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Design Pitfalls of the DIY Small Business Owner

Tuesday, April 16 2013 10:58 AM
By Kalen Kubik

I see you out there, lurking on your bootlegged Photoshop and Illustrator late at night, running your business on the tightest of budgets so you can take that well-deserved break. I get it. Not everyone has the budget for a cutting edge website right off the bat, or that dream logo that will one day be plastered across your 350 International store fronts. Right now, it might be best if you buy that $20 logo from that website or have your nephew draw one up for you. Once you feel that you're on your feet, then come see us. Until then, here are some common design pitfalls of the DIY small business owner.


Let's focus on being THIS GUY, and never THIS GUY


Logo Scale

It is always a struggle to convince someone to scale down their logo. Your logo should be readable at 1in. x 1in. so it doesn't need to take over the entire project (digital or print). Trust me, everyone will see it so keep it appropriately sized. Making your logo enormous doesn't make your brand stand out, it makes people hate your brand. Here's a snazzy youtube song about it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AxwaszFbDw (It's sarcastic, not serious).



You know that print piece you like so much? That one you clipped out of the magazine so you could re-purpose the design for your own company. Take out a ruler and try to draw grid lines where text and images start and stop. Graphic design is all about grids. If something looks off, it's probably not lined up with anything else.


Be Subtle

A large logo, large font, and a dozen different typefaces may draw attention. This usually ends in the confusion as to why the paper is inviting them to a store and not a five year old's birthday party. Use brand colors, and some neutral tones, along with (at most) three typefaces. Color is very powerful so use it judiciously and to direct attention.



There's no need to shove all the information up front. If it's a print ad, you don't have to say much. If it's a mailer, just say enough to intrigue. On a website, it can be on another page. The one thing you WILL NOT see on a professional ad is a bullet-list of items. Why? Because that implies that you've listed everything there. There's no reason to come in except for that small list of stuff.  (ending with "And much more" or "500+" is even worse). Hold some back, it's the first date, save something for late to keep their interest. Keep it simple. Honestly, your logo in the corner of a picture, with your tagline across the middle is better than any list ad you could come up with.


Typefaces & Fonts

Fonts communicate a lot about you. If your company is not a medieval diner, you probably shouldn't use Lucida Blackletter. Also, stay away from Papyrus, childish fonts, or ones you find on DaFont.com. A typeface can be the face of your business so choose wisely, it should be classy. Just because you run a child's boutique doesn't mean you need to use Jokerman or Hobo Standard. Also, some typefaces are Display fonts, meaning they shouldn't be used for body copy. Take that into consideration when using them.


Quick Tips

  • A billboard is meant to be read quickly so keep it around seven words.
  • Keep social media icons off of print ads.
  • Quit telling people to follow you, make them want to follow.
  • Keep your brand consistent.
  • Whitespace is not wasted space.
  • If the picture is pixelated, don't use it.
  • Less is more.
  • Fancy text affects are generally a poor idea.
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