5 Tips for Creating Better Visual Content (as a Non-Designer)

Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash

Have you ever looked at an event flyer and thought, “Cool artwork, but can you just tell me the date and time of the party, please?”

Then you scour the graphic for a few extra seconds to find the information you need.

That brief moment of frustration sticks with you.

In the age of information (or perhaps more aptly: misinformation), with more distractions than ever, communications pros face an ongoing battle to win real estate in a reader’s 8-second attention span. You want to produce something that stands out — nay, something that practically punches your audience in the face (…metaphorically). But if you can’t follow up that punch with the immediate, quick, easy, efficient delivery of the information you want them to absorb, then you’ve lost them. And now they are a little peeved you’ve punched them aimlessly.

Tools like Canva make it easier than ever for content creators to forgo the professional design step and produce beautiful fact sheets, white papers, case studies, etc., independently. But knowing how to effectively marry the written and the visual is an important skill for content creators to have to ensure your message isn’t getting lost on the page.

Regardless of the medium, your goal is to get the message across. Think of the tenets of good writing: be concise, be clear, and follow conventions (or break them, but do so artfully and with purpose). The same rules apply to your visuals.

So here are a few tips non-designer content creators should consider before publishing any “self-designed” work:

  1. Choose images/graphics that support the text, not introduce a new concept. The brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. With so much power, the images/graphics shouldn’t raise more questions than they answer. Choose visuals that clearly support the key concept on the page to maximize retention — and keep the design styles consistent.
  2. Make sure the most important part of the page is what you are drawn to first. 81% of people only skim the content they read online. Therefore, the important bits of information should stand out the most. For example, on the cover page, the title (or the details of the event) should be big and bold. On the internal pages, the subheads or call-out boxes should. If your eyes first go to the image, then that image may be too distracting.
  3. Use call-out boxes for important text, but only if that text clearly relates to the page’s header. Again, this is for the sake of skimmers. The average user reads at most 20 to 28 percent of words during a visit. If your title, subhead, and call-out box text are the only words a person reads, are they getting the message you want them to?
  4. Ask: Is it legible? Check out these principles for web text readability. These rules apply offline as well. Designs need contrast: dark text on a light or white background or light text on a dark background. Avoid choosing colors that are too similar. Also, think about font size and line height. Yes, you want to fit that whole paragraph on one page, but if your reader has to pull out a magnifying glass to read the punchline, you’re better off splitting the page into two. White space is your friend.
  5. Keep it simple. Remember this quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” With these fun graphics tools, it’s easy to get carried away with images, icons, doodads, and doohickeys on your document. Try to stick to the essentials. Remember that less is always more.

In summary, as long as your message is clear and the design elements you’ve chosen each have a distinct purpose in supporting that message, then you’ve achieved your goal.

A version of this post originally appeared on WriteVest.com.




Content strategist, writer, designer, singer and wunderluster who is obsessed with podcasts.

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Alexis Anthony

Alexis Anthony

Content strategist, writer, designer, singer and wunderluster who is obsessed with podcasts.

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