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As an online entrepreneur and marketer, you always need good visuals to promote your brand & products. Whether it’s a new Instagram post, your latest newsletter or a postcard, the good design captures attention, enriches your content, and helps you convert more customers.
Having design expertise or a designer on staff is a great way to accomplish that, but not everyone is lucky enough to be in that position. Sometimes budgets or deadlines get in the way and you’re better off doing it yourself.
At Touchcard we’ve helped hundreds of Shopify retailers create successful physical postcard campaigns. In the process, we’ve learned a thing or two about creating designs that get attention and drive conversions. That’s why we’ve put together this 80/20 guide on effective marketing design for the resourceful entrepreneur who just wants to get things done.
Follow the points below and you’ll be well on your way to communicating effectively with compelling, branded graphics in all of your marketing.
MARKETING DESIGN FOR NON-DESIGNERS
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Design complexity may be an admirable quality in royal palaces or baroque architecture, but for our purposes, it’s best to leave the ornamentation in the Renaissance.
This is especially true if you’re new to design. Create a clear visual message and err on the side of simplicity.
- Pick a small range of colors for your brand palette
- Be decisive about your logos, icons and fonts
- Combine impactful images with a clear message
Your visuals need to express your brand and your message at a glance, and you can’t afford to have people miss the point or get distracted. Simple design not only works better, but it also takes less work to create, as you can see in the postcard design below.
This is a Thank You postcard designed by charity One Tree Planted. All it took was a logo, a stock image and a single font/color combination. It’s a great example of keeping things simple and effective.
2. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Who is your Ecommerce shop’s audience?
Fright Rags is a perfect example of a company that knows what appeals to their audience and doubles down on that in their design.
This New York based retailer sells horror-related apparel and merchandise to die-hard horror fans. When you look at their postcard design below, that’s exactly what you feel.
They make use of a rough brown background, a bit of blood spatter and a gritty font combined with an edgy slogan. The design may not be for everyone, but it certainly resonates with their horror-loving audience.
Understanding your audience lets you create styles based on what’s appealing to them. Horror apparel requires a certain vibe. Yoga gear another.
Your visual flavor should match your merchandise and audience. In design, it’s all about context. That context should be heavily based on your audience’s tastes.
3. CHOOSE ONE, MAXIMUM TWO CLEAR FONTS
For maximum impact, it’s important to use bold, legible fonts. If your font is easy to read and large enough that it can be read from across the room then you can be sure your audience will get your point, so pick a big, legible font for your primary message.
Unless you know what you’re doing when it comes to pairing fonts, trying to use more than two will make your design appear overwhelming, complicated and difficult to understand.
Need we say more?
Instead, stick to a maximum of two carefully chosen fonts that are easy to read.
Take some time and be selective about the fonts you choose so that you can reuse them in the future to quickly design graphics with impactful messaging and a consistent, recognizable feel.
Not only will large, easy to read fonts help you stand out in the physical mailbox, they are just as important when creating-attention grabbing designs for platforms such as social media.
Think about how you swipe through mobile content. You don’t pay too much attention to each item, you just keep scrolling while slowing down if something stands out, right?
In addition to that, social media ads have specific spots for text and standard fonts so that all ads look the same. This means the task of getting people to slow downfalls primarily on the image you use.
While an interesting image may be enough to get someone to slow down, using a headline or caption in your image is what will pique their interest and get them to read the rest of your ad.
Pair a well-chosen graphic (more on this later) with a large, easy to read font that is sure to get your message across like the example below.
Whether it’s on social media, your website or in print, simple graphics and clear, punchy fonts will make your content both engaging and friendly for glancing.
5. USE UP TO THREE COLORS
Choosing a Color Scheme
When you’re choosing colors for backgrounds, text, borders, etc., you should select just a few that reinforce your message and brand image.
While your brand book may have a range of colors, particularly if you have specific palettes for different products or verticals, you don’t have to use all of them for every graphic.
Keeping your designs to three key colors will keep it clean, allow for brand recognition and help reinforce your brand’s central message and feel.
Check out how well Bru bag adheres to the three colour rule. They stick to red, white and blue. Three very recognizable colors that contrast each other well.
When you look at their design below you instantly feel three things, American, outdoors and fun, which is perfectly on point with their brand and product.
A quick look at their Instagram, @brubag, and you can see how the same three colours are present throughout along with images that reinforce their fun, outdoor theme.
Not only does this make for appealing design, but sticking to three colours will make your brand more recognizable while creating a subtle sense of congruence that helps to build trust with your customers.
You may be familiar with the color wheel which, depending on the wheel comprises some or all of the colors in the color spectrum.
A common way to give yourself a good range of complementary but diverse colors is to select three equidistant colors like the example on this simplified color wheel. This is called a triadic color scheme.
