Graphic design is an integral part of any business: from web graphics to product packaging design. But, why is it essential to have quality graphics, and how can you check the quality of your graphic design? Read on to find out.
Remember those cluttered websites from the early 2000s? Or the cheap-looking packaging design of your favorite childhood treats?
If you feel that everything looks a lot more polished and professional these days, you’re not mistaken. Markets are constantly becoming more competitive, and the number of marketing channels is also increasing. So, it’s more important than ever to achieve a strong visual impact through high-quality graphics.
In this piece, we’ll explain why having quality graphics is essential and provide a graphic design quality checklist that you can use to assess your graphics.
What qualities and skills should a great graphic designer have? Keep reading till the end, as we’ll also give you a brief overview of the main characteristics to look for in a designer to ensure you get high-quality designs.
Main reasons why the quality of design is important
Graphic design is vital in the first instance because it’s everywhere.
If you have an online business, your website and social media are where customers learn about and purchase your services and products. These channels require graphics.
If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you might be advertising through more traditional channels like flyers and brochures, or you may need signage designed.
But why is the quality of your graphics a critical factor in the success of your business? Let’s find out.
Quality design speaks to your customers.
How do you decide which one to purchase when choosing between two new products? Reviews? Features? Or, perhaps by the way they look?
You’ll often hear us raving about the importance of a solid visual identity because this is essentially what transforms a company into a brand.
Outstanding design still can’t be considered high-quality if it doesn’t represent your brand properly. Imagine if Coca-Cola suddenly changed its color palette to a trendy millennial pink or pastels? The effect wouldn’t be the same.
That’s because design needs to be representative of your target audience. If your target demographic is young digital natives, then crisp sans serif fonts and trendy muted color palettes will likely appeal to them. You should consider basic colors like blue or gray or simple shapes rather than quirky illustrations for a more traditional, corporate look.
First impressions are design-related.
With so much content to wade through when we’re online, it’s not exactly surprising that we have a tiny attention span these days. Some studies suggest that it’s as little as 8 seconds on average. As a marketer, that doesn’t give you much time to impress audiences and convince them to buy your product or service.
When it comes to web design, the stats are even more convincing. A study by Google showed that people form an opinion about a website after only 17 to 50 milliseconds! More importantly, 75% of them will judge a company’s credibility based on website design.
Good design can boost sales.
As consumers, we like to think that the quality of a product ultimately matters. However, while this may determine the success of a business, in the long run, good design is what helps people discover your business.
For example, one study found that 72% of people say packaging impacts purchase decisions. A case study from Performable (an email marketing company acquired by Hubspot) showed that simply changing the color of the CTA button increased conversions by 21%.
But, this goes beyond single purchases and actions. A 2005 study from Design Council showed that design-led businesses outperformed the others on the market by as much as 200%! In monetary terms, this meant that for every $150 spent, they increased turnover by over $300.
Perhaps even more interestingly, the companies with a strategic design approach didn’t need to go for competitive prices. The same study suggests that half of the design-led businesses use a lower price point as a way of beating the competition, compared to two-thirds of those who don’t use design.
So, how about a real-life example? Coca-Cola has one of the most recognizable packaging designs out there. It could seem impossible that a mere change in the design can contribute to a massive spike in sales.
But, the famous Share a Coke campaign suggests otherwise. Initially launched in 2011, the campaign included a redesign of Coke’s iconic can to feature names, pet names, and titles. This simple personalization hack increased sales by 2% for the first time in over a decade.
Usability = good design
Design thinking is a set of cognitive, strategic, and practical processes used to develop designs. Design is meant to address a specific problem or challenge and provide a possible solution.
The most obvious example of this is the UX/UI design of websites and applications. The design of these digital products should enable people to fulfill a specific purpose.
If website navigation is cluttered and confusing, visitors won’t find information quickly. If an app user struggles to use its core functionalities, then there’s a problem with the user experience - think how many times you deleted an app that seemed glitchy or difficult to use!
A SaaS (software-as-service) business, for example, would ultimately fail without good design. For them, poor design means poor usability and, therefore, the products would be challenging to sell to potential customers.
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Graphic design quality checklist
Now that we know all about graphics and their importance for any business, it’s time to address another big issue. How can you tell high-quality graphic design from the rest?
Here’s a simple graphic design quality checklist that you can follow to ensure the results always meet a professional standard.
1. Does it fulfill its purpose?
As you might know, the difference between graphic design and art is that the former always has to fulfill a specific purpose or convey a particular message to a target audience.
2. Is the message clear?
Building on the previous point, each piece of design should convey one clear message. This is most evident in marketing design, where each social media post or display ad needs to have a clear and visible call to action.
Let’s look at this example. Although the ad fulfills its purpose (advertise the offer of this business), there are too many messages in it competing for our attention.
