When it comes to your logo and visual brand, chasing trends isn’t the goal. You’ll end up outdated after a year or two and will have to start over again. (Watercolor, anyone?) Not the best long-term business model.
There’s a difference between chasing trends and being relevant.
Just like technology, design is ever-changing. So long as we have life going on around us, we will have art and design to reflect—and resist—the times.
Here are three non-gimmicky design trends for 2018 to uplevel your visual brand and stand out among the digital noise and busy news feeds.
1. Bold Color Combos
Have you noticed that everything online has started to look the same? Do you think your customers are thinking that as well? Are they just scrolling mindlessly until something jumps out at them and catches their attention?
You don’t have to redo your whole color palette unless you want to. All you need to do is add two or three unexpected, striking colors to pair with what you already have. Be brave and combine colors you wouldn’t normally consider. It’s an effective way to add punch to your marketing and get more eyes on you—without spending big bucks.
2. Split Page Web Design
Literally every website home page greets us with what is called a hero image. It’s basically a large image that serves as an opening into the experience of the site.
It was a digital design trend from a couple years ago. I’m in favor of it because images are captivating and help tell our story as soon as someone lands on our site. However, it goes back to the same argument of everything online looking the same.
Split page design is kind of like a revamp of the hero image. It’s an interesting and unexpected way to greet your site visitors.
3. Bold + Handwritten Fonts
Along with bold colors, the use of bold fonts is on the rise to stand out in the saturated online space. I’m not talking about just making your normal font choice bold instead of regular. The fonts themselves are heavy and commanding. Bold fonts work best when used sparingly, like for headlines and quotes.
Handwritten fonts (not script fonts) add an edge to designs when used appropriately. Use them sparingly, like accents. Handwritten fonts are an easy way to add a more personal, human quality to the digital world.
To recap, don’t start chasing projected design trends. Some are lovely. Some are gimmicky. Some are just plain bad taste. You have to know what works for your visual brand and your audience. The goal is not to rebrand every year.
These three design trends are classy, polished, and are recommended ways to refresh your image while remaining true to you and avoiding alienating your audience.
Many businesses that operate in the online world seek ways to truly engage with their target audience and outrun their competitors in an over-crowded market. Some try out different creative and innovative marketing strategies, while others tailor custom promotions and offers. Those methods might succeed in gaining your customers’ attention, but they won’t make them faithfully engage with your business.
One method that has proven more than effective in capturing audiences’ hearts and minds? Branding. Many businesses try to develop a brand by designing a logo or styling their website, but they ultimately fail because they didn’t grasp the true essence of what makes a brand unique. A brand is more than just a logo or a color palette; it’s a company’s mission and that goes beyond just selling products or services.
A mission is communicated through a brand’s voice, which makes it easily recognizable by customers across various media channels and helps differentiate the company from others in the market. A brand’s voice is not what a company says, but how it says it in order to drive engagement and loyalty to their customers. Here are a few ways to find your brand’s voice.
Understand Your Target Audience
It’s important to understand for branding to be successful, it has to be designed according to the preferences of your target audience and not your own. The same goes for a brand’s voice. If you want your messages to be received properly by your customers, you have to know them really well, in order to know how to tailor your messages and design your voice. Start things off by researching your audience’s preferences, needs, expectations, and demands. Then go deeper and research their demographics thoroughly.
For instance, what is their gender, age, location, income, hobbies, etc.? Once you’ve completed your research, create customer personas out of the information you gathered. To make things easier for yourself, imagine your brand is a person that needs to talk to your customer persona. This will help you identify how to talk to your customers and tailor messages, to drive engagement and loyalty, inspire emotions, and not drive them away.
Listen to Your Customers
One of the surest ways to determine your brand’s voice is to go straight to the customers you’re trying to engage. Your target audience can offer valuable insight into what they expect from your brand, their overall preferences, the content they’d prefer to see and many other things.
Please note: Customers may not always be objective or sincere when sharing public opinions, so don’t take this information as the end-all, be-all. If you want more accurate data, you’ll ask for anonymous feedback. One of the best ways to do this is to ask customers to participate in paid surveys. That way, you’re allowing them to privately voice their opinion while offering them something of value in return for their feedback. Once they have something to gain and their voice is confidential, your customers won’t hesitate to tell you exactly what’s on their mind.
