Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.” – Steve Jobs
There’s no replacement for a good, professional designer, but you might not have the luxury of having one for every project. There are certain things, however, that even as a novice designer you can do to make content, both look better and work more efficiently to communicate your message in the most effective way possible:
1) Have your brand guide handy at all times.
The brand guidelines help create the same experience with your brand, where ever it is. Your brand guidelines should include the color palette, fonts, logo and the tone of voice that you use to represent your brand.
2) Know and use your colors, fonts and styles.
Don’t make design choices haphazardly. Everything you choose communicates something about you. Decide what kind of mood you are trying to set. Are you a professional, corporate giant on-the-make or an artistic studio-house? Create a style that puts those ideas forward that is also legible and easy to access. How do you know if everything is working the way you want it to? That’s easy. Test it and get customer feedback.
3) Dissect and reuse popular visual content.
Look at your analytics to see what has worked for you in the past. This will mark the big rocks in your content that you can build on to Create Once Publish Everywhere (COPE). Use web analytics to identify popular content and social analytics to identify what is most engaging to your viewers.
4) Have a library of popular reusable assets.
Create and store Evergreen Content that can be used again and again. This is where Digital Asset Management (DAM) can help, by providing a system to help you take stock of everything that you have, so you can easily improve, iterate and repurpose it down the road. Use content curation tools to manage your content, as well as any created by third-parties. Try something new by reimaging old content and ideas. Reference old content with new content by creating roundup lists or take written content to a new visual form and visual to new written articles.
5) Balance purchased, professional and user generated photographs.
Give your customers a voice, engage with your community, and leverage your existing market base for further growth and content development. Balance purchased, professional photos with authentic images of your product in a real-world context. Encourage and showcase User Generated Content (UGC). Identify content that you own that is related to your message. Then, look for related third-party content to add to the mix! Qualify: is it legit and current? Does it support your point of view, and add value to your audience?
6) Use imagery that resonates.
Identify your brand’s influencers and develop a content strategy to connect with your audience and portrays your brand. This will help you create content that is consistent, simple and engaging. Understand your buyer personas and map your content according to your customer’s life-cycle stages and changing needs. Provide ongoing information to educate, grow and build your relationship.
7) Have a basic familiarity with design tools.
There is an ideal tool for almost every job. The more you have in your tool box, the faster and easier content creation can be. Easy tools like Canva can make graphic design easy for everyone.
8) Use screenshots and cropping tools.
Create and curate content that buyers and customers want that will assist them and doing their jobs better. Place them in the right channel, format and time that will help them quickly comprehend and utilize the right information to take action. Present solutions to customer problems by demonstrating proof of your product’s ability to solve their problems. Deliver actionable information to empower and champion your viewers to act or change their current behavior.
9) Use templates.
Create InDesign layouts and templates for PowerPoint presentations, event social headers and more. Set up sample, basic templates that can be easily customized for each purpose. More advanced template building tools keep the brand locked down and allow users to localize their content.
10) Be consistent.
This is your main goal when creating a brand guide and templates. For your message and brand’s image to be clear, it must have a similar look and feel across the board, to represent exactly who you are as a brand, so don’t underestimate its importance. Brand consistency creates strong, brand impressions, which creates brand buy-in, brand loyalty and brand advocacy.
A brand is not a product, or a promise, or a feeling. It’s the sum of all the experiences you have with a company,” Amir Kassaei
Another tool that helps novice designers adhere to their brand and design standards is Smartimage by easily allowing you to access a library of pre-approved content. All administrators can quickly upload logos, vector files and photographs for consistent reuse to maintain brand consistency. Content is efficiently managed and shared with others through portals, links and password protected collections. Searching, tags and filters help users find exactly what you need. Smartimage even provides download options for both the original file and common conversions. You can even store your video files to watch and share right alongside your other brand content!