designing ads billboard example

4 Things to Think About When Designing Ads

Designing ads, whether it is for social media, email campaigns or banner ads online, is something you will be asked to do a lot. There are a few core components of these design requests that you need to keep in mind to keep your ad designs as effective, and beautiful, as possible. Balancing the marketing mission with glorious design is part of the fun, so let’s get cracking.

THE MISSION

As in all aspects of design for marketing, you need to keep the objective of the piece at the centre of your mind when you are designing. It is too tempting as designers to make things look cool (after all, that is what we do) but doesn’t convert it is unlikely to keep your clients coming back for more.

designing ads mission

Keep the messaging used clear and concise, ideally with a single focused message shining out. This helps prevent confusion and makes it more likely viewers will take the desired action.

Size

Depending on your design’s intended destination, the size of your ads will vary. Designing ads that work in their final environment (most likely a social media feed or on a website as a banner ad) is crucial to making sure they are a) seen, b) effective and c) high enough quality to look swish, but not impact the loading time. You can find an excellent set of dimension guidelines here, or get the specifics from your client before you begin.

designing ads billboard example
Photo by Paige Muller on Unsplash

Content & Elements

Understanding the psychology of colour, font and imagery has all be covered in this blog, but keep a reference guide handy when you are beginning to plan out your designs.

designing ads example planning
Have a plan in mind when designing ads

What is the intended feel of the ad? What emotions do your clients what to inspire and more importantly, what actions do they want viewers to take upon seeing the ad? Think about the composition of the photography and image elements used and how they interact with the text and colour schemes. Is there any negative space that could work with text for example?

Colours

Keep it simple, stupid

Every Designer Ever

When using colours in ads remember not to over do it. Like fonts, stick to a restricted number for maximum efficiency and keep in mind the connotations certain colours have. It is also fun to have a play with the contrast of the elements on your design, will your message be more effective with high contrast or are you going for something more subtle?

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How to use Typography AND Photography in Design

We all love good photography and we all love pretty type, but you can definitely have too much of a good thing. Here are some basic guidelines for designers to use when working with both typography and photography so that each piece remains effective without overcrowding the design and sending mixed messages.

Find Your Content

Most of the time, the written content of a piece is provided by the client. It is then your job as a designer to match the words to a typeface which carries the message effectively.

typography and photography example

Other times you may have more freedom around the wording. I am pretty lucky in that I started my freelance career as a copywriter so my grasp of the English language is pretty robust. If you are unsure of our wording, experiment with how it looks using typography and photography on the piece. Do you need all those words? Is the balance of the text working for you? What about if you adjust size and weight?

If you are providing the written content for a piece always, always, ALWAYS get the approval of your client before publishing. And get that approval in writing. Ironic? maybe. Necessary? Hell yes.

Think About Your Audience

When pairing typography and photography you need to think about the audience. In fact, in all element of design work you need to think about your audience! Who is the piece aimed at and what is the message you want your work to carry. What action do you want the viewer to take once they have seen your piece?

A heavy metal gig poster will carry a very different message to a magazine advert about adult only holidays for example.

typography and photography example
Unless we are talking about 7000 Tonnes of Metal Cruise obviously. Which goes to show there is a crossover for everything

Less is More

As covered in the Typography blogs, it is always a good idea for designers to stick to one to three fonts when working with text in a design. This helps tie the piece together and also prevents it from becoming overcrowded. This is especially relevant for pieces using typography and photography, as too many elements will compete for the viewers attention and the intended message will be lost.

photography and typography example text

Fight it Out

Remember, the more elements there are to a piece (graphics, typography and photography) the more difficult it is to see them all. Make sure you don’t overcrowd your piece and if you are using a lot, aim for a balanced composition so that each piece completes, not competes, with each other.

how to use serif fonts example

How to Use Serif Fonts

Now we know the difference between the various font types, it is time to learn their strengths and weaknesses. Starting off with how to use serif fonts.