Differentiate Voice from Tone
You can’t pick just any brand voice and hope that it will yield the best results. It’s not important what you say or when, but it’s important how you make your customers feel. That’s why you need to understand the difference between a brand’s voice and tone.
A brand’s voice represents the personality that describes your company’s message, statement, core values, and unique selling proposition. For instance, your brand’s personality can be professional, energetic, positive, etc., and you’ll use an appropriate voice to express that personality. On the other hand, a brand’s tone is the attitude you use to communicate your messages to customers in order to drive the desired reaction.
An example: Your brand’s personality is professional, and you use a scientific tone for the purpose of educating your customers. The tone of voice can vary based on the audience you’re targeting, where you’re sharing your message, and the purpose of your actions. However, your brand’s personality and voice must remain consistent at all times, in order to be relevant and recognizable by your customers.
Test Your Voice
If you have a concept of what your brand’s voice should sound like, but you’re still unsure it is the best one, then don’t be afraid to test it out. Needless to say, there’s no way to be 100% sure you’ve designed the right voice for your brand or that your audience will perceive it as they should unless you first try it out. However, it’s important not to rush the process and risk ruining your reputation. Instead, take things one step at a time and start testing your new brand’s voice slowly.
You can start by implementing your voice into a few pieces of content and give it to a small group of customers. Watch how they react and if you like what you’re seeing then slowly widen the process. If not, try to identify what caused the dislike and fix it. Make sure that you continue to test and re-test until you’re absolutely sure your brand’s voice is resonating well with your audience. Once you’re done, implement the voice in all your business aspects and marketing efforts, to make it as effective as possible.
A brand’s voice is uniquely important for business success. Brands use their voice to showcase their values and express their personality to their target audience. Not only does a voice help differentiate a business on the market, but it helps persuade customers to chose your business over any other.
Lauren Wiseman is marketing specialist, contributor to bizzmarkblog.com and entrepreneur. She helps clients grow their personal and professional brands in fast-changing and demanding market environment. Covering finance and investment topics, Lauren strongly believes in a holistic approach to business.
The easiest way to scare visitors away from your website is make it difficult to navigate and impossible to find what they’re seeking.
Do you want visitors to linger longer on your site? Do you want them to gobble up all your content and keep coming back for more? Do you want them to buy stuff when visiting your site? Use these three tips to improve your website’s design.
1. Use a Professional Logo
Your logo is a big part of your brand. So it makes sense to have a professionally designed logo at the top of (and throughout) your website.
Once designed, you’ll want to prominently feature your logo in the upper left-hand corner of every page on your site. Also, it’s smart to lik the logo back to your homepage. Setting it up this way makes it easy for visitors to navigate back to the homepage at any time.
2. Eliminate the Clutter
Some business owners love to fill their site up with tons of banner advertisements and images. It may seem to add style and flair to the site, but image and banner overload contribute to confusion and too many options for your visitors to process.
Having too many competing calls to action on your website is another way to create clutter and confusion. If you want your visitors to stay on your site, eliminate competing calls to action and get rid of the excessive visual clutter by cutting down on animated gifs, photos, and graphics.
Doing this will keep your visitor’s line of sight on the important parts of the webpage. As an example, if you’re attempting to convince your visitors to check out your Hawaiian tour promotion, you should cut down on visual stimuli, eliminate excessive links, and focus your reader’s attention whenever possible on that promotion.
3. Intuitive Navigation
Using intuitive navigation makes it easier for your readers to find their way around your site. The obvious benefit? They’ll stick around to check out more of your thought-provoking, entertaining, and valuable content.
With intuitive navigation, you’ll place your primary navigation options along the top of your website using a horizontal menu bar. Visitors expect to see a menu along the top of every site at this point, so add this horizontal bar and meet your reader’s expectations.
All intuitively designed websites should have a secondary menu bar. This menu is known as a sidebar, and you can place it in the right-hand margin or left-hand margin.
Making changes to improve your website’s design isn’t particularly difficult or time-consuming. Making these design changes will make your site easier to navigate, more aesthetically pleasing, less distracting, and much more inviting to your customer base and fans.
Wendy Dessler is a super connector with Outreachmama who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.
Do you have a bunch of pretty stock photos, but no idea how to use them? Don’t worry, that’s where we come in! As the owners of Social & Creative, we teach our clients how to use the photos the get from us.
Today, we’re sharing 10 ways you can use styled stock photos for your business.
