I am going to put on a different hat today, and talk about design. You may know me as DTU’s resident legal beagle, but what you may not know is that my undergraduate degree is in Fine Arts (I majored in sculpture). While it may seem like a strange combination (talk about using both sides of your brain!), as a small business owner you know that it takes a variety of skills, and it turns out that an education in creative thinking and visual representation has been useful throughout my legal career, sometimes in surprising ways.
But today I want to talk about something specific, and that is using the online design software Canva. Canva has quickly become the go-to site for small business owners for social media marketing and other advertising. It lets you easily create presentations, social media posts and banners, flyers, etc. There are stock photos, fonts, effects, and a zillion illustrations.
But with this powerful tool comes an expectation that “anyone can do it.” Suddenly, we all need to be graphic designers, on top of excellent dog trainers, human trainers, book-keepers and floor sweepers! It’s not that easy, so here are a few tips to help you creat great-looking graphics.
If you maintain some consistency in how your posts look, your audience will start to recognize your posts when they come across your feed. The easiest way to create consistency is to use the same colors, font, and layout.
A good start is to choose 1 -3 colors (plus black and white), and stick with those. You may already have colors from your logo, but if not, think about the general feeling you want your business to portray — modern (can imply clean, logical, professional), colorful (happy, fun, energetic), natural (healthy, conscientious, calm), etc. Here are 3 quick examples of how colors and font can change the feel.
That brings us to fonts. A good rule of thumb is to stick with two fonts for a small graphic. If you need more variety, you can change the size or add bolding or italics, and change the shape as in the examples above.
Some fonts have serifs, like the quote in this graphic. Serifs are those extra little lines, like at this top of the “d” or the bottom of the “p”.
Serifs are more traditional and formal. Fonts without serifs generally look more modern and clean.
A lot can be said about layout. Again, think about the vibe you want. in the example above, the modern layout is symmetrical, logical and serene; in the colorful layout, the curves of the text add movement and energy.
Look at the negative space (the empty areas around the text and other elements). Is it much bigger in some places?
Divide the area of your graphic in halves or in thirds. In the second and third “I believe in you” samples, the three lines of text take up about half of the height of the graphic, but they are place slightly above or slightly below the center line to make a pleasing design.
A Gentle Critique
I admire anyone who makes an effort to try things and learn new skills. These things take practice. But it can help you improve your eye if you study what you like and what you don’t like, and try to figure out what makes the difference. In the examples below, varying the size and boldness of the font, plus balancing the size of the photo versus the test to about 1/3 to 2/3, improves the appearance of this business’s email card.
Finally, Canva has lots of instructional videos on their site, with lots of tips and inspiration. And as always, feel free to post your attempts in our Circle community if you want a gentle critique on your own work. How do you use Canva?