We’ve all seen graphics that just don’t quite work. Something is off, and we just can’t put our finger on what it is. Often, it’s something playing in our subconscious that confuses our eyes, making them bounce around like a three-year-old on a sugar high. The answer is almost always the grid.
WHAT IS A GRID?
A grid is just a way to make spacing consistent between design elements. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Basically, it helps you create order – one of the best design ingredients.
Why? Anytime your eyes look at something, it processes the information trying to make sense of it. When everything is unevenly spaced, you get confusion because your eyes can’t organize what they see. That lack of order makes our brains turn up its nose at what it sees.
This is a universal principle.
Quick test: look at the following graphic. Which column looks better?
The left one is probably a little cleaner looking. In the right column, it looks like the horizontal alignement is off (and it is). In reality, the grid is off on the right, which makes it visually confusing. Look at it again with the grid made visible.
Do you see how the grid makes this easier? This is just a very basic example, though. What happens when you add some text to the grid?
The left column is easier to read because it’s visually organized. The right column is less defined in space making it less clear.
This has all been subtle, so far. You’ve only seen a simple graphic with two colors and basic text. Imagine what this is like, though, when you see a page full of these design elements. Your web page sets your viewers up for either engagement or bounce.
Keep in mind, all of this happens within a microsecond of viewing.
USING A GRID
Honestly, this can be a loosey-goosey or as geeky as you want (yeah, I just wrote loosey-goosey). Some great designers I know never use the grid system. They just have a great eye. I, unfortunately, am not one of those people.
I usually create all the elements of my design without a grid. Then I go back and make adjustments. You wouldn’t believe the difference in adjusting your design using a grid.
This is my first shot at my title graphic.
It’s ok. Nothing major pops out. Now look at it cleaned up.
Now, I’m not a mind reader, but I can hear a lot of your thoughts. You’re probably thinking those don’t look that different. And you’re right, they don’t. One of them is definitely easier to process. Can you guess which one?
Did you notice that the top element of the graphic on the right is smaller and leaves some space between the tile on the background? If you didn’t consciously see it, trust me, your subconscious definitely did. How about the bottom logo? Did you notice the change in it? Same as the top element, I nudged it up so that the bottom of the tile in the background didn’t confuse the bottom of the logo.
Other small changes: decreased the height of the graphic line, adjusted the space between each line of text and the colored line below them, and changed the line height between each piece of text.
You probably didn’t consciously catch all those adjustments, but some part of your brain did.
Here is the real issue.
GRAPHICS AND SCALE
Every graphic you publish has to scale for multiple screens. It has to have the right spacing for a laptop, desktop, tablet, and smartphone. Each of these has multiple resolutions making it incredibly complicated.
Using a grid of 8 points (pixels) will scale the best on every screen. Put your math thinking cap on for a second. If you design on a 10 point grid, how many of the following screen resolutions will render correctly?
On a 10 point grid, you get 3 resolutions that connect naturally (using only vertical spacing). Using an 8 point grid, you get 6 out of 8 if you only count height.
You might have just read this article and thought that’s a lot of work for just a graphic. I promise you, it’s not that much more work.
But here is a question to ask yourself, “How much does it cost you to confuse my audience?”
With today’s average attention span of less than 15 seconds for page loads, and with the micro-level decision making of your audience, are you willing to send traffic away because you didn’t take an extra minute or two adjust your grid?
I hope this post helps you connect with your target audience. If you liked this, please check out my free eBook Making Graphics That Make Money. You can also join my Facebook group and post some of your graphics (or other content) to get some feedback on them.
So many parts of a business have to come together for a successful launch. You need a business model, a value proposal to customers. Funding, sustainability, and scaling also have to come together. That’s just the beginning. However, maybe the most important in all those stages of a startup is branding.
Branding isn’t just a logo or a fancy graphic. It’s so much more than that. It’s all the small bits and pieces that make up how a customer feels about your business.
Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room
Think of branding like a multiplier. It builds recognition, consistency, targeting, retention, repeat business and user experience. But only if it’s successful. So what makes a successful brand? Read on.
Great brands start with a deep knowledge of who they are. It’s more than just the product. It’s the people behind the product and how they care about other people. Steve Jobs was a known narcissist, but he cared about people’s user experience. He was willing to be a complete jerk just to wow users with his products.
Steve Jobs was a known narcissist, but he knew what Apple Computers purpose was. He cared about people’s user experience more than just the product he sold. Maybe that’s why he was willing to be such a jerk. He wanted to wow his users with a completely new experience in personal computing.
Most of all, he knew what he was about. The same is true for every great entrepreneur. They understand themselves enough to know what they offer. Great branding starts there. We call that a deep dive. We ask questions that help new business owners find their deepest self.
The same is true for every great entrepreneur. They understand themselves enough to know what they offer. Great branding starts there. When an entrepreneur digs into their identity, I call that a deep dive. That’s where new companies begin.
That’s where new companies begin. Shortcutting that process always leads to missteps and wasted time, energy, and most of all, money.
No great product leaves out this piece of the process. The best brands show how a product adds value to a consumer’s life. They show how a product can make their lives better. It communicates value.
Continuing with the Apple theme, the iPod did exactly that. All the advertising for the iPod didn’t talk about specs or even its iconic design. Instead, it showed people using the iPod and how their lives were different because of it. That’s communicating value.
Great brands don’t just communicate value, though. They show how they change lives. It’s more merit than value.
Consolacon is a company you’ve probably never heard of. They are listed in the business section as a building contractor. That’s true, but their brand isn’t building new kitchens.
What they deliver is a different kind of life. The kitchens they build are entertainment centers for people who love to have company. We all know kitchens are the center of most parties. Consolacon simply made their brand about entertaining rather than the benefits of great materials and craftsmanship.
Branding is really about storytelling. Great stories showcase the merit of a brand. They give people a glimpse into what makes a brand unique beneficial. It draws them into that story, then makes them want to be a part of it.
Any brand can be compelling simply through effective storytelling. Nike masterfully uses storytelling. They start with a celebrity athlete and tell part of their story, even if it’s just them playing their sport. Then they put regular people into the story by dressing them the same way. It engages their target market and pulls them into a story.
Of course, there’s more! Great brands are built around these three elements, but that’s just part of what branding does for a startup. It takes a great plan and the execution of that plan to make it work. It takes market research and great design. The real problem is that most entrepreneurs aren’t also great designers and great marketing experts.
It takes a great plan and the execution of that plan to make it work. It takes market research and great design. The real problem is that most entrepreneurs aren’t also great designers and great marketing experts.
That’s really ok. There are great people out there who can help. If you would like some help with this so that you don’t have to guess at what works, let me help. I’m giving away my branding process.
This is the one I’ve used and developed for over a decade to help small and large businesses figure out their why so they can develop their what.
Have you realized how helpful it is to create your own graphics for all of your content? You know, social media posts, blog graphics, even print media like planners or business cards.
Have you also felt the frustration of knowing the value of great visuals but not knowing how to design them? Maybe you even feel comfortable designing but you don’t want to have to pay for expensive apps to create them.
Well if any of those seem like you, look no further. In this free resource, I’ll show you how I’ve made over 8,000 graphics for over 450 companies. And I’ll show you how to do that using a free, online app.
Get ready for Canva.