First impressions are the key behind successful blogs. To capture your audience, you need bright, clear imagery. Using beautiful photos on your blog is a quick, visual cue for your audience that your content will be just as interesting to read as what they’re seeing.
2. Social Media
This seems like a no-brainer, but so many entrepreneurs try to manage their social media accounts using only their own cell phone photos. This only works if you truly mastered the art of photography and editing. The more unique, bright, and visually appealing your social media photos, the more traffic you can expect.
3. Pinterest Graphics
Ever wonder how writers and bloggers post such beautiful, bright and professional-looking photos on Pinterest? Most likely they’re using purchased stock photos. What makes stock photos great for Pinterest purposes is you can add text and overlays to the image so it not only catches the attention of readers, but it also helps them know exactly what the article will be about.
4. Website Banners
You want a ‘wow factor’ when your audience comes across your website. Professional photos on your website tell your audience that you’re a professional. The great thing about stock photos is when you purchase a collection, everything within it will have the same color scheme or the same feeling. That means you can post them on every page of your website and keep it clean and consistent.
5. Event Promotion
Want to create a flyer, pamphlet, gift certificate, or other promotional material for an event? Don’t limit yourself to just text. Use graphic design software (like Canva) to apply styled stock graphics in the background of your text.
This is by far one of our favorite ways to use styled stock photos. We recently did a makeover to one of our offices and thought it would be fitting to print and frame some of our own images as custom artwork. It looks so great! Professional, styled stock photos are saved in a large file format and also in high-resolution. With that quality, you can print your images to any size and it won’t become blurry or distorted.
7. Business Cards
You’re probably thinking how are you supposed to incorporate a stock photo onto a tiny business card? You can crop part of a photo and use that portion of the stock image in the background with your contact information over it.
You can use stock photos to help your Etsy listings be more consistent and visually appealing. You can add a text overlay to the image to explain what you sell, which also helps brand your Etsy shop. This is mostly used by Etsy vendors who are selling digital services or products. We wouldn’t recommend it for product based business as you would want to show off your product.
9. Email Header
Want to make your newsletter stand out? Create a custom email header in Canva using a stock photo and upload it into your newsletter design. This will add a little something extra, and it’s a great use for stock photos. You can also use stock photos in your newsletter to go along with tips or giveaways.
10. Powerpoint Slides
All of us at one point had to sit through a Powerpoint presentation and we can almost guarantee they included boring stock photos or none at all. Don’t lose your reader’s interest. Make your slides stand out with eye-catching photos. If you’re working in a field where pink girlie stock photos wouldn’t be appropriate, don’t get discouraged. There are stock shops that cater to every type of business, including those that need simple, subtle
Erin & Aniaare the duo behind Social & Creative Stock Photography. They first met years ago in college where the both studied Journalism. Fast forward 10 years and they are both now budding entrepreneurs – Erin owns a social media company and Ania is a photographer -residing just outside of Toronto, Canada, they fill their days with photo shoots, lots of coffee and keeping active by chasing around their kids.
Ready to build your own website? Although it’s not always easy, and definitely not suited for techphobic folks, it’s possible to DIY your site—in as little as one day. Today I’m going to share the basic elements you need for your site, and how to get everything organized.
First, no matter platform you’re using to build your site—Wix, WordPress, Squarespace, etc.—take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with how it’s set up. The main things you should know are the areas that allow you to edit the pages and upload images.
Also, make sure to find the customizer or appearances section. This allows you to change colors, fonts, headers, logos, etc. Find a few tutorials online or ask a friend who uses the same CMS to give you a walk through.
Make a List of Pages You Should Include
In technical terms, this is referred to as a wireframe. It’s a basic outline of the pages of your site and how they’re nested within each other. Here’s an example from the pages of my own site, allienimmonscreative.com.
Web Design and Development
(link to all past projects)
Website and SEO Audits
Free Downloads and Printables
(link to each downloadable)
(link to blog post category pages, audit page and contact page)
Guest Blogger Application
Do Some Design Research
Look at your competitors’ websites. Look at examples of web design on sites like Dribbble.com and Designinspiration.net. Make a list of things you like. These can include colors, images, fonts, the way the navigation menu is set up, certain animations, etc. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to replicate these things, but they’ll give you an idea of what to work for. List the site and the element(s) you admire.
