5 Design Tips for Non-Designers by Juan

1. Give your type some love.

Fonts are not all created equally! As you can imagine, Fonts are developed by different designers and companies. With so many different hands in the pot, inconsistencies are inevitable. Coupled with different rendering methods used by software and browsers, your type can look drastically different and sometimes unpleasant.

It’s recommended (and most of the time required) when working with type to pay attention to your overall kerning, tracking and leading. Whether you are preparing your type for web or print, adjusting these parameters ensures the best display of your type layout for readability and display.

2. Two too many fonts can be too much.

Fonts are beautiful and unique. Sometimes choosing the right font pair can hard. While there are near perfect combinations of fonts, it’s easy to get carried away and attempt to include way too many fonts in one design. It’s important to resist the urge to include all the fonts you find amazing and restrict yourself to two or three fonts maximum.

A design with one too many fonts can become distracting and can negatively impact the amount of influence your design has. If you are designing for web or print, it is generally best practice to keep your font variation to a minimum of two or three. Generally two fonts, one for your headline copy and another for your body copy will do the trick and help your design convey its message without distraction.

3. Pick your colors like you would your outfit.

There are millions of colors to choose from. No, seriously, there are about 16.8 million we can see on screen and about 100 million our eyes can perceive. While this may seem a bit overwhelming, most of these colors do fall into some basic families that help us choose the best color palette for our design.

When choosing your colors, try experimenting with 2 or 3 colors. First, pick your base color, this could be the primary color of your branding or design. Following that by finding the best working complementary color to your base color. This is color generally sits on the opposite side of the color spectrum of your base color. This color will help accentuate your base color and present some pleasant contrast.

After you’ve chosen these two colors, it’s time to identify tints and shades that work nicely with your colors. Choosing the best working combination can take some practice but limiting your colors will keep your design clean, organized and welcoming to the eye.

4. Simple, is sometimes, always, mostly the answer…every time, almost.

We put a lot of effort into our designs, so much so that at times we can miss the finish the line and continue working past perfection. Which ultimately results in us adding fat and causing visual clutter. It’s important to keep focus on your design’s objective. Sometimes making the logo bigger, adding more color or simply introducing new imagery can severely hinder your design.

The key with great design is balance and harmony. Choosing the correct number of fonts, the best images, the appropriate colors and developing a balanced composition are all instrumental. Keeping these elements in control and most importantly intentional will ensure a welcoming legible design that encourages users to engage with your message.

Here’s a helpful tip: It may seem obvious but if you find your self suddenly unhappy with your design, try scaling some of your elements back. Reposition or remove aspects of the design you feel aren’t working. Oh and most importantly, step back and take a break. Your mind and eye can potentially get use to seeing the same thing over and over and eventually feeling like it needs more work. A break will allow you to revisit the design with a fresh eye.

5. Familiarity is your friend!

Human beings have a tendency to gravitate towards things they’ve seen before. The feeling of familiarity is rewarding and can be welcoming to viewers. When someone is visiting a website or using phone, as an example, the easier they can interact these mediums the more likely they are to explore further and find what they are looking for or, in the case of receive your intended message.

Now, it’s important that we don’t confuse familiarity with mimicking or copying. While “good artist borrow, but great artist steal”, it’s important to understand familiarity comes in different forms. For design specifically I would argue it comes in the form of a balanced and harmonious composition with complimenting type, imagery and color.

Again, this seems obvious, but trying to break some of the agreed on rules of design can make a break the effectiveness of your message. While experimenting in design is ALWAYS encouraged, it’s important to always keep your objective in mind and make sure it translates visually through your design.

Now go design something beautiful!

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