10 Graphic Design Best Practices for Beginners

Humans are visual creatures, and the look and feel of your marketing content is critical to its success. Here we outline our top 10 best practices for graphic design.

What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is the use of artistic elements such as images and text to communicate ideas visually. Successful graphic design connects with the viewer, clearly communicates ideas, and looks visually appealing.

In marketing, graphic design may be used for presentations and proposals, brand logos, email headers, social media posts, and much more.

Whether you are a one-person show and graphic design is a small part of your job, or you have a large team with multiple graphic designers, it’s valuable for everyone working in marketing to know the basics. Below we’ve collected our best practices for graphic design. Bookmark this page to refer to our top 10 tips when designing for yourself or for clients.

Top 10 Best Practices for Graphic Design

1. Know Your Audience

The number one concern at GoViral is our audience. Think about your buyer personas when creating graphics. What are their expectations for the look and feel of marketing content? What elements might make them feel positively toward your product? How can you communicate your message without confusing them or turning them off?

2. Let Color Theory Be Your Guide

Color is one of the first elements the human brain registers when looking at a piece of design. Colors create an emotional response in the viewer and can be strongly associated with memory. We know you can’t read your buyers’ minds, but brushing up on the basics of color theory can help guide you in your color choices.

3. Choose a Font That Fits Your Voice

Fonts communicate much more than just the words you type. Like all elements of graphic design, your font can create an emotional response in the viewer. Broadly speaking, serif fonts such as Times New Roman have “tails” on the ends of letters, making them more suitable for traditional or formal communication. Sans serif fonts such as Helvetica have no tails, giving them a cleaner look often described as modern or less formal.

Also consider the spacing, both between lines and between characters (kerning). Is your text easy to read? Are the spacing and size of your font consistent?

4. Make Layout Decisions Thoughtfully

When designing graphics, think carefully about where you decide to place visual elements such as images and text. Consider the overall balance of your design. Are the elements distributed in a visually appealing way? Do the alignment and size of the elements help the balance or seem to make it unbalanced?

Also think about order and organization. Is a viewer likely to read your text in the order you intend?

5. Use a Grid for Precision in Spacing and Alignment

Graphic design software such as Photoshop and InDesign usually includes an option to overlay a grid on your workspace. This can help you maintain consistent alignment and spacing throughout your design. No more guessing whether the borders of two elements line up, or whether the space between lines of text is consistent.

Grids can also help give you direction as you design. A blank page can give you too much choice: the option to place your elements virtually anywhere. A grid will give you a manageable number of defined options, all of which will promote balance and order in your design.

6. Use Visual Hierarchy to Guide the Viewer

Similar to how layout and grids can help increase understanding, the visual hierarchy of your design guides your viewer and communicates the relationships among your ideas. Visual hierarchy refers to the order of importance of your design elements. Broadly speaking, the most important element should be the largest in your design, and size should decrease with importance.

For example, if you’re designing for a company that recently rebranded, the new logo may be the most important element. This may be followed by the tagline and finally by the disclaimer or copyright (usually tiny font size).

7. Use Negative Space to Your Advantage

Negative space, also called white space, is necessary in graphic design. Without white space in text, we wouldn’t be able to distinguish individual letters and words from the background. Design is not a challenge to cover every pixel of your digital canvas.

White space lets your design breathe and gives your viewer a fighting chance to receive your message. It also supports visual hierarchy (see #6) and reads as more sophisticated and refined.

8. Use Contrast

In a similar way to white space, contrast can help you direct the viewer’s attention to the most important design elements. Contrasting colors enhance the visual beauty of your design and naturally attract attention.

Consider using contrast to communicate opposing ideas as well, such as empty and full, positive and negative, and simple and complex. As with all of our tips, don’t use contrast just for the sake of it. Make sure it’s serving your design and your messaging.

9. Personalize Your Design

Personalizing your marketing content can help you reach your audience more effectively. There are different levels of personalization, but the best place to start is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Consider at least tailoring your content to your buyer personas, or take it one step further and change your copy depending on where the viewer is in the buyer journey.

Personalization helps you connect to your viewers and speak to their specific needs. Learn as much as you can about your audience so you can make an informed decision about the level of personalization that’s right for them.

10. Take a Break

Working too hard for too long can leave you exhausted and ineffective. Remember you’re a human, not a machine. Stepping away from your computer for a few minutes or switching to another task temporarily can help you recharge and regroup. Sometimes the best ideas come when you stop trying to force them.

Taking a break can also give you the opportunity to share your work in progress with a trusted colleague. Get a second set of eyes to test whether your design is accomplishing what you want it to.

With more than ten years’ experience in inbound, brand-love marketing, the GoViral team is always ready to share what we’ve learned. Sign up for our newsletter below for monthly updates and marketing tips to help you win over customers and grow your business.