Make a List of 4 Colors
If you already have branding materials, you should build off those colors. Color is extremely important for a website, but you don’t have to be an expert at color theory. Here’s the basic emotion communicated by each color:
Red: Passion, excitement, speed
Pink: Femininity, softness, fun
Orange: Life, brightness, vigor
Yellow: Youth, happiness, warmth
Green: Eco-friendliness, luck, accessibility
Blue: Calm, cleanliness, strength
Purple: Royalty, trust, maturity
For basic website design, you need four different colors: your main accent color, your secondary accent color, your text color, and your background color.
Your main accent color should be brightest and most indicative of your brand. Use this to signify something important on the page that you want the user to engage with. It should match or be similar to the main color used in your logo or other branding materials.
Your secondary accent color should be complementary to your main accent color. You can use this color for buttons, links, bold text, menu, items, etc. It complement, not clash with, the main accent color. However, it should stand apart from it as well. Blue and orange are a good example of a main and secondary accent color combo.
Your text color should be dark, preferably black, dark gray, or dark brown. If your main accent color is blue, you may want to use a very deep blue for the text color. However, to be safe, use black.
Your background color should be very, very pale. The rule is to always have dark text on light backgrounds unless it’s an accent area like a button or call to action. If you don’t want to use white, you can use an extremely pale, washed-out version of one of your accent colors.
Upload Your Images
Gather all the images you intend to use on your site, including maps and logos. Upload them all at once to your website editor. There’s usually a media library where you can bulk-upload your images. While those images are uploading, you can take a break or do something else.
Build Your Pages
Your wireframe provides the list of all the pages you need to create. Set them up them one by one, as a new page in your website editor. Don’t add the content just yet.
If any pages are nested, you should be able to indicate such when you build them. For example, my wireframe had these pages:
Web Design and Development
(link to all past projects)
Non Profit Program
Website and SEO Audits
All the pages are listed underneath the Services page.
Build Your Menu
The way to do this varies with each editor. However, your navigation menu is probably the most important part of your site. It tells visitors what kind of content you have available and allows them to move through the site as they wish. Build your menu according to your wireframe and nest the right pages under the right things. Always have things like Services, Products, About, and Contact easily visible.
The most time-consuming part of building a site is actually adding the copy to your pages. Keep in mind that for your pages to be search-engine optimized, every page should have a heading, subheadings, at least 300 words of text, and a bulleted or numbered list if possible.
Text is easiest to read and skim on a website when it appears in columns. Try to avoid having your text spread all the way from one side of the screen to another. Make sure all your text is the same size unless it’s a heading or something like a quote.
You’ve uploaded your images to the library, but now you have to embed them into each page. There should be at least one image on every page of your site. Images shouldn’t overwhelm the text, but instead complement it. Avoid having the image be above the text.
There you have it! You’ve built your own basic website! There are always more amazing and fun things to add like forms, slideshows, and interactive elements. But as far as the bare bones of a functional website, most tech-literate folks can complete all of the above in a single day. Happy designing!
Allie Nimmons is a web designer who loves working with people who have one important thing in common—the desire to grow their business. She helps with quality web design that focuses on branding, usability, and conversions. She uses her knowledge of strong SEO strategy, social media marketing, email marketing, and content creation to help you make the most of your new website.
Do you ever hear the terms serif, DPI, or vector and wonder what they all mean? Learning design dialect or communicating with a designer can sometimes make your head spin. I remember sitting in one of my first college lectures and trying to wrap my head around those same words. Fast forward nine years and now, design-ese is my second language.
While I can only scratch the surface here, today I’m breaking down some basic and important terms, with the hopes that understanding these basic terms will make it easier to work with your designer.
1. Color Systems
Listed below are the different color models that designers use when formatting pieces for print and digital platforms.
RGB stands for red, green, and blue, which are the three additive primary colors. We use this system when designing something to be displayed digitally (think websites and social media graphics), but not to be printed.
CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. This system is used in 4-color print processing, as these four are the standard inks for producing colors. When a file is sent to print, it must be set up in CMYK mode.
PMS: This The Pantone Matching System is a universal color matching system, also used in printing. Pantone colors are specific swatches that are already pre-mixed. So, if you use these colors in your design, they’ll print the same every time. This is important when you’re dealing with brand colors that need to be exact. A CMYK-based blue might print lighter or darker depending on the printer, but a Pantone-based blue should print the same from one printer to the next.
