How to FAKE being a designer

Yesterday we talked about how important design is when it comes to marketing your business.

Today we wanted to tell you how to FAKE IT.

This isn’t going to teach you how to be a designer. Being a designer takes years of training and practice. However there are some simple things that you should know, so if you want to create some nice graphics for your social media or marketing in general, you can ‘fake’ something so it may look like it has been professionally designed.

Let’s start with the basics…colours and fonts.
It is really important that you have a consistent set of brand colours and a consistent set of brand fonts. Good brands are consistent with these choices so you need to be too.

Don’t choose a standard colour from Microsoft Word / Paint. These colours are overdone and are a little bit ‘Primary School’. You need your own unique shade of a colour. Most software where you can choose a colour comes with a colour wheel, and each colour will have a code. The code will most likely be an ‘RGB’ or ‘Hex’ code. RGB stands for ‘Red Green Blue’ and each will have a number next to it. For example the atomic orange is R – 255, G – 153, B – 0. A Hex code is a # followed by 6 characters, so the atomic orange is #ff9900. Note – these colours are just for on screen graphics, when it comes to printing the colours need to be in CMYK format, but we aren’t going to talk about that here.

ACTION: Find out the Hex Code, or RGB Code of your brand colours, so when designing you know which colours to use.

Having a consistent set of fonts is also really important. Poor designs will have as many fonts as you cram in, ultimately looking messy and unprofessional. So we encourage you to stick to a small set of fonts, and use the consistently in the same places. For example you will have a font for titles, subtitles and body text. Check out ‘Google fonts’ for some fonts to download, or a good website we like for some different fonts is www.dafont.com (though make sure you get the ones that are 100% Free for commercial use as well as personal use, or pay the font creator if you really want to use one). Most font families have a bold version and a light version. Sometimes it’s a good idea to use the for titles and sub titles to keep a consistent font choice.

You can download fonts to your computer pretty easily. How it usually works is you download a font file to your computer, then when you open it, it will prompt you to install on your device. This then makes the font available to you when selecting a font on whatever it is you are using to design.

When using fonts, DON’T go crazy with Bold, Italics and Underline on titles, as this again can look unprofessional, stick to your fonts in your colours, and make titles simply a bigger font size.

ACTION: Know what your set of fonts are, or if you don’t know yet, decide and download them to your computer.

Effects
Another cause of really bad quality design is through the use of effects. People overuse effects such as glow, shadow, gradients, outlines, and it just looks a mess. ‘Flat Design’ is quite popular at the moment, where bold colours with little effects are used, and the beauty of this is it is much easier to fake well!

ACTION: Google ‘Flat Design’ on Google Images to take a look at what we mean by this. Lay off the effects, and keep your design simple and bold.

What to Design in?
If you had the time and budget, we would suggest purchasing Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop, and getting some training on it. However this is not going to be cheap or quick.

At all cost AVOID designing in Microsoft Paint or Microsoft Word. Instead try downloading GimpShop – which is a free photoshop alternative, or try Microsoft Powerpoint. Powerpoint is ‘OK’ for doing simple graphics that are mainly text based. You can set your canvas size to whatever size you like, and you can save the slides as images (.PNG or .JPG).

Another player that has recently came into the market is a website called ‘Canva‘, which allows you to create designs online for free, using their range of templates (you can upgrade to access more tools). This is definitely worth checking out, easy to use and you can create some great pieces of graphics on there. Their templates are great for making sure you are making the design is the right dimensions for things like Facebook timeline photos or Twitter headers and so on.

ACTION: Choose a tool to design in and get really good at designing in it. The more practice, the better you’ll get.

Some final Top Tips for Faking it:
– Avoid the font ‘Comic Sans MS’ at all costs. It doesn’t make you look friendly, it makes you look childlike.
– Pay close attention to aligning things up. Elements in your design should align, so everything looks like it has a place and isn’t simply plonked on the page.
– NEVER EVER stretch an image to fit. It will always look wrong. When resizing, drag from the corners to keep the scale correct.
– Don’t stick to a white background all the time. If you use your brand colours as your background and use white text, you can create a striking – on brand look.
– Use photos if possible, but stay away from generic stock imagery. Keep an eye out for an article on where to get good stock images from – coming soon to atomic.
– Find out the ideal size of whatever you a designing for. This will usually be given to you in pixels. Then make your canvas the correct size before starting.
– Try adding your logo icon in white, either really large in the background at a low opacity or small in the bottom corner. It can nicely finish off a background.

Good luck! Any questions on design – leave them below.