Design plays a crucial role in how small businesses are perceived

Design helps to establish brand identity, connect with a target audience, and stand out in a competitive market. It also helps every business to be accessible to as many people as possible.

Berenice Howard-Smith, who has has an MA in Graphic Design & Typography, gave our members lots of practical design tips that small businesses can use to enhance their visual appeal and overall branding strategy.

Berenice believes in design collaboration, working with her clients on website, print, book and social media design to enable them to learn as much or as little as they wish about the creative process. She has mentored GCSE work experience students, and delivered workshops as a visiting lecturer to undergraduate design students. Her website www.hellolovely.design has a whole suite of Gorgeous Guides that give a lot more detail on these tips.

Accessibility

According to WHO statistics, 217 million people worldwide had moderate to severe vision impairment in 2015, with this number expected to rise to 588 million by 2050.

Here are three tips that help to include everyone with accessible design.
1. Use high contrast colours to differentiate for users with visual impairments. Tools like WebAIM Contrast Checker can help you to clarify the ratios. Type ‘copy space’ into most image libraries to locate images with simple backgrounds that work well for text overlays.
2. Make it responsive so that mobile and tablet users can read your content on their devices. Your website and online forms may require alternative design treatments to provide an accessible and inclusive experience.
3. Accessible design isn’t just colour. Use additional visual cues to include the user such as patterns, icons, or text labels to convey information, alerts, or status changes.

Keep it simple

“I strive for two things in design: simplicity and clarity. Great design is born of those two things.” Lindon Leader

1.Clarity and ease of use. The more complex the system, the harder it is to navigate. Simple design avoids the audience being overwhelmed by competing elements. Design navigates the user and supports the content.
2. Simple branding systems make it easier to grow a business. Working with a graphic designer to develop a logo into branding guidelines will make it easier for stakeholders and suppliers to work with a business. It saves the owner time and money as the branding brief is already complete.
3. Less is more with images and information. Study the content or the message you’re intending to share. Is there more than one theme or one slide or post? Keeping it simple may mean more slides with less information on each to avoid overwhelm.

Invest in design

“A logo doesn’t need to say what a company does. The Mercedes logo isn’t a car. The Virgin Atlantic logo isn’t an airplane. The Apple logo isn’t a computer. Etc.” David Airey

1. As soon as cash flow allows, investing in a high-quality brand logo is recommended. Don’t forget to budget for great images too!
2. Really work on the preparation. Get to know your designer and ask for help if you are struggling with the brief as that’s the most important investment in the project. Pause if you need more time to get audience feedback; most of all keep in touch with your creative for the best results.
3. Designers can collaborate with business owners to create a range of templates in Canva or Adobe Express as part of a branding brief. This will enable the business owner to quickly create their own content knowing it has been professionally designed.

Fonts

“Letters do love one another. However, due to their anatomical differences, some letters have a hard time achieving intimacy.” Ellen Lupton

1. Each font has a licence. Use fonts legally by buying from a recognised source such Monotype. You can find Monotype fonts on Canva Premium and Adobe Fonts on Adobe Express (and all Adobe Creative Cloud packages).
2. Keep fonts simple. One or two contrasting fonts is fine for social media, there can be too much unless used with care. Use weights too (bold, light, regular, extra bold).
3. Make fonts part of your brand. Poor design can be spotted when font use is inconsistent. They don’t have to be expensive or trending. Classic fonts have stood the test of time for good reasons.

Hello lovely! Professional design tips

1. Think in grids. Imagine a series of invisible cross section of lines that work across and down the page. Draw them if you like, and use the structure to align your text and images within it. This helps with order and white space which allows a moment to pause.
2. Use hierarchy in your text to make it easier to read. You can do this in Word, Powerpoint or Canva using preset styles. The main heading is the attention grabber and H2 (B) and H3 (C) headings provide navigational structure.
3. Watch your line lengths on your text. Short line lengths engage the user attention. Left align and neat right edges (in design we call untidy edges ‘ragged’) are also easier on the eye. It’s not only font style that aids legibility, it is how they are used.

Design is iterative

“Inherent quality is part of absolute quality and without it things will appear shoddy. The user may not know why, but they always sense it.” Erik Spiekermann

Science, technology, social studies, research, politics, culture, diversity,
economy and platform advances are all contributors to design iterations.

Design can be refined to respond to advancements improving usability,
functionality, and quality for consumers.

Further reading

contrastchecker.com to check colours on an image
unsplash.com for images with copy space (+ is good value)
new.express.adobe.com an alternative to Canva
canva.com for templated social media assets
color.adobe.com for useful colour swatches
baymard.com/blog/line-length-readability is a useful read on line length and attention span.

Inspiration

David Airey on branding and visual identity www.davidairey.com/resources
Marian Bantjes, a pioneer of type https://bantjes.com
Erik Spiekermann, type designer https://spiekermann.com/en/

More advice on fonts, easy design tips and accessible design are featured
in Berenice’s newsletter hellolovely.design/newsletter and regular workshops.

The PDF of this presentation can be viewed at
https://tinyurl.com/dn2v5dvc

Follow Berenice on LinkedIn for more inspiration and discussion on good design.