Create Your Graphic Design Strategy in 6 Steps

Follow these 6 steps to create a foolproof design strategy and learn how it can help your business grow.

Graphic Design
Graphic Design

Table of Contents

Learn why it’s important and how to create a graphic design strategy for your business in these simple steps.

Wait, graphic design strategy? Does that mean you shouldn’t just get whatever you need to be designed then and now?

This is a common misconception among small business owners that ends up costing them a lot of money. Whether it’s a failed marketing campaign or a brand design that fails to create a buzz and impress customers, creating a design strategy early on is a very smart thing to do, since design and business are inseparable.

Here’s how to create a graphic design strategy for your business

Why do you need a design strategy?

Design thinking is a business approach of using (user experience) design to help customers solve real problems. For example, instead of focusing on how an app looks, design thinking will make sure that it also has a practical use for which a target market has a real need. Or, instead of just creating a nice-looking graphic for social media this approach can ensure that people get real value from it (whether it’s in the form of information or guiding them to your website that can help solve a particular problem).

Here are some eye-opening stats about design-focused companies.

So, instead of using design just as a tool to propel your marketing goals, make sure that it’s an integral part of your brand and marketing strategy. Instead of creating a design for the sake of it, think about how this design impacts your brand image and what value it brings to your target audience.

Create a memorable logo

When you think about huge corporations like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s or Nike the first thing that comes to mind isn’t their well-known products, but rather their logos. You’ve seen these logos so many times that it’s impossible to separate them from the things you actually purchase (there are many very similar drinks to Coke, but when we crave Coca-Cola, we all usually go straight for the iconic red and white packaging and logo).

A logo is important for your business for several reasons:

  • It makes your brand memorable: otherwise, you’re likely selling just another similar product on the market.
  • It makes you stand out from the competition: think of Coca Cola and Pepsi; the two rival drinks are very similar in taste, but you’d never mistake one company’s logo for the other.
  • It shows professionalism and builds trust: although it does happen that a sloppy logo stands for a great product, this is usually not the case. The companies that are willing to pay for a professional logo design probably show the same level of care and dedication to creating their products and services.

There are many types of logos to choose from, and logo design is probably the area of graphic design where you shouldn’t be too focused on current trends. Favor simplicity over intricate designs as this will help you ensure your logo can stay relevant for longer. Think of what makes sense for your brand and adequately represents your values, offering and your customers.

good logo qualities.png

In other words, a poorly designed website means people won’t be interested in learning about your company or purchasing your products. So it’s fair to say that a bad website equals less profit.

If you’re unsure about your logo design, you can always go back to these 5 basic principles:

  • Simplicity: A good logo is like a joke—if you have to explain it, it’s not good enough.
  • Memorability: If people look at your logo for just 5 seconds will they be able to recreate it from memory?
  • Relevance: A logo has to match the brand and reflect the brand promise.
  • Distinctiveness: Following relevant industry trends is important, but what makes your company/logo different from the rest?
  • Versatility: Does it deliver the same impact across a range of uses, from giant billboard signage to business cards?

Build a brand identity

A logo is the foundation of your brand identity: the way your brand looks. Creating a graphic design strategy includes choosing some basic design elements (compiled in the brand guide) that you will use in creating different visuals for your brand. These elements are:

  • Colors
  • Typography
  • Graphical elements: illustrations and icons
  • Photos: what kind of aesthetic you use

Choosing a color scheme is one of the most important design decisions you’ll have to make. Color theory and color psychology study the way colors are mixed and perceived by us, so you’ll definitely need a professional designer on board to help you choose a combination of colors that makes sense for your brand (a simple “I like it” probably won’t help you relay the right type of message to your perfect customer).

Typography comes in so many styles and variations that the decision can be quite overwhelming at first. This also means that often many different types of fonts will fit a certain design, but remember that you need consistency to build brand awareness. For example, since Facebook started out as a fun college social media, you might think that a youthful script font would work just fine. But if you consider the issue of legibility, and how this font will pair with others used on the actual platform, you can see that the crisp and modern sans serif makes a much better choice.

A detailed brand guide will also include the type of graphical elements used by your brand. You may opt against using illustrations if you want to present yourself as very professional and corporate-looking, and instead use simple vector icons. Or, if you use stock photos, you can choose to use them in an altered way so that you can still retain a strong sense of brand identity. For example, we use some stock photo elements for our blog covers, but we add a duotone effect, in order to maintain a consistent unified look.

manypixels blog view.png

Create a great website

For startups, websites replace physical storefronts, so when it comes to website design there’s really no room for mistakes. Moreover, with the ever-increasing growth of ecommerce and more people browsing businesses online, it’s critical to have a high-quality website.

Here are some website design statistics to note.

website design stats

Effective website design consists of two things: a good user interface (UI) and a positive user experience (UX).

