6 mistakes to watch out for when designing your collateral – Birds on the Blog

6 mistakes to watch out for when designing your collateral

Having worked as a designer for over 20 years I’ve seen clients and potential clients make all sorts of mistakes when creating their marketing materials. Here are 6 of the most important ones, ones that can affect just how effective and well designed your product turns out to be.

1) Too much copy (text)

This is a classic mistake I’ve seen made by both small business owners, clients such as marketers who should know better and even large international companies: too much copy (text), or in other words, too many words.

One of the benefits of using good design is that it helps you clarify and simplify your message. Clients aren’t always clear about the purpose of the piece they’re creating or the message they want to convey to their potential clients, and so they waffle. They add in extra text that serves little purpose in the piece and takes up space that would be better used creating white space and flow around your message, and creating a piece that promotes all the key benefits of your message and looks great too and eye-catching.

How to correct this:

Remember the old adage: Less is More. Edit, edit, edit. Cut unnecessary words and phrases. Read and reread your copy and edit again, until you have something that sounds snappy and pertinent, clear and to the point.

Get clear on your message and cut until your copy reflects this.

2) Using the wrong font for the jobfonts

This is a mistake more commonly made by small business owners. Given how many fonts are available these days, it’s understandable.

Understanding the different types of font families would go a long way to solve this issue, to use the right font for the job. There are 4 main font family types: Serif, Sans Serif, Script and Handwritten and each type is usually used for a particular type of industry or feel.

  • Serif fonts

Serif fonts have little ‘feet’ on them and are usually used when a classic, elegant feel for a document is wanted, such as in a wedding invitation, or a business document.

Some well-known serif fonts are: Times and Times New Roman, Garamond and Bembo

  • Sans serif fonts

Sans serif fonts don’t have ‘feet’ and are more modern looking. They tend to be used where you want to convey a clear message and to look for more up to date.

Some well known sans serif fonts are: Helvetica and Helvetica Neue, Aileron, Arial, Gill Sans and Verdana.

  • Script fonts

Script fonts are cursive, rather like calligraphy. They look very elegant and ornate, and are used for things like wedding invitations and when a client wants to convey class, elegance and to reflect the past and heritage or history. Not for an IT company as I saw on one company’s banner.

Some well-known script fonts are: Palace Script, Edwardian Script, Lucida Calligraphy and Zapf Chancery.

  • Handwritten fonts

Handwritten fonts create the handwritten, casual or artisan look. They can range from fonts that look like they were written with chalk or crayon and by a child, to ones that look like they’ve been written by a fountain pen. They help add a personal touch.

Some popular handwritten fonts are: Brush Script, Feltmarker, and chalkboard.

Once you’ve decided on which font family is more suited to your message, then you can narrow it down and choose a specific font that will convey your message more appropriately to your clients.

3) Unsuitable images

This is another mistake I see made by both small business owners and larger clients: supplying images that are unsuitable for the project, particularly if it’s a print project, images that are too small. It basically comes down to a lack of knowledge about print requirements and images usually used by people on the web, in Word or from their iPhones and so on.

Web resolution is 72 dpi and web images are usually resized so that they are small and load quicker. 72dpi is far too small for an image to print properly and when you try enlarge it for print, it will pixelate because these images have already been reduced in size and information lost.

Print resolution is 300 dpi and the images need to be larger so they print well and do your message justice. If you have larger versions of photos, such as ones taken on a DSLR, always supply those to your designer, rather than ones from your phone.

Start large and go small, not the other way round!

Other ways in which images can be unsuitable are the quality of the image itself. I’m not necessarily talking about being a pro photographer, but think about lighting and positioning of your subject when taking the image (I go more into these techniques on my blog (www.iconiccreative.co.uk) and in my newsletter

If the lighting is too dark, your designer will have to do some retouch work on the image to a) make it look nice b) make it suitable for print by lightening it. If the lighting is too dark, they will have to attempt to add some contrast to get detail, again so that it prints properly. If it is so light that there is no detail at all, it will look terrible and any good designer should refuse it and ask for a different one.

