How to know if your design is good enough to publish?

How to know if your design is good enough to publish?

One of the most common questions I get from non-designers is “how do I know when my design is good enough to publish?” People seem to think that there’s some magical gut feeling to tell you that “wow, now it is ready and amazing.” The truth is, even experienced professional designers, prone to strive for perfection, use checklists and cheatsheets to define when a design is final and “done.”

A mentor once told me: “digital product is never truly done because you can tweak it forever.”  This is both good and bad. It is good because if you made an error or found out something new that has an impact on your product, you can go and improve your design and re-publish. But it can also be bad because most of the times you have deadlines and goals. And actually, perfection is not desired nor does it even matter. Good design is what matters. And that is what I am going to help you achieve.

So, how do you know when your design is good enough and ready to be published? It depends on the design you’re creating, but let’s assume that you’re creating design assets for your brand. Below I’ve created two cheatsheets (logo and layout) to help you evaluate whether your design is good enough to be published.

Logo design

Logo is a tough one to evaluate because there are so many things that can make a logo successful. And not all of those things are directly visible in the design. In any case, I will list questions you should ask yourself before you declare your logo ready:

Does the metaphor or your logo symbol reflect your offering, mission or vision, or a signature process you may have? Essentially, does the metaphor either depict what it is you sell or who you are?

Does the aesthetic reflect the personality or your brand? You will need you brand personality defined before you can assess this.

Do the colors align with your brand guidelines? You will need to have your brand design system built for this step.

Is the aesthetic appropriate for your ideal customer?

Does the logo (physically) scale well to different sizes? This is the most common issue I see with logos created by non-designers — and well, by professional designers as well. If the size contrast between logo elements is too big (some elements are much bigger than others, typically graphics vs text), the logo won’t scale well to small sizes that are often used on mobile version of your site, in the corner of your instagram post, or on a business card. This is because when the larger elements in your logo are appropriately small for the use, the much smaller elements (typically text) have become illegible.

Are there elements in the logo that can easily become a standalone element and that can be used for an app icon, on a clothing tag, as a social media profile picture, etc? This one is optional. If you are a service provider and know that you have no need for a standalone element, then you can ignore this one.

Are the texts legible? In large sizes? In small sizes?

Are the graphics clean and clear? No pixelation visible, edges are crisp/clean unless the style requires otherwise

Do you own the copyright to the design of your logo [important] If you hire a freelance designer or an agency, make sure that it spells out in the contract that you will own the rights to the design of your logo. I’ve heard about cases where there has been confusion who actually owns the copyrights. And I even know about cases where the designer tried to deny the business owner from making changes to the logomark due to the rights of the graphics not being transferred to the business owner in their contract.

Is the design timeless? This one is my personal preference to add. Ideally, your logo will stand time and you don’t have to redesign it too often. If your brand becomes successful, your logo will start accruing value in recognizability and customer loyalty. And you want to keep that.

Layout design

Layout design is a bit easier to evaluate, but there are also more variables you have to consider. Below I list some general rules that can be applied to almost any layout design. Not all rules will necessarily apply in your case. And some of the things below will only apply to text heavy documents with lots of body copy).

Is all the required content included in the layout? This sounds super boring, but is actually very important to check. Did you remember to include everything you need to? The only thing worse than having a bad layout design is missing some important content content.

Is the content hierarchy immediately clear? Will the reader know where to start from and how to proceed? Hand in hand with this goes: are you prioritizing the right things in your content? This is more about content strategy, but it does affect the design as well.

Are you using a consistent grid? This will affect the alignment of items on the page. Do the items align well and consistently (especially left edges in the left-to-right reading countries)?

Are you following the rule of thirds? The most important elements are placed according to rule of thirds to create interest and balance.

Is the visual style of the layout consistent and unified? Do you use header and body styles for your text consistently? Do you have consistent image style and cropping?Are you using colors consistently? When in doubt, use color sparingly and only add one or two colors in addition to black or dark grey.

Are your font choices appropriate? For example, don’t use Comic Sans or a script font for a business document. If you have brand guidelines, use the fonts that were specified there.

Are you pairing fonts appropriately? Rule of thumb is: don’t combine more than two different typefaces (fonts), and pair together sans serif and serif. When in doubt, use only one typeface and select one that has a good selection of different weights and styles (e.g. light, medium, regular, bold, semi-bold, etc.). Then use the different styles and weights of that one typeface to create hierarchy, balance, and visual interest.

