25 Epic Design Tips for Non-Designers

Get your graphic design game-face on with these inspiring tips!

From font pairing and scale, to alignment and white space, the facets of the design world are complex. Let these 25 epic design tips help you through the pits and the peaks of the creative process.

01. For font’s sake, limit your typefaces

Use easy to read fonts for simple and effective graphic design. The eye finds it hard to scan erratic use of typefaces, so stick to a clean suite of few fonts. Here I have used variants from the font family Aileron, a geometric sans serif typeface that has a simple and modern aesthetic.

02. Don’t be scared of scale

Apply scale to type, shapes or compositional features that need proportionate emphasis.

Use appropriate colors to enhance this technique while making sure that you choose suitable typefaces that look great when increased in size, here I used Raleway for the word ‘Scale’ as it has strong, bold and clear letter forms.

03. Respect the space of other elements

The letter spacing on the word ‘Respect’ was decreased to give it a condensed effect, as a visual representation of space, or lack there of.

You can use letter spacing to fill dead space, aliging your lines of text up nicely or to tighten up words that take up too much space.

Make sure you don’t reduce your letter spacing so much you can’t read it, nor increase it so much that the letters become detached from one another.

04. Be clever with your colors

Use different tones of the same hue for consistency. Your brightness slider will alter these colors and create contrast. Finer typefaces will need stronger distinction against a colored background so I have used a very bright aqua on the text to offset against a forest green background, increasing clarity and making it easier to read.

05. Clean, crisp, clear

Pump up the contrast of your graphic by adjusting the brightness of your background image so it offsets the color of your text, making your design clear and easy to read.

This is an opportunity to apply white or black text over top of your image, creating a strong ‘cut-out’ effect.

06. Fonts have feelings too

Make sure your chosen typeface sings the song of your content. Typefaces with rounded edges are usually friendlier (Quicksand used here), hard edged geometric fonts (sans serifs) are solid and strong, while serifs convey an elegant and sophisticated persona.

07. Create order with alignment

Applying a line or an embellishment is a great way to create symmetry within your designs.

Here I have mimicked a margin by applying a line to the left of the text to enhance uniformity.

08. Keep it simple

Keep it simple, but don’t forget your basics. Use contrasting tonal color combinations to ensure that your text is sharp and easy to read. Applying a solid frame to contain your copy will enhance the compositional structure of your design.

09. Multi-page magic

The easiest way to ensure aesthetic unity across your document or presentation is by duplicating pages then editing text and replacing images.

Applying a line or an embellishment is a great way to create symmetry within your designs.

10. Creativity and originality

Just as it’s important to research and reference, it’s just as vital to push your abilities and skills to achieve original graphics.

You don’t need to choose the typefaces or filters everyone else is picking.

Avoid trends and create designs that correspond with your own unique style, leaving a personal stamp on your work.

11. Use hierarchy to order your content

The most visually dominant feature in your design should be the most important part of your message. A nice graphic design practice is to apply color or scale to your graphic to see how it changes the hierarchy of your elements.

12. Play with symmetry

Great graphic design is often made up of symmetrical lines which correspond with other features. Ensure the thickness of of the elements you use match the weight of your typeface.

13. Relax your eyes every now and then

It’s all very well to get gung ho and work until the day is dead, but this process doesn’t always breed creativity.

Taking time to let your mind relax helps boost your energy and productivity.

Try looking as far as you can from your computer screen, or at something green to help revitalise your vision.

14. Keep it in the family

The easiest way to create visual uniformity is by applying a consistent typeface to your text. Try and find a font family with a selection of variants to keep your options open. Here I used Aileron Bold, Light and Italic.

15. Wonderful white space

Create a fluid design by letting your elements breathe. The application of space around your text boxes, images and other graphic features makes it easier to read and is actually more likely to attract attention than a cluttered composition.

16. Research before you dive in

Make sure you have all the details you need before you begin to write or create. Study, read, resource. It might be materials and objects or gathering of information and facts, the research process will guarantee the most thought-out product.

17. Create a moodboard

Drop in a grid to a photo collage document in Canva to create simple and easy moodboards to contain your collection of images, color swatches and other visual pieces. This practice will help you will notice a common color palette or theme which you can then apply to your project.

18. Imitate and create

Use your Canva social stream or inspiration websites to find designs you love.

Replicate the type treatment, the photo filters or the general layout with your own content.

19. Be current event consious

It doesn’t matter which section of the paper you read, keeping your mind fresh with current events around you can influence the way you work. Follow newsfeed on your social networks to ensure you are getting vital information to keep your general knowledge up to date.

20. Think outside the box

As aforementioned, the most creative people think outside the box. Don’t use the typical icons and symbols you see everywhere to represent your topic.

Research, sketch and print to find new and original to visually communicate with your audience.

21. Contrast is key

Contrast is one of the most imperative parts of design. Use photo filters to enhance the positive/negative space in your image. Applying black or white to copy will create optimum contrast against the background image.

22. Brighten up your graphics

Create drama and impact with attention grabbing graphics. Ensure your colors don’t bleed together by choosing hues that contrast against one another.

23. Keep a notebook

Whether you are on the train, at work or about to fall asleep — inspiration can come at any time, therefore it’s important to be prepared.

Keeping a notebook to draw or scribble down something when that epiphany dawns is a useful way to store your ideas.

24. Trial & error

Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes they are the most important part of the learning experience. Push your designs to the limit, the creative process is often never complete.

25. Finally, finesse. But not too much.

Make sure elements are correctly aligned, text is legible, there is enough contrast and you are leaving space for your design features to breathe.

The most important things to remind yourself is to be creative, break the rules a bit and push your skills by coming up with new and innovative design ideas.

At the end of the day, graphic design is about exploration and experimentation. We look forward to seeing this ultimate guide come to fruition. Enjoy, creatives!


Originally published at designschool.canva.com on December 9, 2014.

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