A college professor once explained to our class that good design included plenty of white space and images to break up text. Attention spans were short even in the late 90s. Outside of novels, nobody wants to see a full wall of text. Whether you’re writing a blog post, creating a newsletter, designing your website, or putting together a social media graphic, basic design rules still apply.
Over the years, we’ve experienced a shift from newspapers to online news. Many entrepreneurs publishing their own website content and creating social media graphics never sat in a graphic design class. Lucky for you, the rules aren’t hard to understand.
Use a hierarchy of headlines
In blog posts and website content, your headlines signal to Google that your site has good organization. Google rewards your efforts with a boost in search rankings. You’ll notice when you write a post you have the option of creating H1, H2, and H3 headlines.
H1 headlines are your most important information.
H2 can be used for subheadings.
H3 could be information you need to highlight, but it’s less important.
Subheadings break up your content and make it easier for people to read what you’ve written. The most widely read blog posts average from 1500-2400 words. That’s a lot of text. You’ll engage more readers by breaking the text into bite-sized chunks separated by headlines that tell what’s most important about the following content.
Headline styles should also be used to highlight important information in graphics and print media. If all the text in your event invitation is the same size, your reader might miss the most important information.
Keep your fonts consistent
I love nothing better than a pretty font. (So maybe I love cookies better but that’s about it.) It’s easy to get caught up in the number of fonts available. Most websites have a set number of fonts to use in content. This keeps your website consistent and organized. But what about those social media graphics?
Choose two maybe three fonts for graphics, flyers, or other material. All you really need is a headline font and a body text. You can add details by increasing the size of your words or by making the font bold or italic.
Choose the right fonts
While we’re discussing fonts, let’s talk about which fonts to choose.
Display fonts are those fancy fonts that can sometimes be hard to read in large amounts. These fonts dress up your design but should be used in moderation. They’re perfect for a headline or to highlight a specific word, but should never be used for body copy or in small sizes.
Which display font you choose depends on your audience and topic. An event or website geared toward children could use a playful font like Finger Paint or Emily’s Candy. A funeral home, on the other hand, would probably opt for a more somber font like Georgia or Times New Roman.
Allow for plenty of white space
Most paragraphs in online content include three sentences. White space between paragraphs and around images draw attention to the words and make it easier to read. White space doesn’t have to be boring. Let your images speak for themselves. Minimalism isn’t dead. Too many images, fonts, and colors can clutter a design and confuse readers. If your reader doesn’t know where to look first they may give up and move on.
White space includes your margins. Running words to the edge of the page makes it hard for readers to follow. Margins and space between paragraphs draw your reader’s eye.
Try non-image elements
Images and graphics aren’t the only things that break up text in a blog post. Create a pull-quote from your most important statements. These quotes drive home your point and help break up text-heavy copy.
Other ideas include:
- Bulleted lists
- List broken out into a box
- Bars charts or graphs
Choose images or graphics that fit
Nothing distracts from your content like a distorted image. If you need to resize your image hold the SHIFT key while dragging the image from one corner. This increases the image size proportionately. Increasing the width of the image without increasing the height or vice versa stretches the details of the image out of proportion.
If your image still doesn’t fit right, consider cropping out unnecessary parts of the image to reshape the image. Images that won’t fit well after cropping or being resized in proportion should be replaced with an alternative image.
Study good design
The cliche says imitation is the highest form of flattery. Pay attention to graphics, images, and websites that draw your attention. We don’t always understand what it is about an image or site that attracts us at first glance. But we can point out bad design when we see it.
When you see good design make note of which of these principles the design follows. Use Canva.com or another graphic design program to attempt a recreation of the graphic on your own. The more you notice good design elements and practice, the better your own design will become.
Interestingly enough all these design guidelines have stood the test of time. From newspapers and posters of the 90s to social media and blog posts of the roaring 20s, you’ll find good design follows a few simple guidelines. If you’re looking for more help with your design endeavors, check out these resources.