2. File formats
Here are the different file formats that you’ve probably come across when dealing with documents or images:
JPEG: This file can be printed (think photos) but should be used primarily for the web. It will be pixelated when you try to enlarge it too much, and it will always print with a white box background behind it if placed against anything other than white. Some quality is lost when it’s saved because it’s compressed.
PNG: This file type can be printed, but it should also be used more for web purposes. I prefer to use these over JPEGs, as they tend to have a little higher quality and transparent background (meaning you can place them against any background and they’ll translate clearly against it).
EPS: You’ve probably heard the word vector thrown around quite a bit. A designer loves to work with vector files because they’re scalable. You can literally enlarge them to fit any size or format in the world and they won’t lose quality. It’s the perfect file format for logos and illustrations. (Word of advice—when sending your logo to a designer, send them a vector file.)
PDF: This is a universal file type that everyone knows and uses. High-res PDF files are standard for printing, but they can also be viewed digitally. They, too, will have a transparent background, when you’re using the PDF format of a logo.
3. Image resolution
Design files that get printed need to be at least 300 DPI (dots per inch), which is a high resolution. Photos that get used within a design that gets printed also need to be at least 300 DPI. The more dots in a printed inch, the higher the quality. A higher resolution simply means more detail, not necessarily a larger size.
DPI doesn’t translate to digital platforms in the same way since you’re electronically absorbing information via a laptop, phone, or tablet. When formatting an image for the web, the resolution can be slightly lower, like 72 DPI. Because they’re set to be smaller, they’ll load quicker. The next time that you send photos to your designer, send the original/edited high-resolution images from the photographer. I promise, your designer will love you and you’ll make their life so much easier. Images pulled off the web might not only be copyrighted, but they’ll have a low resolution and won’t enlarge well and will print pixelated.
If you don’t have professional images to work with from a photographer, use sites like pexels.com or unsplash. These non-traditional and more artistic stock photos don’t cost anything or require attribution.
4. Know your fonts: serif, sans serif and script
A serif typeface has little lines (or strokes) added as embellishments at the ends of characters. Times New Roman is an example. These are good to use when reading large blocks of text (like you often see in books) and are great for professional and traditional purposes.
A sans serif typeface doesn’t have the serif strokes coming off its characters. Arial and Helvetica are common examples. This style of font has a cleaner, more modern look and feel.
Finally, a script typeface is, as you might guess, “script-y.” It’s meant to look like cursive handwriting, or on a fancier level, even calligraphy. It’s meant to not be overused, but is great for accenting pullout or highlighted words in a headline or quote. I like to use one to complement my pair of serif and sans serif fonts in a brand to give designs a personal, classy and sophisticated touch.
5. Kerning, leading and tracking, oh my!
Simply put, these are some of the different ways letters (and other characters) get formatted within a body of text.
Kerning: This refers to the space between a pair of letters (or characters).
Leading: This is the space between lines of type. The goal here is to adjust it so your lines are balanced and easy to read—not squeezed together too tightly or spaced apart too loosely.
Tracking: This is the overall space between letters in a body of text.
6. Color Wheeling 101
Colors play a huge role in design and branding because they can represent and evoke specific emotions and moods. In establishing a palette, some people use two key colors, while others use up to five or six. It’s just important all the colors work together well. Here are a few ways to describe them, depending on where they fall within the spectrum:
Complementary: Two colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel, but visually work as a team (blue and orange, for example).
Analogous: These are groups of three colors next to each other on the color wheel, and because they’re similar, they look good together (blue, green and blue-green).
Warm colors: This might be a no-brainer, but warm colors are oranges, reds, and yellows, which are vivid and they evoke a sense of energy or urgency.
Cool colors: These include blues and greens and are usually peaceful and calming because they have a natural and fresh feel.
If you have any questions about the basics we just covered (or others we didn’t), leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer!
Jessie Ford Coots is the owner and designer behind Untethered, a boutique graphic design studio in the Midwest that specializes in logo identity, branding, print advertising, stationery, and more. She enjoys giving new and old businesses creative makeovers, as well as partnering with select companies and non-profits to provide monthly design services. When she isn’t designing, she’s traveling around the U.S. showing her quarter horse in barrel racing events and happily adjusting to married life. She and her husband live outside of Louisville, Kentucky. To learn more about how she can creatively improve your business, download the free guide, “Branding 101: What it is, what it isn’t, and why you need it” at www.untethereddesign.com/freebies.