Whether you run your own business or are in the process of cultivating your own personal brand, being a great visual communicator is crucial when it comes to making an impact in 2018. But for anyone whose budget doesn’t yet stretch as far as employing the services of a graphic designer (*waves hand in air*), a couple of pros have shared their top tips on how we can take our designs from amateur to amazing.
From creating brand identity to boosting your followers on social media, we all know the importance of good design—which is precisely why many of us find ourselves staring at a blank canvas waiting for inspiration to strike. Where to start? While kicking off a project can sometimes feel like a daunting prospect, it’s important to remember that we’re all capable of creating something both beautiful and impactful with a bit of guidance along the way.
Here, a couple of Canva designers generously share their go-to hacks to help us on our way to clean, clever and meaningful design.
Do your research
But first, a bit of homework. Before you begin any design project, graphic designer Kitkat Lastimosa recommends gathering some background information first. “The key to good design is research,” says Kitkat. “Ask yourself questions like, ‘Who is going to see this design?’ and ‘In what context?’ and ‘In what medium?’ While design is also about making things aesthetically pleasing, the priority is still conveying information in a clear and easily understandable way.”
As well as being visually pleasing, opt for a template that presents information in an easily digestible way, such as Tropical Summer Dream Beach Party Flyer or Teal Typewriter Job Vacancy Announcement. In both instances, the use of borders and font size effectively draws our attention to the key information.
Once you’ve established the fundamental purpose of your design, you can then move on to making the big decisions—such as the colors and fonts you want to use—says Kitkat. “Choosing fonts and colors become a much easier process when you do your research first,” she explains.
Keep an eye out for inspiration
In order to give his designs a contemporary feel, Paul Gernale—a graphic designer who has worked alongside international brands such as Native Shoes, Herschel Supply Co. and Columbia Sportswear—is constantly on the lookout for inspiration.
“Gathering inspiration on a daily basis is one of the simplest tricks, I believe, to make any design look good and fresh,” says Paul, who notes that inspiration can strike from almost anywhere. “From art books, articles, videos, podcasts to simple signage you see in the city. Design is everywhere, literally. You just have to observe more of the world around you to see it.”
Whether it’s an image, color or particular font you stumble upon that resonates with the look you’re trying to achieve, consider collating it all together in a mood board. Having your inspiration packaged together in one place will serve as a good springboard for your design project.
Top design tips from the pros
While there are plenty of different sites that offer an array of design products and resources out there, Canva offers all of these tools and resources in one place. Put simply, it’s your one stop shop for all your design needs. As well as providing access to more than a million high-profile photographs, elements, shapes, icons and illustrations, you’ll also find easily customizable design templates for almost any design project, giving you an instant professional edge. Here’s how you can get the best out of it:
#1 Choose two fonts with high contrast
Finding fonts that are both balanced and compliment each other can be a bit of a mine field for an aspiring designer, but it’s important to give it careful consideration and not just opt for the first font you try.
“Fonts have different personalities and qualities, just like colors,” says Paul, who recommends trying out a variety of different fonts until one works with your layout. “Basically, it’s trial and error until you start to realize what works and what does not with your fonts.”
A good place to start, says Paul, is pairing fonts that create good contrast. “Use only one or two fonts at a time, avoid using two fonts of the same classification, identify your design’s main purpose and aesthetic.”
Pairing no more than two fonts together that create good contrast—as displayed here on and book cover templates Girl Friends Teen Fiction Wattpad Book Cover and Amazon Jungle Wattpad Book Cover—is an effortless way to create impact through typography.
“If you want an elegant and professional looking font, you may like Baskerville, Bodoni, Didot, Feijoa, Garamond, and Sabon,” says Paul. “If you prefer a more modern and clean font you will love Avenir, Avant Garde, Bebas, Gill Sans, Gotham, Helvetica, and Roboto. But if you need a classic, thick and block-like serif fonts you can try Caslon, Clarendon, Rockwell, and Sentinel.”
While fonts such as Bodoni and Forum—as seen here on Turquoise Shades Professional Certificate—are perfect for a professional design, a more playful pairing—such as Josefin Sans and Euphoria Script, seen here on Minimal Elegant May Day Greeting Facebook Post—adds a lighthearted feel, should the occasional call for it.
“For beginners, a good rule of thumb is to never use more than two fonts in one design,” agrees Kitkat. “A good font pairing both contrasts and complements each other. For a more minimal approach, using just one font with different weights and styles is always a good bet.”
#2 Illustrate information with shapes, icons and colors
Adding transparent icons, seen here on Girls Hiking Weekend ideas Facebook Post, is an easy and effective way to add a professional edge to your design.
“You want your design to grab the attention of the viewer and make the information you’re trying to convey as easily understandable as possible,” says Kitkat, who says that practicing proper hierarchy is one of her favorite ways to create maximum impact with a piece of work. You can do this by experimenting with different shapes, icons and colors.
“Highlighting the important parts of your design can be achieved by using contrasting font sizes and typefaces, as well as different colors.”
Through the font style, size and placement, viewers of Ice Cream Party Flyer are immediately fed the most important information first. The typography, icons and use of color spaced evenly throughout the rest of the design means that viewers then digest the secondary information – the time and place, etc.—as their gaze is naturally drawn across the page.
Again, through icons and color, viewers are given bite sized information hierarchically as their eyes scan Flat Illustration Infographic.
#3 Limit your color palette to four colors
Much like your fonts, color can have a huge impact on your design as different colors can evoke different emotions. “Getting familiarised with the psychology of colors is a good starting point when developing a color palette,” advises Paul. “What I usually do is identify first the main purpose of my design and choose only one color to convey that idea or emotion and build the color scheme from there.”
Matching colors to your designs, as displayed here on Pink Cherry Blossom Flower Instagram Post, is another effective way to make your designs appear polished. Acquaint yourself with a color picker tool in order to get the exact same shade.
“Choosing colors tends to be a matter of personal taste, but make sure to choose colors that match the vibe and theme of the design you’re making,” adds Kitkat. “Limiting your palette to three [or] four colors, though not a hard-and-fast rule, tends to make your design look cleaner and more balanced.”
#4 Keep it simple
Now that you’re more comfortable experimenting with different design tools, such as shapes and icons, color and fonts, doesn’t mean you have to use all them all at once. “Learn to practice restraint,” says Kitkat. “I know that it’s tempting to use many different elements in a design, but limiting things like your colors, fonts, shapes, and images will make your final output look much more clean and cohesive.”
If you’re working with a strong image, as seen on the Visit Reykjavik Facebook Post template, allow the picture to be the hero of the design by avoiding any unnecessary elements.
“I always try my best to make complex things simple,” says Paul, echoing Kitkat’s sentiment.
Ensuring every element on your page is in alignment (any shapes or icons used are evenly distributed) will add an instant touch of professionalism. Note that the cube and ‘Shop Now’ icon on Simple Black and White Fashion Facebook Cover are the exact same distance from the top and bottom of the design.
‘Clean’ design doesn’t necessarily mean lots of white space; the sharp lines and symmetrical design elements of Designer Business Card show that a pop of color can still look uncluttered.
#5 Finally, embrace the mistakes
Of course, we all want our designs to be the best they possibly can—but in order to do so it’s natural to make a few mistakes along the way. “As a designer, sometimes we want things to be perfect and beautiful so we follow guidelines and rules and that is normal,” concludes Paul. “But if we really want to create and offer fresh ideas to the table, we have to accept mistakes, learn from rejections and don’t be afraid of [constructive] criticism.”