What you put in you get out

Shoot against a neutral colour wall or backdrop. If you shoot against a coloured wall there will be a colour cast over the image which again will have to be corrected at a basic level to make it look nice.

Also look out for objects such drainpipes or lights growing out of peoples’ heads.

And lastly, does the image actually look nice and benefit your message and brand? If you were your client, would seeing that image, make you want to eat that product (food photography is a highly skilled niche), buy that product, talk to that person or visit that venue? If it wouldn’t, why are you expecting your clients to do that using those images?

4) No images or graphics at all

 We all take in information is different ways, some audibly, some through the written word and some visually. As much as we can we need to understand and cater to those ways of information input to ensure our message is received in the best possible way.

One mistake I’ve seen which I feel is critical to a company’s success is not using images, of any kind, in their marketing materials.

These days we are surrounded and bombarded by images. Everywhere. On social media, on tv, on billboards, direct mail. To stand out we have to compete in that environment and using images helps.

Images help break up blocks of text. In this fast-moving world, our attention spans are getting shorter and using images acts as punctuation, helping your viewer’s eye move around and through the product more easily.

They also help convey and showcase your story, your brand and your message, in a way that connects emotionally with your client.

Even if your product or service isn’t very photogenic you can add images, through use of graphics, graphs and icons. Again this helps break up heavy text blocks and adds personality to your product and your brand, making it easier for people to read.

5) Using unsuitable packages for print jobs

The struggle many small business owners have is that they need promotional material but don’t have the budget to pay someone, so attempt to do it themselves, aka DIY or Design It Yourself, using unsuitable packages such as Word, Powerpoint or other packages that were designed for secretarial and onscreen output, not for print work.

Packages such as Powerpoint are designed for on-screen presentations and so are:

  1. RGB – not set up to use CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black), the print colours – you also can’t add pantone/spot colours in PowerPoint
  2. no crop/trim marks – it doesn’t allow you to add crop marks to your pdf. Crop marks show the printer where to cut your project. If there are no crops, he will have to trim your piece by eye and bits of your text may get cut off.
  3. It doesn’t allow you to set up bleed – bleed is needed if images, graphics, lines, or blocks of colour bleed off the page, so that there is no white line down the edge of the page when the printer trims the job – if there are no crops either this is a recipe for disaster as the printer won’t know where to crop and could leave with you white stripes down the edge of your job
  4. Because the package is RGB when images are used they’re also likely to be RGB and so will print incorrectly – having recently worked in the preproduction end of getting a job ready for print, I know that work supplied is run through special software to check if images are correctly split, fonts supplied and so on. Printers may charge you to convert anything that is causing issues, so costing you money.

This is painful for any designer to see and whilst I (we) do understand that money is tight, creating something that doesn’t convey your message in an effective and creative way will cost you money in the long run. Value your brand enough to spend money on your marketing material and message. Work with a designer to develop your message and create proper print ready artwork for you and save money in the long run, whilst building your brand.

If you really have to do something yourself, use an online package such as Canva, which is specifically designed to help you create online and print products using your correct brand colours and fonts, and whilst isn’t a full design package, is a far better option in my opinion than Word or Powerpoint. If you need help learning Canva I offer 1:2:1 training packages, of 90 mins for £99 or 3 x 90 mins for £249.

6) Contact details

The final mistake (for this article anyway) I see people make, both with SMEs and also larger companies is having your details can call to action too small on business cards and other material.

Consider your audience when creating your products. Are they are young audience? Or are they more mature? As we get older our eyesight changes and it gets harder to see things close up, or smaller text. Many of us (like myself) wear glasses.

Why then do people make their contact details so small, almost illegible, on their marketing material? In a way I feel you’re insulting your potential client. If they have to peer at it, use a magnifying glass or, as I have done on occasion take a photo of a business card and then blow the photo up just so I can see the phone number, you’re disrespecting them and wasting their precious time. In fact, if I receive a card where the print is too small I just throw it in the bin. If you can’t be bothered to make your contact details easy to read, why should I waste my time trying to read it and then contact you?

Respect your audience, value their time and make your contact details and call to action easy to read.

Nicola Gaughan – Iconic Creative

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