Design Tips for Ads of All Types

16 09 2008

It’s amazing that when you sit down to start designing an ad – any kind of ad – how long the process takes. Even the ads with the simplest design can still take hours to create. Sometimes knowing where to start is the hardest part. Other times it’s “What else can I or should I add?” that’s the hardest. Here are some tips to help you design your next ad, no matter if it’s a poster printing piece or a brochure or an advertising postcard.

Simple knows best: The mantra “the more the better” doesn’t work when it comes to designing ads. Don’t try to fill all your space with text or graphics – that just leaves a cluttered piece that won’t get read because it’s too hard to read. An ad jam-packed with text and graphics will leave its readers confused about what to read first and what to look at next. Most experienced designers suggest leaving one-fourth of your ad as empty space, commonly called white space.

Let it flow: It’s ideal for your ad to follow the natural flow of the readers’ eyes. That means your text and graphics should make a linear, logical path from top left to bottom right. Now, your design doesn’t have to fill up the top left and bottom right corners; leave plenty of white space where it makes sense. Your headline could be centered at the top of your poster or postcard, and then you can include an image under that, then body text under that and then your contact information at the bottom left corner of the poster or postcard. Even if you don’t have the elements lined up perfectly left to right, people will still read them in the correct progression because the eye rests over white space. All I’m saying is, if you want people to look at a photo first, don’t put it to the right of the headline.

Don’t clutter your graphics: Many successful ads are comprised of graphics and photos. It’s no wonder that television beats out newspaper for people’s preferred source for news – it’s the images that people want to see. But having too many images is bad news. If you need to tell your ad in photos or graphics, make sure one is bigger than the rest or that one is brighter than the rest. You need to create a hierarchy in your photos and graphics so people know what to look at first.

Another point that is somewhat related: don’t use a blurry picture. Nothing looks more unprofessional than using a blurry image. And what’s the point in using a photo that no one can really see anyway?

Pay attention to the big picture: Put some distance between you and the ad, literally and creatively. Literally step and back ask yourself how the design looks when you’re at a distance. Does the photo you want as your primary, your top-of-the-hierarchy photo, catch your eye before the others? Does your headline font pull in your eyes?

And creatively, how well does your text tell your message? Do you have too much text? Step in your readers’ shoes and think how they would react to seeing your ad. Do your colors work well together or would it turn you off as a reader? If you can’t critique your ad, ask other people to look at it and then incorporate their feedback.

And one final point: when designing your ad, don’t ever be satisfied with the first design. Look at it again – there’s bound to be at least one element you can improve upon.

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