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15 Design Tips for Non-Designers

March 6, 2015

Are you stuck on a design? Designing postcards, flyers, and other marketing pieces is like writing a book: the first page (in this case, the design element) is almost always the hardest.

If you’re a non-designer that needs some help putting your first postcard, business card, or real estate flyer together, use these 15 simple but effective tips to create an eye-catching, readable, and effective design.

Keep it nice and simple

The best things in life are simple. Cluttered designs are difficult to read and hard to focus on. If your design looks too busy or isn’t legible, try removing elements one by one until it looks less cluttered.


Stick with two or three colors

Simplicity goes beyond layout – it also extends to your color scheme. If you’re new to design, try choosing two or three different colors so that there’s a slimmer chance of different page elements clashing.


Before you design, make a plan

What is the purpose of your design? Are you designing a corporate document that’s slick and professional or a retail sign that needs to be noticed? Before you start any design project, make a plan so you understand your document’s purpose.


Leave plenty of white space 

White space – the empty space between page elements – is just as important as the elements you include on your page. Make sure your design has enough white space for the page elements to breathe effectively.


Choose simple, matching fonts

Fonts are an easy page element to get wrong, and when they’re wrong, they stand out. Stick with two or three fonts that either match or complement each other and your design will look clean, readable and effective.


Experiment and be creative

A great way to create new looks is to experiment. Create wild and crazy designs that you don’t intend on using in your marketing campaign, just so you can try out many of the features of your design software and get to know it better.


Choose fonts from a family 

Do your fonts clash? Instead of choosing fonts from a list and hoping that they match each other, use a font family – a collection of similar fonts in different styles – so that your text has a consistent look.


Find inspiration in other designs

Can’t think of any design ideas? Look at the work of other designers – or, if you’re designing a business card or poster, other brands – to find inspiration in the work that other designers produce.


Sketch ideas on papaer first

Before you open Illustrator, open up your notebook. Sketching ideas on paper helps you understand the relationship between different page elements and makes finding issues with your design far easier.


Design with a goal in mind

Does your design have a goal? From attracting customers to your store to getting the attention of people online or via direct mail, understand your piece’s goal before you start designing to keep it in your mind.


Avoid overly complex fonts

From imitation handwriting to Art Deco-style stencils, a lot of fonts have much more personality than they do readability. Avoid using complex fonts in your design – it’s almost always better to choose something simpler and more readable.


Leave neon in the 80s

Is your first design instinct to select bright green or pink? Neon colors look great on retro posters and basketball shoes, but it’s best to leave neon (or 1970s-style mauve or avocado color schemes) in their respective decade.


 Use contrast to get noticed

Contrast is a great way to make your message stand out. Try using white text on a black background – or alternatively, black text on a white background – to create a high-contrast effect that makes your words jump off the page.