Simple Design Tips for Non-Designers

Design can be tough to nail, and for beginners, creating any document can be frustrating and time-consuming. This list of simple design tips can make creating documents simpler. With time and practice, however, anyone can learn how to create an eye-catching design that draws the attention of their audience. Get started with these five tips!

Team of designers discussing simple design tips with clients.
List of simple design tips.

1. Stick to a maximum of two different fonts

This is a basic design principle, but also one that proves its importance over and over again. Typically, you’ll want to use a serif font, like Times New Roman, for any body text. For headings a titles, utilize a sans-serif or script (cursive) font. Bolding, coloration, and size differences are already a lot for the reader to take in. Thus, having more than two different font choices can be overbearing to the reader. In the example, a Sans-Serif font is used for the Title and Headings, and a Serif font for the body. I did, however, use different sizes of the Sans-Serif font for the title and subheadings. This tip is probably the most important of the simple design tips because it keeps everything connected to each other.

2. Stick to four or less different colors in your color scheme

Two colors that should almost always be part of your color scheme are black and white. Draw attention to the most important aspects of the document with a bold and bright color. However, only highlight really important information with this color as it should be used sparingly. In addition to a bright color, a muted or soft color should be used to create an intriguing background that draws attention to the entire post, making it stand apart from others. Thus, I used four different colors on the example, black and white, navy blue to highlight important concepts, and gold to highlight the subheadings.

3. Utilize C.R.A.P. Principles

The C.R.A.P. Principles are the starting point and key to any design. Standing for contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity, they are the four principles that make up any good design.

Contrast

Contrast, as the word suggests is utilizing some sort of different feature to highlight different concepts. An example of this would be using the color red for something bad and green for something good, which easily cues the audience into the main point of the document.

Repetition

Repetition is highlighting things that fit together in the same manner, such as bolding every subheading.

Alignment

Alignment is how the text sits on the page. Is the text left-aligned, right-aligned, centered, or justified? Each option has a time and place, but aligning similar ideas in the same way makes a design each to follow. An example of alignment that we see all the time is Venn Diagrams. In a Venn Diagram, all of the aspects pertaining to one topic are left-aligned, all of the aspects pertaining to the other topic are right-aligned, with the cross-over in the middle. While you should rarely use an actual Venn Diagram in a design project, using a similar layout to one will make it simple for your audience to understand the concept you are writing about.

Proximity

Proximity is the last principle, and probably the one that you utilize already just by second nature. All of the similar concepts should be close together, a bulleted list or chart are two examples of this in action, but even just putting information near each other that fits together is an example of proximity. Thus, I utilized a lot of the C.R.A.P. Principles here, using the teal and pink colors to have some color contrast, aligning all of the body text and subheadings to the left side, and centering the title, and putting the ‘Tip X’ subheading close to the tip body text.

4. Be sure to stay consistent

Another one of the simple design tips is to stay consistent. This concept is touched on with the idea of repetition, but I want to go over it in more detail due to its importance. Consistency is the key to all successful designs. Being consistent in spacing, indentation, wording, or anything else in the realm of page layout is important.

Some things to make sure you stay consistent on are font sizes across different headings and subheadings, always using the same color to highlight important information. Some more examples are, if you’re constantly spelling out one-hundred, do not randomly change it to 100 mid-way through; same goes for acronyms, if you say the United States a lot in your design, do not change it to U.S. halfway through.

Making sure to stick to one way of writing something and going back to check your work is important. A document should become easier for the audience to understand as they read it, due to your consistency with any design element. I made sure in my document to keep all of the spacing, font sizes,and underlines the exact same to ensure that the design does not stray from what the audience is expecting.

5. White space is your friend

When I first started designing, I hated white space. I wanted to show off all of the cool things I knew how to do and that made for a very cluttered design that was difficult to comprehend; white space is not a bad thing! Statistically, information in short sentences can be processed more easily than a large paragraph. This is because our brains see white space as a spot to pause and process for a couple of seconds. If switching between topics, use white space in the same way you’d pause while giving a speech. If you write something down that’s really important, consider putting White Space underneath to help the audience remember. There is a lot of white space on the example document, and that’s okay, it keeps the audience focused on the important content!

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