Updated: Jan 19
Graphic Design. Love it or hate it, it's essential to branding your biz.
Think about it — chances are, I can show you an ad or a logo for a fast food company, or a car company, or a clothing brand, and you'll be able to name that company without even seeing the name.
That is powerful.
But so many business owners get stuck here — they have beautiful, brilliant ideas, but feel like they can't bring them to life because they "aren't a designer" and don't have the money to hire one.
Here's some tough love for y'all — you CAN bring those ideas to life, and saying "you're not a designer" in the year 2020 when Canva is free and YouTube has plentiful resources feels like a flimsy excuse.
I really, truly believe that anyone can learn how to bring their logo and graphic ideas to life. Here are three tricks for you to use to make you're graphics look totally pro, even if you have no idea what you're doing:
Follow The Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a handy rule of thumb to reference when you're first starting out. Rules are meant to be broken, true, but first you need to know what they are!
The rule of thirds divides an image into a 3x3 grid, or nine-box grid. The basic principal is that, if you're not placing the part of the graphic that you want to focus on in the dead center of the image, you should place it along one of the four lines:
Take an Instagram photo. Which do you think looks better?
If you said the one on the right, you're probably not the only one. When I look at the image on the left, it's ever-so-slightly off center, enough so that I just wish it was in the center. It feels a little awkward, doesn't it? Like your eye is a little uncomfortable focusing on my face.
But the image on the right is clearly in the right third of the frame, and your eye is drawn directly to my face, and it feels natural to look at.
That's because it's along one of the dividing lines using the rule of thirds:
If you were to upload this to Canva and place some text in the top left corner, the image on the right would look so much more professional, balanced, and nice to look at than the image on the left:
Doesn't the image on the left feel sort of smushed? No, these are not the graphics of the century. But they show nicely what following the rule of thirds can do. Of course, once you're comfortable with it, you can start to break the mold, but this is one sure-fire way to get your graphics looks A+.
Keep it simple.
This is a super easy way to make sure your graphics always look professional: keep it simple. Like, really simple. I usually stick to a maximum of three fonts and five colors for a brand. For an entire brand. I try to limit myself to two fonts and three colors. Otherwise, there is just too much to look at. People get confused, your graphics can look busy and messy, and you're just not doing yourself any favors.
Look at some of the most iconic brands — McDonald's, Apple, Nike — their graphics are unbelievably simple. Because simple works. People can remember simple, and you want your clients to remember you!
If you're a Canva Pro user, I recommend diving into the "Brand Kit" feature to pick out your colors and fonts, and just stick with those for everything you do going forward. Maybe this will feel boring, repetitive, or uninteresting to you, but trust me — it works. I can recognize some of my favorite brands posting on Instagram before I even read their handle, because the colors and fonts they use have gotten so repetitive to me.
How powerful is that?
Aim for Balance, Not Symmetry
A big mistake some new designers make is trying to make everything symmetrical. Sometimes, this approach works. Usually, it doesn't.
What's more important is balance. Does the image feel balanced when you look at it? Or are all of the elements on one side?
Take the above images as an example. The one on the left is nearly symmetrical, but it's so squished and awkward to look at. Your eye doesn't know where to look first, and it feels forced and a bit unnatural to look at.
The image on the right, even though it isn't symmetrical, is balanced. It has bold text on the left, and a bold image on the right. When you look at it quickly, as most Instagram-scrollers, do, you get the full message in a clear and attractive way.
Play around with it in Canva. Move some images and text around — what feels balanced to you? What looks a little weird? Trust your gut. If something looks a bit unbalanced, it probably is.
One of the main differences between a designer and non-designer is trusting your eyes! If your first instinct is "that looks awkward," run with it. Move things around until you don't think it looks awkward, and chances are you'll be right! Of course, it takes practice, but that's what I'm here for.