History of Serif Fonts

Serif fonts are divided into four types as they have been developed over the course of history. Starting with Old Style in the middle ages, to Transitional styles in the mid 1800s, to Didone Modern and Slab Serif used today. Of course all of these font styles are still in use, it just depends on your intention which one you choose.

Old Style

These fonts were created for books and pamphlets, these are easy to read even at small sizes. Old style fonts are useful for larger pieces of body text and can give a historical feeling to a piece.

Old Style Serif fonts include: Minion, Garamond and Palatino.

Transitional

Transitional fonts bridge the gap between Old Style fonts and more modern typefaces. They are still consistent in their thickness ( a defining feature of Old Style fonts) but their endings are much more rounded. Therefore, they have a much softer look.

Transitional Serif fonts include: BaskervilleGeorgia and Times New Roman.

Didone Modern

Emerging in the late 1800s, Didone Modern fonts are highly stylised and make great use of white space when the kerning is increased. The thickness between various character parts are much  more dramatic, so they provide striking font designs used by the likes of Vogue. 

Didone Modern Serif fonts include: DidotBodoni, and Century Schoolbook.

Slab Serif

Slab Serif fonts are bold and striking, ideal for use in posters or to grab attention. The characters and serifs are heavy, thick and block like. This typeface style is designed for use of posters and to catch the eye. They are best for headers, titles and statements. 

Slab Serif fonts include: Rockwell, Memphis and Courier.

The Anatomy of Type

So, now we know the difference between a font and typeface, serif and script, it is time to go a little deeper into understanding the Anatomy of Type so you can both look super professional to clients and also understand what the hell other designers are talking about. 

anatomy of type gif
Yes, fellow designers, I agree…

Common Anatomy of Type Definitions

Baseline

The line the font tracks or rests on. 

Descenders

Any part of lowercase letters which drop below the baseline.

Ascenders

Any part of the character that goes above the x- height of the font.

X-height

This was originally the height of the  lowercase letter ‘x’ in traditional fonts. It refers to the height of lower case letters without their ascenders or descenders, but can vary within font. 

anatomy of type illustration

Tail

The tip of the character, the very end of the descender.

Ears

Any part that sticks out of the side of a letter, usually found in serif or script fonts. 

Loops

Fairly self explanatory. Often found in more cursive or decorative fonts. 

Closed Counter

The area within a letter, for example the inside of  an ‘O’

Cross Bars

The part of a letter which connects, such as the middle of an ‘H’ or ‘A’

These are all parts of the characters and letters which can be fun to play around with when creating designs and logos. Just be careful not to draw too much attention to the anatomy of the type, as it works best when used subtly. 

Further Resources

Check out Adobe’s Glossary of Type Terms for more on the anatomy of type. Canva also provide this wonderfully illustrated guide too.  You don’t need to know them all, but a basic understanding goes a long way when using fonts to their full potential.

typography basics header

Typography Basics 101

A picture paints 1000 words, but get the typography basics of a piece correct and your words will say just as much. 

Typography is the art of technique of displaying words or text in a readable, digestible and appealing way. Get the typography basics right and your messages will be elevated. Get them wrong and you may be saying something completely different from the word meaning itself. 

For example: 

typography basics header

Font vs Typeface

A font is a collection of glyphs (characters, numbers and punctuation). A typeface is a collection of fonts that share similar attributes, but vary in size and weight.

typeography basics typeface font

Font Classifications

So there are billions of fonts out there, but they can be generally grouped into three classifications. Serif. Sans Serif and Script. Fonts can also be extremely Decorative

typography basics font types example

Using Fonts Correctly

The best way to get to grips with typography basics is to practice. The more familiar you become with fonts, typefaces and font connotations, the easier you will find it to navigate which font will work best for you client’s purpose. 

Starting with the basics is great. Then you can also find and experiment with free fonts from websites such as dafont, 1001 Free Fonts and Font Squirrel. You can also purchase fonts from sites such as Creative Market. This ensures you both have the license and rights to use the font, and also sends some well earned money into the designers pocket. We all win.