Learn How to Use Graphic Design Templates Effectively

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Everything You Need to Know About Graphic Design Templates

The Ultimate Guide to Graphic Design Templates

Marketing
October 4, 2022
12 minutes

0%

What is a template in graphic design? A lazy shortcut or one of the greatest assets you can have? Let’s learn about graphic design templates, where you can find them, how to use them, and much more!

The word “template” often has a negative connotation in the graphic design world. Templates usually mean unoriginal, cookie-cutter designs that won’t help you establish a solid brand image.

But is that really true? Why do graphic designers use templates, even when they have the necessary skills to create something from scratch? Learn all about graphic design templates and how to use them well.

What is a template in graphic design?

A graphic design template can mean many things: from a simple social media post to elaborate landing page templates. It can even be something that’s not an actual graphic, such as creative brief graphic design templates that help clients give designers better instructions.

Although professional designers have been using templates for decades, they have recently become much more prominent. The reason is the vast number of free graphic design templates available online, which many non-designers use to create DIY graphics.

Are you guilty of trying this out yourself? Let’s examine the pros and cons of this approach.

The pros & cons of using free graphic design templates

Pros

Don’t worry - I’m not here to scold you about using free graphic design templates just because I work for a design company! The truth is that there are several benefits to getting your hands on a great template. Let’s go over the most significant ones.

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1. Speed up the design process

Whether you’re taking on DIY design or have passed on a template to a designer, these can tremendously decrease the time needed for a finished design. If you have a template library that matches your brand identity, you can have polished designs ready in no time!

2.Provide ideas

A mistake many non-designers make with design templates is that they view them as a finished product. These days, when there are so many high-quality templates available online, these can also be an incredible source of inspiration.

Don’t get stuck on a design because it’s free and readily available. Consider what you (dis)like about the design and use it to create something completely custom.

3. Reduce costs

As we’ve already mentioned, many free graphic design templates are available all over the internet. Small business owners are always looking to reduce costs, and graphic design templates are a brilliant tactic.

Don’t limit yourself to free graphic design templates. There are many websites and online shops that allow you to access tons of beautiful templates for a minimal fee.

Cons

I said it wouldn’t all just be cons. Still, there are some convincing reasons why using free graphic design templates isn’t such a good idea.

1. Hurting your brand image

It goes without saying that the greatest drawback of graphic templates is that they aren’t created with your business in mind. Sometimes they look amazing and are very creative. But will they speak to your target audience? Are they created in the same style you nurture?

Chances are usually slim. So, if you use design templates without altering them, you’ll likely send mixed messages to your target audience. Moreover, people will have a harder time remembering your brand if you fail to use consistent design and style in your marketing efforts.

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2. Spending a lot of time on revisions

So, design templates are always a fantastic time-saving solution? Not necessarily. Imagine spending ages sourcing the templates, followed by hours on redesigning for your needs. In that case, getting a designer to create something from scratch may be quicker.

3. Lack of quality & originality

We’ve mentioned several times there are lots of free templates available and many of them are fantastic. But we have to be honest: the chances of freebies being exceptional are pretty slim.

Moreover, even if the design is top-notch, you always risk having similar designs to others, including your competitors. Don’t fall into the pitfall of bad design: it can be quite a costly mistake!

How to use graphic design templates effectively?

Now that you know all about the advantages and perils of graphic design templates let’s look at a few ways you can use them to maximum effect.

Creative brief graphic design templates

Let’s start with a nifty type of template that’s not actually graphic design. A well-crafted creative brief is essential for a seamless design process. Still, very few people know how to write an informative, to-the-point brief, and helpful for the designer.

Whether you’re guilty of going into too much detail or being understated, creative brief graphic design templates can help you communicate with designers much better. Here are a few sections you might find in creative brief templates:

  • Name of the project
  • Purpose
  • Target audience
  • Company background & competition
  • Style & tone of voice
  • Logo & brand kit
  • Type of project and scope
  • File formats required
  • Layout
  • Examples of work you like
  • Examples of work you don’t like

Giving enough information and confusing your designers with unnecessary details is a balancing act. That’s where a template crafted or approved by designers is always a fantastic asset for non-designers.

Business cards

Think business cards are a thing of the past? Think again! Around 27 million business cards are printed out daily. And for every 2,000 cards you give out, you can increase your sales by 2.5%. That may not sound like much. Still, considering how cheap it is to produce business cards, they’re definitely worth the investment!

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Another great way to save up on these helpful marketing tools is to use business card templates. There are tons of beautiful designs online, which can easily be adapted using your logo and brand colors. Here are a few of our own collections of business cards designs:

3_Romantic and frilly card mockup.jpg

Stationery

It’s not necessarily something you’ve thought about, but custom stationery speaks volumes to prospective clients and business partners. It shows that you take your business seriously and can go the extra mile.

It may take a little more time to adapt to your needs. Still, templates can save you a lot of time on googling and checking the correct dimensions for different stationery pieces.

embossed stationery set.jpg

Flyers

Just like business cards, flyers are cheap-to-produce and effective. Flyers have close to a 50% response rate, and an impressive 62% of people who responded to print marketing, went on to buy something from the company.

Still, the days when flies were bland pieces of paper with a logo slapped on are long gone! With many free graphic design templates available online, you can’t afford to have bland designs.

Learn how to create small-format marketing assets

Get our Flyer & Brochure Inspiration Guide

One thing to remember, though, is to consult your printing services beforehand to ensure they can produce the designs you come up with. Another benefit of using design templates is that they will usually be set to the correct color mode (CMYK or RGB) depending on the intended purpose (print or digital design templates).

mp flyer design.png Flyer design by ManyPixels

Social media posts

Here’s a big one! Are social media design templates actually a good idea?

