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Graphical Design and Your Visual System

The graphic design of marketing materials is certainly about pulling the viewer in and keeping them there long enough to recognize a benefit to remembering your brand. Competing for the attention of a busy reader, however, is no small feat. Your choices in graphical design are key to hitting the emotional keystones necessary to influence your readers. The layout of your graphics, font and whitespace are central to the effort.

Most of us know graphically pleasing promotional material when we see it, but we seldom analyze how the graphic artist achieved the result. This is an area where, if available to you, professional assistance is invaluable. If you are designing a brochure or handout, templates are often available. If designing an advertisement,  the media from which you are purchasing ad space can be a prime resource. Most media have templates and even in-house graphical artists that will assist you in the design and layout of your advertising.  In many instances, design services are at no additional or a minimal charge. Even when a charge is stated, use it as a negotiating point and ask for the services to be complimentary to the ad pricing. Even if you have to pay, however, the additional expenditure will typically be worthwhile. You can also use other advertising as a template, so make a study of ads that you find pleasing and well-constructed.

Key graphical elements include your logo, photographs and your choice of color palette for the effort. Your logo should appear in every ad to ensure brand-building is a continuous part of your marketing plan. Colors are an entire study in and of themselves, and you can find a number of interesting studies on how color affects the psychology of viewers. One of the best resources for good stock photography and a very reasonable rate is istockphoto.com. In general, be very cautious with the use of standard “clip art” which often looks amateurish and detracts from the overall sense of professionalism that you want to convey.

Choose a very readable font. Make sure that your type face is readable and properly sized throughout the ad. Position the “headline” to grab attention.  Most designers suggest using a combination of upper and lower case lettering as opposed to all capitals. In general, avoid reversed out type except in very small doses as most people have a limited tolerance for light lettering on a dark background.

Make good use of white space. Don’t introduce brand confusion with too many supplier logos or other graphical elements that will compete with your own branding. Many good ads and presentations are lighter in the amount of text and graphics near the top one-third of the ad and then gradually heavier toward the bottom, allowing for the eye to quickly scan in a natural top to bottom motion. Most of the time, it is a good idea to keep a balanced weight with regard to the left and right side of the graphical design. With all of this said, however, the first rule of good graphic design is that rules can be broken to achieve maximum impact by a good designer.

We have only scratched the topic of graphical design, but with practice and a bit of study, you will find yourself capable of putting together ad design and layout that not only works, but works well.

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