Designing your own marketing materials can be very tricky, but as long as you strive to create visual balance, you will be well on your way to a professional-looking piece.
When you hear the term “balance,” you may think of a scale, seesaw, or something that is perfectly divided into even sums. However, the concept of balance in the art world is not a perfect equation. It is an art in itself that requires practice, skill and instinct. Balance in graphic design should convey a pleasing mix of details without distracting from the main element.
Best practices to consider when designing marketing pieces are:
- Color - Allow contrasts between background and visual elements. Stick to a maximum of 3-4 colors, unless an intricate or colorful image is included that can be seen as one element in the overall look
- Typography - Choose no more than 3 different fonts that compliment each other
- Images - It is recommended to use one main image that creates visual interest
- Shapes - Clump groups of information together, placing emphasis on groups in order of importance
- Size - Create differing sizes for elements. The most important elements should be the largest. Least important information should be smallest
- Placement - Space visual elements out from each other to declutter the overall look
One of the added challenges of graphic design used in marketing is that the designer must decide what information is absolutely necessary to include. If a piece includes too much information or excessive visual elements, the overall look becomes cluttered and difficult to process. It is the ultimate disaster if your potential client does not understand what they are looking at, or what information they should take note of. This will leave an impression that your company is amateur or unprofessional, and you may ultimately be dismissed!
Case Study 1: A Hot Mess
Here is an example of a flier where the designer attempted to include too much information:
When looking at this flier, it is extremely difficult to determine which details were most important for the designer to convey. The background is mostly composed of a light blue color, and the most contrasting color is red, so the eyes are immediately drawn to the word “eyegasm,” which is not exactly appealing or classy. Ironically, this flier is NOT an eyegasm at all. There are several clusters of words, visual elements, and contact information. This flier is, for lack of better expression, a hot mess.
Let us put the best practices mentioned above to test:
- Color: At least 10 different colors found
- Typography: Again, about 10 different fonts found
- Images: Image of a woman, along with typography used as images
- Shapes: No distinct shapes formed
- Size: Flier is of a good size, and placement of the image of the woman is actually great. Use of typography and color are, however, overpowering
- Placement: No placement or order of importance found
Case Study 2: Informative and Refined
Here is a different example of a flier that managed to include a lot of information, yet maintains a visually appealing look:
Let us examine what pops out to the eye first; most likely, you would agree that it is the “Love Your Bike” event title to the top left, and the image of the bicyclist in the center. The designer has ensured that the most important information is supplied first: the event title, location, and date, along with a supporting visual element. Then, the eye naturally moves to the next important items: the “Love Your Bike” logo, further event details, and a website at the bottom in red. Further, the design signals to the viewer to read the fine print to get further details about the event, if desired.
This flyer design is a perfect example of good use of the rules of balance. Again, let us put the best practices to test:
- Color: Pale background color allows red and black elements to pop
- Typography: Use of 3 simple, complementary fonts
- Images: One main interest image, plus a logo
- Shapes: Clusters of information grouped in rectangular blocks
- Size: Main elements enlarged, further details in smaller elements that signal viewers to read further only if necessary
- Placement: Starting from the top left, the viewer is led to read important blocks in a “Z” shape across the page
Case Study 3: Impact of Simplicity
This piece exemplifies a divinely simple but attention-grabbing design. Using an “inverted” color contrast (where the background is darker and typography is lighter), the background features a gray color, so that the white frame and typography pops. It is also noticeable that the rectangular frame matches the typography very well; they both feature clean, straight edges. The main typographic element, “MUMBAI,” is coupled with a beautiful, contrasting image that utilizes a combination of tan and purple (in varying shades). Overall, the colors pop and the text is easy to read. Although the design piece features very little information, it is a great example of marketing materials that may not require any information at all (promotional pieces featuring the logo, postcards, etc.)
Let us put this final piece to test:
- Color - 4 contrasting colors (purple and tan are of varying shades)
- Typography - 2 different fonts (1 is barely noticeable)
- Images - 1 impactful image using vibrant colors
- Shapes - Main image is flowing and artistic, other elements composed of edges
- Size - main image and text are large, with a small line of text
- Placement - frame and text are centered; main image anchored on bottom left, creating a good use of the rule of thirds
Know Thyself: Final Tips
When you manage your own business, one of the main advantages is being able to define your visual brand identity based on your own preferences. When creating your own design pieces, it is highly recommended to peruse the many great examples that can be found on the internet. Select several pieces that speak to you, and several pieces that feel like nails on a chalkboard. Of course, the likeability of art highly depends on personal preference, but most consumers will agree on what makes good design and what makes bad design. Of these pieces, define the elements that appeal to you, and also define elements that you dislike. Do you lean towards stark contrast? Clean lines or flowing curves? Bright colors or subtle nuances? By answering these questions, you will slowly but surely obtain an instinctive understanding of design balance.
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This post was authored by Maya Reynolds