Graphic design is more than making things look pretty; it’s a form of communication. And a powerful one at that. A study conducted by MIT revealed that the human brain could process an image it was exposed to for only 13 milliseconds.
Have you ever noticed how some designs can look polished and eye-catching while others … well, not so much? As a coach, you must be intentional with your visuals as they are such a powerful form of communication. Whether you design your graphics or outsource them, move forward confidently by avoiding these five common graphic design mistakes.
Mistake #1: Lack of Hierarchy
Hierarchy is the presentation of elements in relation to their priority. As a business owner, you likely want to communicate a lot of essential pieces of information to your audience. What causes confusion or a general disinterest in the content is when all of these items are given the same importance level. Hierarchy is crucial as it guides the audiences’ eyes through your form of communication.
In this example, you can see the order in which pieces of information will be consumed:
An easy way to test this is with the squint test. Take a step back from your design and squint your eyes until the words are no longer legible. What areas stand out the most? Those are the items with the most visual hierarchy. If that is intentional, great! If not, consider how to emphasize essential information with size, contrast, placement, boldness, etc.
Mistake #2: Lack of Consistency
Famous marketing author Seth Godin defines a brand as “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
I wholeheartedly agree. A lack of consistency in your brand visuals communicates a lack of credibility. Various fonts, color schemes, design styles, and aesthetics often send signals of unreliability and scattered thoughts.
As the owner of a brand, you may want to jazz things up by introducing the new design elements as soon as you start to get tired of the existing ones. The downfall is that consistency is at the core of establishing trust with your potential clients. This is absolutely true in providing consistently high-quality services and experiences for your clients, but also through your visuals. Forbes summarized it well with, “Brands are built through the consistent delivery of the brand promise through all stakeholder touchpoints”
Mistake #3: Designs that are Difficult to Read
Have you ever gone down the rabbit hole of creative ideas only to stop and wonder how you got there? Anyone looking to create professional-grade graphics will know that it is vital to step back and check the text’s overall legibility.
I’m all about creativity, but only if the message is loud and clear.
Here are a few simple rules to follow:
- Do not use script or overly ornate fonts in all caps
- Be sure to scale font sizes proportionally; blocks of text should not be stretched
- Use appropriate contrast and colors that are easy to read
- In most cases, avoid effects such as drop shadows on text
Mistake #4: Visually Different Sub-Brands
As you grow your business, you may branch out and create new offerings under your existing brand. These new offerings are considered sub-brands. A sub-brand has its own name, identity, and style guidelines but it is a child of the parent brand. An excellent example of sub-brands carried out properly can be found in Amazon.
The branding that falls beneath the umbrella of the Amazon brand still retains the same visual styles and is clearly an off-shoot of the primary brand. Amazon Fresh, Amazon Echo, Amazon Kindle, and Amazon Prime intentionally use color to distinguish the sub-brand and communicate the proper theme. The overall style (fonts, iconography, placement) is consistent across these sub-brands and that is what clearly communicates it’s connection to the primary brand.
As a coach, you may offer different services, levels, products, or courses that could use a visual distinction. Go for it! Just be sure to only make slight modifications to the primary brand for each sub-brand. This is often accomplished through color or patterns, although there are many creative ways to make the visual connection. The purpose of a sub-brand is to increase your brand’s exposure – often to a slightly different demographic. If the brands are visually similar enough, you risk the chance of confusing your audience.
Mistake #5: Using Cookie Cutter Imagery (or a Lack of Imagery)
Images help you to catch the attention of readers who skim articles, email, and social media looking for something interesting. However, they won’t stop to check out your content if you are using the same light bulb or handshake stock photo as every other website.
Every graphic you use to market your business should have a clear purpose related to the overall theme and content. Don’t use images just for the sake of having images.
Here are a few tips for maximizing visuals on your branded materials:
- Have your own photos taken
- If you must use stock photos, look for less popular images
- Use candid/realistic poses when your images include people
- Try to group photos based on style and color or edit so that they look like the same photographer took them
- Consider alternatives to photos such as illustrations and icons
- Look at other industries for inspiration; try to find unique idea
The bottom line: your visuals need to reflect the quality of service you provide.
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