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Do It Yourself Design

Updated on March 1, 2013

How To and How Not To in Graphic Design

Computers and Desktop Publishing has put a lot of power within the hands of Small Business people. Unfortunately it has also become sword that many have fallen on. Without following the basic rules of Graphic Design many aspiring designers are making big mistakes.

Not everyone can afford to pay a Graphic Designer and in particular an Advertising Agency to design a corporate image and logo.

The results that they give is worth the cost but can a new business or an existing one afford these services?

And then there is the ongoing cost associated with a professionally prepared design. You often need to have anything that is to be printed to be done professionally and at high costs.

Can You Do It Yourself?

A lot of people can recognise good design but few can actually do it

The first step is recognising it. If you can recognise what does and does not work in a design you can then take the step to identifying what is right and wrong. The best lesson is being aware of what both big and small businesses are doing.

With a little artistic talent and following the basic rules of design anyone can create their own logo and a new image in the process.

Developing The Design Brief

Your logo has a job to do. It has to distinguish the company, product or service and differentiate the company, product or service from similar ones. In a way that is legal, appropriate and attractive

Your design must be flexible. After all it should and must, be used on everything that displays your business name: business cards, vehicle, letterheads, flyers, uniforms.

What Goes Into A Design

  • Typefaces

    This is letter styles. Computer literate people know them as fonts.

    This is where a lot of people come unstuck, especially when they're doing a flyer.

    Some people tend to think 'more' is better but nothing looks as amateur as a page full of different typefaces. Check out advertisements placed by businesses with marketing budgets bigger then the average Small Businesses gross profit. You might find the odd ads that stray from the rule of 'no more then two typefaces' and still be effective. But don't try to break the rules unless you know them.

  • Emotion

    Choose letter styles with an image in mind.

    When you design a sign or a logo, the choice of letter style is probably the most important design decision you'll make. Try to match the personality of yourself and the nature of your business to the appropriate typeface.

    Typestyles can create a certain mood or convey a particular era. So be careful of typefaces that are dated, unreadable or overused.

  • Colors

    Design first with black on white. Color won't save a bad design. Black and white stands out better then any other contrasting color. It also costs a whole lot less too. But color does serve a purpose, it can be part of your image.

    Color drives emotion. Keeping this in mind you might want to research the influence of color on mood and the message it conveys.

    Color might not save a bad design but it enhances a good design, so long as you can keep it repetitive and uniform. It's the same principle as a design: find the most appropriate and stick to it. Don't confuse prospective customers by using one colour on this brochure and a different one on a leaflet. Every time you make this mistake it chips away at the professionalism and image that you're trying to create.

    Could you imagine a McDonalds sign with a big Blue M, or Coca Cola using any color except red?

  • Layout

    The book Graphics: A Visual Language describes layout as thus: layout refers to the way the information is presented. Each element is positioned and sized for the most visually effective result. This includes graphic devices, illustrations, photographs, headings, logos and text.

    Organisation of the information- written text, graphic devices and headings- is an important component of layout. Each piece of information should be related to the other. The advertisement or information carrier should be united and must have some sort of focal point. This can be achieved with the use of a dominant element. The rest of the info should be arranged so that the, audiences eye will move from one element to another

Great Stuff on Color in Design at Amazon

The Pitfalls of Do It Yourself Design - (in no particular order)

  1. Making or changing a design without much thought: Consider who your customer is, and what image you need to portray.
  2. Using different designs: After you've designed the best possible, most appropriate Graphic Design that conveys the image you need- use it. On everything. How many Small Businesses whack out a letterhead without much thought from the computer, rubber stamp the invoice with whatever the stamp shop put together, hand out a card that the printer designed and drive around in a vehicle that the signwriter considered to be a one of a kind work of art.

    It's not the fault of the printer, signwriter, rubber stamp maker. Give them the design that you want so they've got something to work off.

  3. Changing designs without a new plan of implementation: if you're updating your image or never had one in the first place then don't do it gradually. Plan and organize.
  4. Using the wrong typeface: just because you think it's the coolest looking font on the computer doesn't mean it's the best one for your business name.
  5. Don't slant left: it makes the words look like they don't want to be on the page. Then if you throw a few italics (right leaning) typefaces and as soon as you turn your back they're all gonna make a bolt for it.
  6. Don't use more then two fonts: you either break this rule if you're ignorant, have the design sense of a camel or you know the rules well enough to break them creatively.
  7. Don't use the initials of the business unless it already has a recognition factor of IBM: Nobody's going to know you unless you're VW, BMW, ABC, KFC or CC's. It costs a lot of dollars in marketing before anybody, let alone your prospective customers, will know who you are or what you sell. So think twice before becoming an advertisement for alphabet soup.

Doing It Yourself

The best way to go about the design if you have the tools, is use a computer. With the vast array of typefaces that are available on some systems or readily available to buy from computer software retailers (anything up to 2000 fonts are sold on a CD Rom) You don’t have an excuse for lack of artistic flair.

First start with your business name and what image you want to convey. By knowing what image you’re after and who your customers are will make it easier to decide on the best design from a batch of hopefuls.

Using your computer, write your business name and copy it a dozen times. Depending on the number of fonts available on your computer might limit you in choice and diversity. Format each one with a font style that you think might work well.

If the business name consists of two or more words you might be able to use more then one font. But never more then two.

Then weed out the ones that don’t work. Hopefully you’ll end up with 3 that will be appropriate.

Now you have to consider if they are flexible enough to work on all your stationary, uniforms, vehicles, etc.

Generally there will be more than one letter style to choose from that would do the job. You just have to pick the one you feel is best or get a professional opinion.

After you’ve printed it out and had a good think about it, ask yourself some questions. Does it convey the image you want? Is it readable? Is it similar to another business?

If it passes all the tests then incorporate it into a letterhead, and take copies of the design to your printer, signwriter and rubber stamp maker.

The Conclusion!

It may take hours to come up with the right design but if the end product still isn’t what you have in mind there’s always Graphic Designers who know what they’re doing. Graphic Design creates an image and shows professionalism. It’s worth the cost for a professionally designed and produced logo.

Do It Yourself Design can be done effectively if you have the tools, talent and time. Anything less wouldn’t be good enough.

...or do you get someone else to do it for you?

Do you do it yourself...

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    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I've played around with a few designs of my own and enjoy diy design, learned a few good tips here, thanks.

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I've played around with a few designs of my own and enjoy diy design, learned a few good tips here, thanks.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Well written, kudos! :)


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