Are your type sizes age appropriate? Don’t use tiny mouse type if your audience is elderly people.

Are your type sizes appropriate for the selected font? Don’t use a script font in small sizes because it won’t be legible. If you’re in doubt, test it. Show your layout to few people and ask “can you read that?”

Do you have appropriate amount of content per page? Don’t over stuff your pages with text. Breathing space (the notorious “white space”) helps reader to focus themselves to what is coming next.

Are your columns the appropriate width? 9-12 words per column is recommended for English language. You can adjust the word amount per row by adjusting the type size or the column width.

Do you have appropriate amount of margins around your layout? Will people be printing this? Are they going to put it in binder? Is it going to be viewed on a mobile device? All these things will affect the margins.

Is your imagery appropriate for the topic and audience?

Are the images high enough resolution for the size and purpose (print vs digital)?

Are important details like dates, prices, and contact info easily found?

Do you have a comfortable balance between large and small elements on the layout? Visual interest and balance can be created by combining large and small elements. For example, most successful web landing pages out there will have one really large element (typically the featured hero image), a few medium sized elements (the offerings or services), and a few small elements (social media icons, contact info/links, navigational items). This is especially important for poster style layouts such as flyers, (visual) social media posts, and well, posters.

Have you thought of all different types of readers? How does your layout design serve and support someone who has: Two seconds to glance? Two minutes to browse?Two hours to sit down and read everything carefully?

There you have a few things to check form your design, when you’re having difficult time deciding whether your design is good enough to be published. Let me know what you’re working on in the comments. And check out our facebook page for more design tips: https://www.facebook.com/dlycreative/

How to choose the right Canva template for your leadmagnet

How to choose the right Canva template for your leadmagnet

Design is becoming more accessible for masses with easy to use online design applications like Canva.com. This is great for solopreneurs and, really, anyone who has just started their business and can’t afford to (or don’t want to) invest in hiring a professional designer. Canva.com is so easy to use, and has many well-designed free templates, that it really does make creating brand and marketing assets a breeze. However, I still often get questions on how to take advantage of Canva templates and how to choose the right template for your needs. So, I put together this post to help you assess the templates and pick just the right one for your leadmagnet.

How to find and apply templates in Canva

Canva’s design workflow has been built around choosing the right template. You can either start from “Your brand” section and select the “Templates” tab as shown in the image below. You will get a selection of templates to choose from. It may feel overwhelming for a moment as there are so many to choose from. By taking a closer look at the template’s thumbnail, you can see what the template is tailored for (e.g. Instagram post, Poster, Presentation). For a beginner, it is a good idea to select a template that has been designed for the same purpose you’re building an asset for. On the thumbnail, you can also see how many people have “liked” the template. The higher the amount of likes is, the more likely the template layouts are versatile and well-designed. But the likelihood of other people using the same template also goes up.

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The other way to access templates is to click on the “Create a design” button on the top left corner. This will take you to a page where templates are grouped by categories based on the use and purpose of the template. See image below. This is the approach I like to use as it supports the way I think about starting a new project (e.g. I need to design a “How to” document pdf.)

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Let’s say you are making a How-to guide or a cheat sheet as your leadmagnet and you want it to be a letter sized document, and it will likely have multiple pages. Choosing to create a document from the “Create a design” view will open an empty document where you then need to apply a template from the template library. When you are browsing the templates in the library, one important thing to check is how many layouts are included in the template. The more layouts there is the more versatile the template is.

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What makes a good document template

Whether a template is a good fit for your document really depends on your intended use. We already defined you wanted to create a multipage, letter-sized pdf document. That already excluded other types of templates (e.g. poster or flyer). Now, whether there are enough layout options in the template for your leadmagnet, depends on how much and what type of content you have. You’re going to want to have all your content written and created before you start laying it out in Canva. This is how professional designers typically operate, as well. They request to have all of the content before they start the design work, so they can get a holistic view of the content types and what needs to be done. Good design supports the flow of the narrative and you cannot create that without all of the pieces of the puzzle on the table. That being said, things will change, and edits will happen. And that is ok, it’s part of the process. Just try to have as much ready as possible, as it will help you choose the right template.