For example, a simple logo should visually represent your brand identity: what you do, why, and for whom. A website design needs to do the same and convey information and provide a positive user experience. This means you need to optimize images for the web to help with the loading speed; information needs to be structured and easy to find; e-commerce needs to be secure, and so on.
No matter how good it might look, if a piece of graphic design fails to fulfill its primary purpose, you can’t consider it high-quality
While the use of contrast and bold typography would probably get you to notice this ad, it’s unlikely that you’d be prompted to take action.
3. Is it on-brand?
Whether a designer is creating graphics for your business or clients of your agency, they’ll likely need to stick to specific brand guidelines. This means using fonts, color palettes, illustrations, and a style close to a particular brand.
Does this mean there’s no room for creativity? Definitely not. Just think of an iconic rebrand like Airbnb. So long as a designer can understand the purpose and vision of your brand, creating something different doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
For everyday purposes, however, it’s necessary to check if the graphics follow your basic brand guidelines, etc. The opposite could compromise your brand image and make it harder for people to remember your brand.
4. Does it have visual appeal?
Although there’s still not enough scholarly research on the matter, it’s safe to assume that the attractiveness bias extends to other things as well. When we see a design that looks beautiful, images that aren’t pixelated, or fonts that are paired well, we’re much more likely to be drawn to it.
Need an example? Take a look at the two websites below. Neither of them has a very minimalist approach, and there is a lot of information to digest in both cases. However, the latter example from Amazon looks more beautiful thanks to the high-quality graphic on the top and the accompanying smaller graphics.
If you found yourself on the first website, you’d probably immediately turn away without even trying to search for the specific product that you were looking for.
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5. Is it original?
Creating something completely original seems like a tall order with the visual overload of the off- and online world today. However, it’s often a case of taking a different approach or making minor adjustments to help graphics stand out.
Even the most high-quality graphic design will be based on or inspired by something which already exists. And determining whether it’s a case of inspiration or plagiarism requires research.
When presented with a design, make sure to check out some websites for high-quality stock photos and vectors like Freepik, Canva, or Unsplash. If you find a design almost the same as what you requested, you should suggest possible changes that will make the final result more distinct.
It’s perfectly fine for designers to use available resources (for example, we have a free illustration gallery with thousands of designs that people use every day). But, the accompanying design elements (backgrounds, colors, typography, placement) must be created for a specific purpose and target audience.
What qualities and skills should a great graphic designer have?
Just like any other creative profession, talent will only get a graphic designer so far. So what qualities do you need to be a graphic designer?
The answer is a mix of technical and other skills, and we’ll cover a few of the most important in a bit more detail.
It would be pretty tricky to give a comprehensive overview of all the technical skills a graphic designer could have because there are so many different areas of graphic design that they might specialize in.
But here’s a quick list of some of the most important ones to look out for.
- Knowledge of design principles: This differentiates a professional graphic designer from a creative person with design software. Some basic principles include balance, hierarchy, contrast, and rhythm.
- RGB & CMYK: The two-color mixing modes are a necessary piece of knowledge for quality printing and graphics.
- UX design: It’s not a concept tied exclusively to web and app design, although these days, most people refer to it in that context. A good graphic designer knows how to create a positive user experience, which combines functionality with visual appeal.
- Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop: These are possibly the two definitive design software needed to create high-resolution graphics, so proficiency in either, or preferably both, is a must for almost any graphic designer.
- Typography skills: Although they don’t have to be typo designers per se, any good designer should know how to manipulate and alter typography to achieve the desired effect.
Visual artists may afford to be quirky, lone wolves, but graphic designers always work for or with someone. This also means that they must also possess soft skills and some technical knowledge from different fields to produce good work.
So what qualities do you need to be a graphic designer that communicates well with your collaborators and produces high-quality graphic design? Here’s a quick list:
- Communication and collaboration: Taking criticism, providing insight and feedback, and articulating their design choices are all necessary parts of a prolific design process.
- Marketing and social media: Whatever the industry, a graphic designer will likely have the opportunity to create assets for marketing purposes, so it can be advantageous to stay informed about the current trends and marketing metrics.
- Time management: Even the slightest revision can sometimes take a lot of time to keep the design well-balanced, so a designer needs to know how long specific design tasks will take.
- Coding: It’s by no means a requirement for every graphic designer, but a basic understanding of coding languages like HTML or CSS can be beneficial for creating web graphics.
No time to look for a designer?
Quality graphics bring a lot of value to your business, so it’s worth investing time and thought into learning how to assess design quality and finding a skilled graphic designer.
Luckily, there’s a great time-saving alternative! Signing up for unlimited design with ManyPixels will guarantee you work with experienced designers and professional project managers who regularly check the quality of the design work. If you ever need a project revised, you can do it as many times as you want without any extra costs!
If you want to learn more about the service, be sure to check out our why us page, or feel free to book a 1:1 demo session! It’s completely free, and it will allow you to see how the service works and how it can benefit your business.