Yes, and no. On the one hand, they can help you automate your social media posting. And some research suggests that omnichannel marketing automation leads to 90% higher customer retention rates. One thing to remember with social media automation and templates is to alternate repurposed and new content.

mp pinterest.png We use templates for our Pinterest account as a way of boating our content marketing, and repurposing content shared on other social media platforms. The templates allow us to schedule posts for months in advance, helping us increase website traffic and gather leads.

On the other hand, you should be cautious about overusing them, if a “template look” doesn’t suit your brand identity. If you’re going for a sleek, corporate look, social post templates will be your best friend. If you’re trying to build a powerful social media presence, and engage a diverse audience, you’ll likely need something a little more creative and extraordinary.

mp social media templates.png Social media templates can give your brand a more serious, professional look. If this is something you want to achieve, templates like these ones created by our designers will be extremely useful.

Presentations

Designing presentations can take anywhere between 10 to 60 minutes per slide. So, you’re usually looking at a full day’s work for crafting a single presentation. If you’re a small business owner or CEO, you’re wasting a lot of time (and money) on this task.

Having a suitable presentation template on hand is extremely helpful. Of course, anyone can use design templates from PowerPoint, but this won’t make your presentation visually appealing or (more importantly) on-brand. Creating several presentation templates can be a great long-term investment.

0001.jpg Here’s another example from our portfolio that demonstrates how impactful it is to have branded slide decks.

Ads

Hang on a minute… isn’t the whole point of ad campaigns that they run at a specific time and send a particular message. So, how convenient are design templates in this case?

Again, it’s all about nuances. Using the same ad design over and over again probably won’t work and will make your ads look annoying and spammy. So, the best way to create ad graphic design templates is to keep them simple.

Create different ad types in suitable sizes and file formats for different channels. Use your primary brand colors and create a basic layout for your logo, heading, CTA, image, etc. Don’t use overly complicated templates that are difficult to adapt. These ads are ideal for your “usual” marketing efforts, such as lead generation or increasing website traffic.

mp ads.png One of our designs with a great layout, high-quality photos, and a duotone effect make for awesome ad templates that can be used with diverse copy.

Of course, if you’re planning an extensive campaign, or something you haven’t done before (e.g., a new product launch), you should opt for something custom.

Where to find free graphic design templates?

Templates are awesome and can be used for DIY designs. But do graphic designers use templates as well? Absolutely! There’s no shame in starting with a high-quality template, especially if you have the chops to turn it into something unique!

Here are a few platforms to get cheap or free graphic design templates, suitable for professionals and non-designers.

Canva

There’s no DIY design without Canva. Unlike many other platforms, Canva isn’t just a place to get templates - you can also edit them directly on this website! It’s a lifesaving tactic for all the design rookies that haven’t got access to professional design software.

Be warned, though: Canva has thousands of amazing templates and is easy to use. So, it’s no wonder that it’s trendy. Therefore, the chances of ending up with the same template as someone else are relatively high.

Template.net

Template.net has a free option, but if you’re planning to use templates long-term, the two paid plans are a much better idea. The free subscription allows you access to a limited number of templates, and you’re limited to 3 downloads a day.

On the other hand, a subscription of $2 or $10 per month gives you access to hundreds of thousands of original designs (added daily) and an array of nifty options, such as direct posting to social media, greater cloud storage, 300 downloads a month, and unlimited use of the graphics (no attribution).

Unlike Canva, Template.net is more geared towards professional designers since it also allows you to download editable file formats such as Adobe Illustrator (AI), Photoshop (PSD), or Vectors (EPS).

Freepik

Best known as a platform to get illustrations and images, Freepik also boasts many free, editable templates. Like Template.net, it has free and paid options, the main difference being the number of downloads and number of available designs, and attribution rules.

If you’re looking to take DIY design single-handedly, Freepik might be a clever investment since you get templates and images in one place.

Stock Layouts

Stock Layouts has a minimal number of free templates. But, if you’re looking for high-quality templates for print designs (flyers, brochures, rack cards, menus, etc.), this is a decent site to check out.

You can purchase single designs in a price range between $19–$39 or pay a fee of $79 for unlimited access for three months. Most templates have a more serious, corporate look, so if this is your vibe, a paid subscription could help you avoid using the same templates as everyone else.

PNG Tree

Don’t be confused by the name; there’s much more to PNG Tree than PNG files: stock photos, clipart, 3D illustrations, and vectors are all available on this platform. They also have a vast library of backgrounds, which can be a worthwhile investment if, for example, you need it for video production or presentation design.

A word of advice: try to narrow down what you start looking for before browsing this platform, as you might get overwhelmed by the number of choices!

There are lots of free design templates and a comprehensive pricing plan with 4 tiers: three-, six months, and annual. There’s also a lifetime subscription

Templates are great - but nothing beats custom

We must admit that graphic design templates look better than ever nowadays, and there’s also an immense number of them to choose from.

That said, as a design company, we know that it takes skill and experience to transform a template into a custom design. Most people who take the DIY route will struggle with this and end up with designs that aren’t exactly hitting the right note.

Think free graphic design templates are a tremendous help to your budget? Then consider how much of your time is spent finding and redesigning templates. The time you could spend doing your actual job, whether writing, acquiring customers, or devising a business plan.

If you want a hassle-free way to get ALL your designs in one place, you should definitely check out what ManyPixels is up to. We’re an online graphic design service offering on-demand solutions, for a flat monthly fee. No surprises or additional costs: you can plan your budget meticulously and get all the designs you need whenever you need them.

Book a free demo consultation with us for a chance to ask us any questions! Or go ahead and start your subscription today with a 14-day money-back guarantee!

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Danica.png

Danica Popovic

October 4, 2022

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.