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What Are The Characteristics of a Good Design? - Ep. 25

Updated: May 22

There are a couple of principles that I use in my design process to make sure each design is successful and is able to reach the goals of the business.

If a design is busy or lazily slapped together it's going to be hard to get your point across especially if it doesn't stand out enough to grab someone's attention to stop and read your poster or engage with your Instagram post.

Today I'll talk about the 6 things I look for in all the designs I create. If you're ready for marketing materials that convert better let's dive in.

1. Figure out the main goal of your design so you can get your point across effectively and reach your goals.

Juneau Jazz and Classic Poster Design

Before I design the first thing that I do is figure out the main goal. If I'm creating an event poster and the end goal is for people to buy tickets, where and how you purchase tickets needs to be clear on the poster. Maybe you need to put the information in a colored shape to lift it up from the photo or you need to make the text more bold if it's hard to read.

I also like to include contact information like a specific person and their number in the footer of the poster. If you don't add the contact information to the poster it 100% needs to be on the ticket sales page. Because people will have questions and it's so frustrating when you can't talk to a real human being. I also put the website at the bottom as well so it's out of the way of the main objective of the poster. When I design a website, I always start by asking myself the main goal of each page. For the about page, for instance, I want visitors to not only understand the business but also connect with the person behind it because it's not a secret, people buy from people. So, I make sure there's a photo of the person who's the driving force behind the business.

The About page serves a dual purpose. It's not just about the nitty-gritty details of the business; it's also a chance for visitors to discover what sets this business apart. Especially for small businesses, showcasing the face behind the business is super important. I also make sure to include a section explaining why visitors should choose this business over others.

By keeping the end goal in mind, this is how no important information is left out. This approach makes your design more intentional rather than randomly slapped together.

2. Make sure that all your elements have contrast so everything can seen clearly

Left: Example of Bad Contrast for the text | Right: Example of Good Contrast for the text

A really simple mistake that people make when designing is that there's not enough contrast. If you're not sure what I mean when I say contrast I mean do the elements stick out and pop from one another instead of blending in and mushing together?

Bad contrast could look like having white text over a lavender background. The lavender is so light that the white text and the background can almost fade into one. You either need to choose a darker color for the text or the background. If you're not sure if something can be easily read I would just ask someone to read it and see what they say. There's also a trick where you can turn the design into grayscale and then see if the contrast is high enough to be read. Another tip is to make sure the photos you're using don't blend into the background color, this could mean using a light-colored border if you're using a dark image on top of a black background or adding a drop shadow to a light image to make it pop from a white background.

3. Always choose an easy to read font and type hierarchy over aesthetics

Juneau Jazz & Classics Spring Music Festival Poster Example

Example of Type Hierarchy. First You read the largest text Spring Music Festival up the right side, then the date 'May 5-13. Second, you go on to read the Juneau Jazz & Classics logo. Third, you read 'The Artists'. Lastly, you finally finish on the QR code and the sponsor logos. Notice how the size of the text corresponds to what you read first to last.

I know it's super tempting to use a font that you think looks really pretty or cool but if you can't read it or if other people are going to have a hard time reading it then you probably shouldn't use it. I see this problem a lot with a script or cursive font; a lot of the time, those cursive fonts are going to be really hard to read, especially if it's a whole paragraph. So I definitely recommend using a script font to a minimum.

Using type hierarchy is super underrated but it's super important. Type hierarchy is knowing what to read first, second, and last, and this is done through the sizes of the fonts. The largest font is always read first, the second largest is always read second, and then the smallest text will be read last. You really want to make sure you implement type hierarchy because no matter what you design, whether it's a website, a poster, or an Instagram graphic, people are going to skim it before they dive into the whole design.

Imagine if there was a poster where all of the fonts were the same size; the event name, what the event is about, the prices, and contact information. It would be so hard to read because you don't know what to read first, and you will probably end up not reading the poster in the first place. But when the main event name is the largest font on the page, that's going to catch your eye first and tell you, 'Oh, that's cool. I'm interested in that.' So then you stop and read the poster. Then you go on to read the description of the event. Then you keep moving down the poster where you find the price, where the event is, and then at the bottom, you see the website, some contact information, and maybe a QR code.

Type hierarchy is even more important for a website because people are lazy and will just scan your website at first without reading the details. So make sure that when you are coming up with your headers, which should be the largest font size on the website page, you need to make sure that you're clearly conveying what you want people to know. Instead of just saying 'Hi, I'm Rizza,' you can say 'Hi, I'm Rizza, a brand and web designer based in Juneau, Alaska.' That way when people skim your site, they understand more of who you are without having to read all the copy.

4. Think about where the design will be used and make sure nothing important is cut off

Example about how I make sure important information isn't cut off of an Instagram Reel Cover

Example of how I make sure the cover image of my Instagram Reels looks good in my profile grid.