Having your content ready also allows you to evaluate the layouts and compare them to the types of content you have. You want to find one that matches as closely as possible. This is not to say that you cannot customize the templates and create new layouts or layout elements. But for beginners it is much easier, if the template already has as many as possible of the needed layouts and elements. Let’s say your content is sectioned off into few different sections and includes some large images and a couple of quotes. What you’re going to want is a layout with multiple header styles for hierarchy, large image area at least on one layout, and a predefined quote style. You could create all these styles yourself, but having them built into the template makes your work much quicker.

 


ACTION POINT
Have all your content ready before selecting a template. Compare the layouts and elements to your content and select a template that has styles defined to as many as possible of your content types.


 

Another good thing to consider is the amount of text. How much does your leadmagnet have so called “body copy” (the text forming the main content). Most document templates will have a style for body copy out of the box, but if the template was tailored for a photo heavy document it may not have multiple layouts with different options for how the body copy could be set. See the examples below. The left template works well for content that is image heavy. And the template on the right works well for content that is text heavy. With the template on the right, you have many options for how you’d like your body copy to flow: one column with an area to add image(s), two columns with background image, two columns with smaller image, and even three columns with rather large image. When choosing the amount of columns, remember that one wide column with small text can be burdensome to read. The typographic rule is: 9-12 words per line is ideal, more than 12 words on a line can become tedious to read.  That is a good goal, but I think you can get away with a couple more words if your text flows nicely and is easy to read. If you want, you can adjust the amount of words on the line by either making the type size larger or changing the width of the column.

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For beginners, it is a good idea to try and find a template that already supports your brand personality, at least to some degree. The templates were designed with some tone of voice and feeling in mind. If you can find one that matches well with your brand, it’s always easier to have to do less customizations. But if you have a bit of experience with Canva or creating designs in general, you can fairly easily change the tone of the design by changing colors, fonts, graphics, and imagery.

One last thing to consider is: will your audience be printing this document? If you are creating something you’d like your audience to be able to print, consider adding less images and color for easy printability. You might even consider doing just a black and white document to ensure it prints nicely for everyone. If imagery is not necessary for your document, you can find some nice typographic layouts.

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Happy designing! For more design tips, news, and FREE trainings, subscribe to our newsletter. And be sure to like our facebook page where you can share your designs and ask feedback and design tips from our Daily Creative community.

Download our FREE Logo design guide

Download our FREE Logo design guide

So, you’re building a new brand? Congratulations. We have made the work a bit easier for you with our new FREE “How to create your first logo.” The Guide will walk you through how different styles can help represent your brand personality, what colors communicate, and how to quickly build a stylish text based logotype with Canva for free.

Design tips for non-designers

Design tips for non-designers

Having a professional designer in your team is great. A good designer is worth her weight in avocados and Peet’s Coffee — not to mention a healthy financial reward. Designers often specialize in an area like branding or user experience, and that makes their process and the outcome even more valuable. Expert designer knows how to create design systems that tie together your brand visuals, web experience, and marketing assets. They have deep understanding of color psychology, how human mind groups and connects visual objects together, and which layouts are more pleasing to the eye than others. Indeed, great design is worth every penny you can afford to invest.

But what happens when you can’t invest in design? What if you are a solopreneur, mommypreneur, or any other one person hustle? Not only are you cost-conscious with your business spending, you might be used to taking care of your business needs by yourself — and that’s the way you like it. Or maybe you’re just starting your business, and you need to get it off the ground and running without major costs. There is proven value in hiring a designer, but let’s be real: it’s not always possible or something you want to do.

Whatever your situation is, the audience today is expecting visual candy. Vast Marketing Solutions writes on their blog post The Importance of Visual Content in Social Media that “according to a study conducted by 3M, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. 46% of people say a website’s design is the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of the company.”

So, what can you do when you need designed assets such as a logo, marketing materials, or web designs, but don’t have access to a designer? Well, actually, quite a bit. While it doesn’t replace having an expert in your team, there is still a lot you can do to improve what you have. Behind are the days of expensive and difficult to use expert tools for designers. Today, affordable and easy-to-use design software and online applications are available for anyone. With pre-made, customizable templates, these applications make creating pleasing designs effortless for non-designers and designers alike. And understanding few principles when it comes to branding and having few tricks up your sleeve will help you strategize around your design needs and save lots of money in the beginning of your business journey.