The first refers to the look and feel of a website that inspires trust and helps guide customers in a way that’s easy to understand. The latter refers to a broader concern of helping customers solve a particular problem through good design (e.g. if you’re using a site to purchase an item, good user experience means an integrated payment gateway, interactive tools that allow you to explore a product and prompt feedback on actions taken, such as completed purchases).

Your design strategy will help you define what kind of a website you need (blog, ecommerce, small business website, etc.) and what is your web design budget. Luckily, these days there are plenty of routes you can take to get a custom website: from big web design companies to easy and affordable website builders.

Set your goals

Measuring the effectiveness of design is never easy and without strategic goals, it may even be an impossible task. When creating a marketing or brand strategy make sure to set goals that are SMART, or:

  • Specific: it goes without saying, but to achieve goals you first have to have goals. When implementing a new design strategy, make sure you set specific weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual goals that will help you stay on track.
  • Measurable: whether it’s the number of likes on social media or a number of new signups, make sure you include quantifiable metrics (even if, of course, these metrics don’t relate exclusively to design but also other things such as market research, position and so on).
  • Attainable: being ambitious is great, but keep your goals within reason, based on your previous experience and performance. That way you’ll be able to assess more accurately whether your design strategy is working or not.
  • Relevant: if you’re at the early stages of your business, you can’t expect to double your profits overnight; focus first on the relevant tasks, for example building brand awareness and nurturing relationships with a handful of early adopters.
  • Time-based: give yourself a deadline to achieve a specific goal, rather than have a design strategy in place that predicts results “in the unforeseeable future”.

Once you have this framework in place, it will be easier to determine whether or not your design strategy is working. For example, if you’re not sure about your brand identity design, consider creating a focus group and ask people about their opinions and impressions of your designs.

Once you have this framework in place, it will be easier to determine whether or not your design strategy is working. For example, if you’re not sure about your brand identity design, consider creating a focus group and ask people about their opinions and impressions of your designs.

Set yourself apart from your competitors

A necessary step in creating a design strategy for your business is researching the competition. You need to know what kind of visual styles your target audience is expecting in order to create something that’s both appropriate and original.

An example we often mention on our blog is Slack. This SaaS leader conquered the market in a short period of time thanks to design thinking. The company CEO Stewart Butterfield had the idea for Slack after he surveyed a number of companies about what tools they were using for internal communication and the majority replied “nothing”. Butterfield correctly identified the real problem (it wasn’t that they weren’t using anything, it just wasn’t one platform or software), and an all-one workplace communication tool.

slack quote.png

The second reason why Slack became so successful was high-quality design. From the vibrant, colorful interface that sets it apart from rigid, old email tools, to a great user experience that allows for simple integration with a number of other tools, Slack gave clients something no one else was offering. But what’s truly remarkable about it is that in its essence the idea is almost unbelievably simple: it’s a chat tool. But great design helped make it a one-of-a-kind product.

Design a great marketing campaign

Marketing design is a huge area of graphic design that encompasses many different types of projects and skills needed to execute them. Although you’ll be creating marketing campaigns regularly, and they will have different objectives, it’s important to include them in drafting your design strategy.

The main questions you want to answer at this stage are:

  • What marketing channels are you going to use?
  • What tone of voice will you use in marketing?
  • What will be the visual language for your customers?

Let’s dive a bit deeper into all of these.

Marketing channels

It goes without saying that you’ll need different skills and resources to create a YouTube tutorial and a Facebook post. You need to consider what channels make sense for you (where is your audience), and what sort of budget have you got (can you hire a professional motion graphics designer full-time, or is this something you’ll reserve for special campaigns and occasions?)

Tone of voice

Determining the tone of voice is, technically speaking, a part of brand identity creation, however on a day-to-day basis you’ll mostly be using this in marketing. Knowing whether your tone of voice is friendly and professional, or goofy and fun will help you establish the general art direction for your marketing materials.

Visual language

Graphic design can greatly improve storytelling, so you need to consider what kinds of graphics you can use, and how to raise brand awareness and connect with your audience. From infographics that break down complex information, to cute mascots, there are many ways to create an effective visual language.

An example we like to mention are these highly effective ads created by Durex. As a condom manufacturer the company’s visual representation might be subject to censorship. Nevertheless, they found a way to represent their products in a simple and effective way.

durex 1.jpg
durex 2.jpg

The next step: implementing your design strategy

Once you have your long-term design goals properly set up, you’ll need to find a way to get graphic design for your business. The good news is that whatever your budget and your needs, there’s likely a suitable solution out there for you.

If you want something that’s simple, affordable, reliable and fast (yep, all those things), make sure to check out ManyPixels. We work with clients from all over the world daily to deliver tailor-made designs.

Follow these 6 steps to create a foolproof design strategy and learn how it can help your business grow.

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