Whether you’re creating a presentation, a document, or an e-learning course, graphic design is what brings your content to life. The importance of graphic design can’t be understated—good graphics can take an otherwise boring piece of content and turn it into something that is both engaging and memorable.
Of course, this is easier said than done. We’d all love to be master graphic designers, but the truth is most us never anticipated needing a graphic design skill set. However, here’s some good news: most graphic design principles are extremely simple.
Tip 1: Use More Than One Font
One of the easiest and most impactful graphic design changes you can make is diversifying your fonts. This means doing away with the default fonts you’ve become accustomed to using and selecting new fonts that communicate a sense of personality and design.
Selecting new fonts is easy. I tend to follow a three-font rule, selecting specific fonts for titles, headings, and body content. On occasion, I will also select a fourth font for emphasis. The key to using the three- (or four-) font rule correctly is to use the fonts consistently. Title fonts are only to be used for titles, heading fonts for headers, and body fonts for body content. If you step outside these boundaries (even when it’s intentional), you run the risk of it looking like a mistake.
Here are some examples of the three-font rule in action:
I can’t talk about fonts without talking about the emotion of fonts. Have you ever thought about how different fonts communicate different meanings? Whether you realize it or not, you have an emotional response to different types of fonts. This emotional response either support or contradict the tone of your content.
When selecting fonts, think about the emotions they create. If they complement the meaning of your content, you’re doing it right.
Tip 2: Use Cohesive Images in a Consistent Way
Images, graphics, diagrams, and illustrations are a great way to help your audience visualize the meaning of your content. The truth is, a perfectly selected image can provide more meaning to your content than a thousand words ever could.
Selecting quality images shouldn’t be decided on a page-by-page or slide-by-slide basis. When images are selected in this manner, the quality and style of those images can appear inconsistent throughout your content. For example, combining professional images purchased from a stock photo vendor with photos you’ve taken yourself will show clear inconsistencies. This lack of consistency can affect the credibility of your course. To avoid this, select images from the same “image family.” This means using images with consistent lighting, style, framing, proportions, and quality.
Even when images are selected from the same image family, treating those images with different effects and embellishments can affect the overall consistency. Just as images shouldn’t be selected on a page-by-page or slide-by-slide basis, the effects applied to those images should be consistent throughout the content.
Tip 3: Select the Right Colors
Just as fonts can add character and emotion to your content, the use of color can take it even further. Look at the packaging for your favorite products or the cover of the last magazine you read. Are the colors bright and exciting or dark and somber? Do the colors match the personality of the brand or message? Whatever the case, this is how color is used to provide additional meaning and emotion to the content. Here’s what these colors mean for me:
I select colors the same way I select fonts, using a three-color rule: one color to act as a primary color, another as a secondary color, and a third as an accent color. Additionally, I proportion the use of these three colors throughout my content. When combined with the three-font rule, the use of color adds an additional sense of personality to the content.
Selecting colors can be an art form in itself. Even when working within the confines of a color scheme provided by an organization, understanding how colors work together can be a challenge for some. Luckily for us, there are plenty of tools to help us out. In addition to the coloring tools built into most programs, tools like Adobe Color can help you build a variety of custom color schemes. You can even upload photos to Adobe Color, which will analyze the photo to create a custom color scheme.
Practicing graphic design is like learning how to play a new instrument—it takes dedication and regular practice. Your graphic design skills will only grow as often as you use them. Once you’ve mastered the techniques I’ve covered, continue expanding your horizons and learn more challenging techniques.