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Design Tips for Marketing Materials (PDF included) - Ep. 37

Updated: Mar 26

When you start your business, you’re going to be the one designing your marketing materials. I’m talking about social media posts, the covers for your blog posts, podcasts, and pretty much anything you create to market your business.

Learning these direct graphic design tips can help instantly elevate your marketing. So, if you're interested in design tips for marketing materials or products that bring awareness to your brand and can be implemented straight away, let's dive in.

Also feel free to download the PDF Version!

Design Tips for Marketing Materials PDF -
Download PDF • 2.93MB

left: paragraph is unnecessarily in all caps, right: correct copy usage

website design based on an original Canva Template Design called Home Page Website in Emerald Black and White Aspirational Elegance Style

1. Avoid Using All Caps In Your Paragraphs

The first tip is to avoid all caps because it's hard to read. The point of design is to market to your target audience, and make sure they are able to understand and read your materials otherwise they're going to skip over them. 

I would definitely avoid using all caps for your body copy aka your paragraphs. Let's say you have a paragraph on your website and that whole paragraph is in all caps, first of all, it looks like you are screaming at the visitor and again, it's hard to read. 

If you are using all caps in your headers, I think you can get away with that. As long as the headers are easy to ready and short in length.

There are times when you can break the rules of design. So if you've been designing for a while and you feel like you are comfortable with breaking the rules, then go ahead. One time you can break the rule is when you want to emphasize one word, like 'Come check out our SPRING SALE today.'


left: sans serif font - easier to read, right: serif fonts - harder to read

website design based on an original Canva Template Design called Home Page Website in Emerald Black and White Aspirational Elegance Style

2. Use Sans Serif fonts for your Paragraphs

You want to make text easy to read, especially for larger bodies of text, and the best way to do this is to use a Sans Serif font. Fonts like Arial, Open Sans, and any font that doesn't have the little “feet” at the ends of each letter.

If you want to use a Serif font (Times New Roman for example), keep it to very short blocks of text, like your headers. At the end of the day, it's all about readability, and if you use sans serif text for the paragraphs of your website, you never know it could start converting better.


left: avoid justified text, right: always use left align

website design based on an original Canva Template Design called Home Page Website in Emerald Black and White Aspirational Elegance Style

3. Avoid Justified Text

Justified text is when you're reading a magazine and the left edge of the text and the right edge of the text are completely straight up and down so the paragraphs look like a perfect column.

When creating your text make sure to left align your text. If your text is aligned to the left, your eye starts to read from the exact same spot every single time. If possible, save justified text for a designer or if you feel confident in your design skills.

For example, when I'm creating a magazine and I'm using justified text, I'm manipulating each line to make sure that there are not too many gaps or the spacing in between each line isn’t too tight so everything is easier on the eyes.

There are a lot of little details that go into creating legible justified text, and since you're just starting out, I would stick to keeping everything left-aligned. Can you make things right-aligned? Sure. Maybe if you have three to five sentences, but I wouldn't recommend doing it for a whole document especially because we read left to right.


4. Add a Photo or Even a Video Especially If You're Using Social Media

Adding a photo or a video to your marketing materials, especially if you're using social media will catch attention faster than text ever will. An easy way to add photos is to place an image in the background of your design and place your text over it.

If you’re putting text over your image, make sure it’s legible. If you're using black text, put it on the lightest part of the image or where there’s dead space or white space on the image. Pretty much, you don’t want to put text on the busiest part of your image. Avoid placing it across someone's face or a pattern because that makes it hard to read, and again, we are all about legibility and contrast. 

Another idea is putting a colored box underneath your text. If you check out my Instagram or website, you'll see that I do it a lot, and that's to make sure there's contrast and readability.

You can also think about putting your photos in a frame. Let's say that you have a boho-style brand, you can use an arched photo frame. If you're putting multiple photos on a page, let's say you have three photos. Choose one hero image (an image that is the main focal point or the first image you want them to see) and then make the other two photos smaller so it guides people to what they should look at first. 

At the end of the day, a video is even better, like a reel for Instagram, because it gives you a chance to grab attention and keep attention much longer than a block of text, and it’s a really nice way to bring in that emotional connection. Plus, I think when someone sees you or listens to you talking, even if it's through a screen, it allows you to build a deeper connection than text alone can.


left: incorrect width, needs more margin, right: correct width with proper margins

website design based on an original Canva Template Design called Home Page Website in Emerald Black and White Aspirational Elegance Style

5. Be Aware of the Width of Your Text, Think About Legibility

There's a reason that website copy doesn't span all the way to the left edge of a computer and then all the way to the right edge. It’s simply because of readability. Having the text stretch the whole width of the screen is too long for your eye to read, and the text can look overwhelming. That's why there's always a large gap in the margins of a website; it's for readability and functionality. 

Your text should never be too close to the edges of your design or touch the edges of the screen or paper. You always want to leave a margin because it will make your text look so much more professional.

One of the scenarios where you can break this rule is if you want to have an aesthetic choice, but not a readability choice. Let's use my brand as an example, I have “Z Squared Studio” running along the top or bottom of some of my Instagram posts, and it spans all the way from left to right and it repeats itself. This line of text is touching the edges because that's an aesthetic choice and it's not an important part of the message. 

At the end of the day, if you're creating a poster, you want people to read it, right? You want people to be able to understand the poster and then eventually make sure that they have all the information they need to buy a ticket to your event. Plus, it adds that nice professional touch to your designs.


left: a clear website menu design, right: hamburger menu on a desktop site is different but can be confusing website design based on an original Canva Template Design called Home Page Website in Emerald Black and White Aspirational Elegance Style

6. Go for Clarity, Not Cleverness

You want people to understand you quickly and effortlessly. For example, if I’m creating an Instagram graphic about being a graphic designer, I'm not going to use the word brand guru because people might not understand what I mean by brand guru, but they're going to understand the word graphic designer. 

