate goal over time is for someone someone to be able to take a glance at something representing your brand and in a milli-second say ‘That’s XXX brand’ without even reading the full content.
Once your brand is easily recognised and trusted, converting that to people spending with you is so much easier than relying solely on sales scripts or racking up dollar upon dollar of Facebook ads.