Favorite beginner tools

Canva: With Canva’s design templates you can easily create a variety of assets from logo designs to ebooks and social media posts, and more. The price is affordable $9.95-$12.95 per month for the Canva for Work. However, if you prepare and plan well, you might be able to create enough assets for your brand to last for a while during the free 30 day trial period. There’s also an option for a free plan, but some customizations and asset management isn’t available in the free plan. Downside: unless you customize your templates enough, you’ll easily end up with assets that many other small business owners use and will lack a unique edge. Though customization is easy to do, you will need some knowledge of basic design principles to ensure your designs look well thought out and professional.

Squarespace: Squarespace makes creating a simple marketing website for your business/brand effortless and quick. With well-designed templates, these sites don’t pale next to custom designed websites. If you only need a simple site with 1-5 pages with more or less static content such as About us, Services, Contact, Gallery, and so on, I would argue that you can’t much get a better deal than Squarespace. The learning curve is mellow and, like said before, the templates are fool-proof for pleasing UI. Squarespace templates are also mobile friendly out of the box and their 24/7 support team helps with any questions you might have. The best thing about Squarespace is how quickly you can get your beautiful site up and running: in mere hours. And the easy site management will save you hours every month. Downside: Squarespace is less customizable than say a WordPress site. And while you can buy a lot of plugins and premium themes to add up costs to your WordPress site, a simple blog still comes out more affordable on WordPress than on Squarespace.

Money (and time) saving principles

1. Your brand is not your logo

First thing to understand about your brand is that it is so much more than your logo. Yes, it is very likely that you need a logo. But no, you most likely don’t need to invest thousands in getting it designed with an expensive brand agency. Your logo alone won’t define your brand and your logo alone won’t bring you new business. Just like Jeff Bezos so nicely worded: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” This means it is about reputation. What kind of reputation does your company have? How do you deal with your customers and what do they say about you after they bought your products/services?

Brand is also build by telling stories. What and how you communicate to your audience matters more than your logo. And of course where you tell these stories. Your audience wants to be able to relate with the company and its mission, so these stories will become significantly more important than a little graphic you attach to it. Part of how you tell your stories is visual. This means photos, illustrations, graphics, and color can play a big part of it. Being consistent and genuine is important.

If you are a service provides and solopreneur, your personal brand is likely going to be your business brand — even if you don’t realize it. You’re selling your expertise and unique way of doing things, whether it is massage or marital therapy. For most service based solopreneurs, clean text based logotype with some unique treatment is more than enough to get started. Especially, since you don’t need packaging for goods you’re selling. And Canva provides plenty of templates to get your creative juices going.

Caution: While amazing logo alone won’t bring you new business, a bad and unprofessional looking one may actually cost you business. Using graphics and adding logo marks adds to the challenge. That is why I recommend sticking to logo templates that are already designed to be professional looking, and with small adjustments you can make them yours.

If you are tempted to hire someone to make you a logo for a small amount of money (read: cheap), you might want to rethink. Creating a high quality, professional logo mark is usually expensive for a reason. If someone is selling this service cheap, I would proceed with caution. It is very likely that a nice looking logo template will do a better job — and this you can do yourself.

2. Design principles are timeless

There are a basic set of rules that can be applied to any design you need to create. These principles are timeless, and when you once learn those, you can forever follow the principles to help you create better designs. One well-known set of rules are the Gestalt Principles. These principles were created in the 1920s by a group of psychologists in Germany for a series of theories of visual perception. The principles are: similarity, continuation, closure, proximity (aka grouping), and figure and ground. Knowing how tp apply these rules, you can create hierarchy, balance, and professional feel to any design asset you need to create.

3. Take advantage of templates

One thing in common with the online design tools geared towards non.designers is that they typically have templated solutions available. Use them. The templates are designed by professionals and many of the design principles have already been thought out for you. With a little customization, like using your own photos or changing colors, you can add a bit of unique flare. When you become more comfortable with design principles, you can customize the templates more by rearranging and resizing objects, changing typefaces, and adding new elements or graphics.

And after you’ve found and customized your favorite, say, social media post template, to save even more time, that one template can be used over and over again by switching the imagery and texts to suit each post. And elements of that can be recycled for an email newsletter or an event flyer, etc.

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Most importantly, be brave and trust that as a non-designer you can learn to create better designs. Ability to design is not a magical quality reserved for those who graduate from art school, but something anyone can learn to a degree. Let me know in the comments what you have designed and how it went.