Earlier in the year I wrote this article to help stress the importance of design in businesses. Many entrepreneurs undervalue or even forget the benefits that design can have with a brand, product, and business.
Originally posted to the 17hats blog, read on to hear my tips about implementing killer and strategic design with your business.
Starting and running your own business is one thing, but when it comes to standing out from the pack of your peers and competitors, one crucial aspect can set you apart from the pack. No, it's not a perfected sales funnel or in-depth marketing strategy -- it's good design.
These days, we know you have precious few seconds to catch someone's attention and hold it. With smartphones buzzing, ads flashing by everywhere you look, and the hustle and bustle of modern living, how will your business make its mark? Not with boring design, that's for sure.
Subconsciously or even actively, the quality of your logo, business cards, website, or even physical product will be evaluated, and worth will be assigned to your business just based on how things look!
When faced with the challenge of design many business owners think, "well, I'm not a designer, I don't know what I'm doing." While that may be true, it doesn't need to remain that way.
Here are some surefire ways you can up your design yourself (or maybe even outsource some, if you need to).
Your Business Has a Story to Tell
One of the core aspects of design is being able to convey your message effectively via visual cues and themes.
What is your business’s story? What do you want your brand to say to the world?
Knowing what you want is the fundamental first step toward refining and unifying your business’s visual assets.
Once you have that solidified, conduct research on websites in your field, study marketing collateral, or even build a Pinterest board with things you like in order to build a collection of inspiration that resonates with you and your brand's core values.
Gathered a few ideas?
Don’t be afraid to ask friends or family for their opinion about the creative direction you’re wanting to explore for your business. Solicit feedback and conduct surveys: do your new look and feel represent the values behind the product or service you're trying to sell? Is the message clear and consistent?
When you have your messaging ready to go, you can then begin to translate that into a visual direction. This is extremely helpful for communicating to not only your audience but to anyone who may be producing the actual design materials!
Wave That Magic Mouse, and Bring Your Ideas to Life
A lot of people say, “I’m not creative, I can’t make the graphics myself.” This is so not true.
You thought up and started a business, didn't you? That's an incredibly complex and creative task. You clearly have problem-solving skills and now it's time to put them to work in a different capacity.
If you just need to get a grip on the basics, there are many free resources available to all skill levels. Enter Canva – a graphic design tool which allows you to create beautiful imagery with a very low learning curve.
Canva's drag and drop tool makes it easy to edit images, add type, and even format for proper social media sizes to beautify your images in no time. Canva is so easy to use that even those of you who look at design as a daunting task may have fun with it! What’s more, Canva has some great resources that aid in helping you learn the product and how to use the features to their full capacity.
If you’re feeling like you want more of a challenge, Photoshop does offer a 30-day free trial to get you started before making any type of financial commitment, plus a wonderful and huge community to look to for aid.
Don't Go it Alone
Not feeling up to the DIY method? There are many, many designers out in the world and no, they do not all cost as much as you think (without sacrificing quality).
Generally, there will be at least one person who can pass along a good candidate. Not only have you made the search easier for yourself, but you are gaining a resource that comes backed by an endorsement. That eases the vetting part of the hunt!
What I really enjoy about Upwork is the transparency between the client and designer, since you'll be able to view the designer’s work in advance and read reviews from previous clients.
No matter the route you go in finding a candidate, here are a few tips for working with designers:
- Don’t be afraid to speak to more than one designer. See which potential hires can communicate with you effectively and are excited about working on your project. I can't stress the excitement enough; it is very important the person tasked with translating your idea into reality actually cares!
- Always view a designer's portfolio and receive a quote for potential services. Like any other person you work with, know what you are getting into before committing. Let their work speak for them more than what they like to express to you in an email. Remember, it’s what you can see versus what you can hear.
- Use the power of “No.” When working with a creative, it’s okay and encouraged to provide constructive feedback! Your designer is creating your ideas, not the other way around. Communicate effectively and provide feedback that will only help the designer achieve your desired goal. Us designers will not be offended if you express that the design is not on the right path – help us to get back on track!
Look at Your Beautiful Business Now
Now that you have decided on your business’s messaging and determined how to execute it, you are on the up with integrating a visual theme that will strengthen your brand recognition.
Make sure that every new piece of collateral you produce has the same look and feel you've established so that your clients can come to expect consistency. To go one step further, have your designer build a mini style guide for you with color palettes, fonts, and any other imagery you'd likely be using again in the future.
With learning anything new, practice makes perfect. Keep working and iterating until you have designed collateral that you are happy with and that your business deserves.