That said, there are other ways to select a colour scheme too. For example, a monochromatic scheme includes varying shades of the same hue for a clean, simple look.
Colors in Your Ads
A wide spectrum of color is totally fine when it occurs within a photo, but be aware of what sort of mood the colors in the photo set. If your message is meant to be upbeat, consider using a photo or at least a filter that reflects that.
For more on how many colors to use and how to distribute them in your design, see this short article on applying the 60-30-10 rule for professional color distribution.
6. RESPECT THE WHITE SPACE
Generally, white space (or negative space) is just the unused space in your design, and it’s a normal and perfectly acceptable element in many marketing graphics.
Remember your goal is to capture your reader’s attention and get them to take some kind of action, not to fill every shred of space on your design.
White space is commonly found in more minimalistic designs that are often really good at getting an audience to focus on a specific point or a particular call to action. Using white space correctly can also be a great way to ensure a clean and balanced design.
The point is to make the viewer’s brain do less work to process the visual. Effective use of white space improves clarity, allowing for a more easily absorbed message. And because it’s less work, people are more likely to look at it.
7. USE IMAGES TO COMMUNICATE AND INFLUENCE
Selling a physical product? We don’t need to tell you that high-quality images are a must when it comes to telling your story and showcasing what you offer.
When chosen carefully and used correctly an image will give people a feel for your brand and even guide their attention in a subtle, low-pressure fashion.
Take a look at this postcards marketing design created by Kinsley Armelle, a Texas-based brand that focuses on beautiful custom jewelry.
Their postcard design uses a collage of high-quality product shots that really showcases their commitment to quality and attention to the fine details. The imagery here communicates exactly the sort of things you’d place value on when considering a piece of custom jewelry.
When used correctly images are also a great way to subtly move your readers’ attention in the direction you want it to go.
Every image has a direction and if you position your images correctly you can use them to guide your readers’ attention to the next piece of content or a call to action.
Have a look at the fictional postcard design below. Not only does it use high-contrast colors to get the reader’s attention, the image is positioned in such a way that it directs the reader’s attention to a highly personalized headline followed by a clear benefit.
Here’s another great example used in a popover by visme.co. The image of the lion is bold and attention-grabbing, and once you take notice your attention is directed to their call to action.
Of course, not every retailer has the budget to shoot high-quality product shots themselves, which is where stock images can be very handy. Check out the tools and resources section below to find high-quality stock images and other great resources.
DESIGN TOOLS & RESOURCES
Once you’re ready to create your own design, it’s time to find the right tool for the job. Fortunately, you don’t need to empty your wallet for Photoshop. There are a number of amazing resources that are free or very affordable for those of us who aren’t full-time designers.
1. GRAPHICS EDITOR
Our top recommendation is canva.com. If you haven’t used Canva before, do yourself a favor and try it out. The core functionality is free, and there is a ton of great content to guide you through the design process.
Once you’ve chosen your canvas size or template, Canva becomes an intuitive drag and drop tool interface that gives you access to a range of design features, from images and text to shapes and stock photos. They also offer perfectly sized templates for social media posts, digital ads and print materials like brochures, posters and postcards.
Once you’ve picked a template, just customize it to your needs and you’ll have a ready-made design in no time.
2. MORE DESIGN TIPS
At Touchcard, we’ve also created a free postcard marketing guide that walks you through creating and executing high ROI postcard marketing campaigns step by step.
Of course, any guide on postcard marketing wouldn’t be complete without a chapter on design so we’ve included an entire section on postcard marketing design for attention and influence, a lot of which can be applied to all of your eCommerce design tasks.
You can read the entire guide for free here or skip straight to chapter 4 for some additional design tips.
3. STOCK PHOTOS
Most of the editors available have some free stock images built-in, but for the biggest selection, you’ll want to have a few tricks up your sleeve.
First, it’s a good idea to make sure you have the rights to the images you want to use as using images without permission can be problematic.
One way to find images to use in your marketing is via creative commons search. The advanced options in a Google image search let you find images that are “Labeled for reuse.”
If that doesn’t work for you it’s best to find a dedicated stock image site. These often have a great amount of variety that can really enhance your designs.
Here’s a list of some great sources of free images:
- Burst – Shopify’s own free stock photo service!
OVER TO YOU
As an eCommerce retailer, you will likely find yourself tasked with trying to find new ways to transcend the digital experience and give your customers a real taste of what you’re all about.
At Touchcard, our mission is to help you make the experience as tangible as possible, so we hope this article has given you some useful tips you can use to start creating your own amazing visuals that represent your brand and help you add more dollars to your bottom line.
This is a guest post contribution by Touchard. Touchard is a Shopify app that automatically prints & mails real, physical postcards. Surprise your customers, increase loyalty and drive more repeat purchases for your eCommerce store.