I see a lot of people who want to come up with creative things like I'm not a copywriter, I'm a Strategic Digital Marketer or something, and that's going to cause a disconnect when people read because they're not going to understand that you are a copywriter. That's why it's better to go for clarity so people understand what you are talking about with minimal effort. 

Another example where you would go for clarity and not cleverness is the menu of a website. I think you should always have it at the top of your website. If you have your menu as, let's say, a hamburger menu (the 3 lines in the corner of the page that drops down into all the info.) which you see a lot on mobile websites but instead you use it on a desktop site, people might not understand it. People are going to be looking for your menu at the top, and you're missing out on a lot of functionality and potential customers if you're trying to be clever. 

Another thing to be aware of is that you're not stuffing your social media copy full of emojis, one or two is fine, but it shouldn't be in every sentence because it will look like there is too much going on.


7. Get Feedback From The People In Your Target Market

Let's say you have two designs and the only difference is that one of them is using a different font, a different color, or a slightly different layout. The best thing you can do is ask your target market, which one is more appealing. There's a lot of power in feedback, and most people overlook it. We design for our customers, so what better way to know if they are resonating with our designs than to simply ask them. 

Keep in mind when people start to give you feedback you need to remember that you asked for feedback so don’t take it to heart. It's going to be hard at first, but in the long run, it will be super helpful for creating future designs. Or you can start off with asking a couple of friends that are within your target market. Make sure they are honest friends who will tell you all the things they like and dislike about your design because getting feedback from someone who says “yeah that looks great” may feel nice but it’s not going to help you improve. Facebook groups are another great way to get feedback.


left: incorrect spacing - there's too much gaps in between the linesof text, right: correct spacing - easier to read

website design based on an original Canva Template Design called Home Page Website in Emerald Black and White Aspirational Elegance Style

8. Be Aware Of Spacing

You don't want one huge block of text on your website page because that’s super overwhelming to read. You want people to feel comfortable reading your copy without large gaps or small gaps where it's unreadable. 

If you've ever heard about kerning, which is adding space in between each letter of a word, I would save that for headers or a logo. But don't use it for your paragraphs because it makes it super hard to read and understand. 

Visuals have a lot to do with how we read, and if something is out of the norm, let's say there's too much spacing in between each letter, then your brain is going to have a hard time deciphering what that word is, even if they read it all the time.

left: cluttered design, right - white space and simpler design that is easier to read

9. Don't Clutter Your Designs

Make sure to have white space or blank space in your designs. If you have a brand style guide, this is a great tool to use so you're not adding random elements just to fill up space. If you would like a free Brand Style Guide template, you can grab mine here. Or I have a $17 brand kit which comes with 10 unique brand styles. 

Our eyes need room to breathe, otherwise, your designs will look cluttered and overwhelming. And an overwhelmed viewer is not going to read your post, read your poster, or go through your website. Think about the end-user when you're designing as opposed to the aesthetics of the design. If you think your design looks boring, here are a couple of things you can do to spice it up without making it look cluttered or overwhelming: 

Change the font size of your headers. Instead of using bold or italics for a word, you can try adding in a different font (just make sure the two types of fonts make sense together and don’t look like they are from two different planets.)

You can add a block of color if you want some more contrast or maybe play around with the layout of the poster. For example, maybe it looks better if the photo is above the header or when the header is above the photo.

Maybe you want to overlap a couple of elements to spice up the design. Play around with it, but try not to over-design and just add elements because you think it looks boring. There's a lot of other things you can do.

left: no hierarchy, right: hierarchy

10. Add Visual Hierarchy to Guide the Visitor Through a Journey

Visual hierarchy is used to guide the visitor through a journey so they know what to look at first, second, third, etc. One of the most common mistakes I see in marketing materials is that people often forget to add in any sort of visual hierarchy. 

An example would be If you're reading a poster and you don't even know what the event is called, what it’s about, where it is, or how much it’s going to cost because all the text is the same size. That's why visual hierarchy is so important you need to guide people through your designs so it communicates effectively. 

What I like to do is have the event name as the largest font size so they read that first. Second largest, I like to do the location and the date and maybe even the Price. I'll put some kind of shape or color behind the price and maybe even give it a shadow to make it pop. 

Then I have the supporting details like the body paragraphs in the smallest font on the page. Now that you have three different sizes of fonts people will know exactly what to look at first, second, and third. 

You can also think about this with graphics and images as well. If you have three images and you make one image bigger, that's visual hierarchy, they're going to look at the big image first, then the other images second and third. When your reader's eye looks at your Instagram graphic you don't want them to glaze over it. You want one thing to really hook their attention and make them stop their scroll. Whether that's the header or a photo it doesn't matter, the goal is to have at least one main aspect that drags in the visitor so they go ahead and watch or read whatever content you made and this is only possible if you include visual hierarchy. 

Another tip is that we like to read from left to right and top to bottom, so you should put the most important things on top and the least important things on the bottom. Since you can also add visual hierarchy through placement. If you're creating a schedule of events you should list their dates in order from top to bottom. 


These are some things you should think about when you're designing because it makes a huge difference and I know some of it may sound really obvious, but it's the easy tips that make all the difference.

If there is one thing you should remember from this episode it should be that design is all about legibility and communication. At the end of the day, your goal for your marketing materials is to teach your audience something new, have them visit your website, or check out your social media page to consume more of your content or buy something from you. Small business or not. If your designs are confusing or hard to read, you're leaving money on the table. Have a great day, and happy designing.

Design Tips for Marketing Materials PDF -
Download PDF • 2.93MB


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