Have you ever run into an Instagram reel where the text was up too high and is cut off or too low and it runs into the captions? That's because the design elements were not kept inside the visible area. When I am designing an Instagram Reel, for example, the first thing I do is take a square box 1080 pixels by 1080 pixels and center it inside the reel. This way, I know that when the reel cover is cropped for my profile grid, none of the text is going to be cut off, and it's all showing up on my profile grid.

When you're designing your website, make sure that there is some room or some padding around the edges of the web page so that your text isn't running into the sides of the page. Giving your eyes a little extra room to breathe is key so things don't look messy or unprofessional.

The same goes for when you're designing your Instagram or social media posts; make sure nothing is touching the sides of the post. Leave a small margin, and make sure that the text, photos, and elements have viable space around them as well. Of course, there are times when you break these rules, like if you have an editorial vibe brand and you have a lot of layering in your brand style where the text goes over photos, or maybe you have some text running off the edge for aesthetic purposes and not for reading purposes. That is the perfect time to break these rules.

5. Photos are the cherry on top for any design: Use branded high-quality images if possible, and avoid poorly lit, blurry, or pixelated images

left: low quality image (too dark, weird tone, blurry) • right: high quality image (sharp, natural lighting)

Photos are a great way to capture someone's attention, they can compel someone to explore further on your website or stop and engage with your social media graphics. Photos have the amazing power to convey a specific vibe, feeling, or emotion.

If possible, get a brand photoshoot done so you can use high-quality branded photography because photos truly are the cherry on top of a design. If you have a really clean layout and everything looks professional, inserting a poorly lit, blurry image can bring your whole design down, sending a message that you don't care about the details, and the quality of your work appears cheap. It's like wearing sneakers with a designer dress to an upscale party. That one detail makes all the difference.

If you're unable to have a brand photoshoot, make sure you take photos in a well-lit room with plenty of natural light, or you could even take your photos outside. Ensure there are no distracting shadows on your images, and that the photo is in focus. You can also use stock images; paid ones are even better because they are less commonly used, allowing you to stand out more. 6. Your designs need to be easily digestible and easily skimmed. Avoid large overwhelming bodies of copy.

left: perfect amount of skimmable text • right: too much text makes the design overwhelming

Easy-to-read designs that don't have overwhelming bodies of copy, are easily digestible and can be easily skimmed

It's super easy to take a handful of photos, copy, and graphics and put together a design. The real power is being able to create something that is easy to read and digest.

When a design is overwhelming that's the biggest reason someone would not want to stop and look at your design.

Using huge overwhelming bodies of copy is a big mistake I see a lot of businesses doing. You need to think about the user experience and the attention span of the viewer.

Newspapers, for example, can be filled with a lot of text because when you pick up a newspaper, you want to read the stories, so your attention span is naturally going to be longer, maybe 15 minutes to an hour, let's say.

When you're reading a poster on a bulletin board, you're not going to sit there for 15 minutes reading it. A poster should capture your attention in 1-3 seconds. If walking by a billboard and you see something that interests you, you're going to stop and scan it for maybe 30 seconds to a minute. Then you probably will take a picture of it to save it for later.

So when you are creating a design for an event poster, just put all the details that people need to consider going to the event. All extra details can be put on a special page on your website or even a Facebook event page.

All you need is the title of the event, 1-5 short bullet points about what to expect at the event, and the time, place, cost, where to buy tickets, and then contact information.

Now, if you are designing your website, people will stay about 1-2 minutes on average. So you're able to get away with larger bodies of text, but less is always more. I like to keep my paragraphs short, sweet, and to the point, with only 3-5 sentences. People aren't going to sit there and read a novel. Think about what you want to get across and cut it down to 3-5 sentences. Here's an extra tip: make sure that the text doesn't span the entire width of your web page because that is going to be really difficult for the reader's eye to read comfortably. The optimum width or line length for your website should be 50 to 75 characters per line Recap

Great graphic design will really make all the difference in your marketing materials. I hope you take these tips and implement them into your graphics right away and see that great design work is all about simplicity, and using basic graphic design principles.

Here are the 6 Characteristics of a Good Design

  1. Figure out the main goal of your design so you can get your point across effectively and reach your goals

  2. Make sure all elements have contrast so everything can be seen clearly

  3. Always use an easy-to-read font and type hierarchy over aesthetics

  4. Think about where the design will be used and make sure nothing important is cut off

  5. Photos are the cherry on top for any design: Use branded high-quality images if possible, and avoid poorly lit, blurry, or pixelated images

  6. Your designs need to be easily digestible and easily skimmed. Avoid large overwhelming bodies of copy.


Z Squared Studio is a Brand and Web Design Studio based in Juneau, Alaska. Check out for custom brand design, logo design, or web design. Or sign up for our DIY Brand yourself Mini-Course if you're ready for a stand out, scroll stopping brand without hiring a designer.


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