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Marketing Communications - Design And Style Basics

   By: Mary Eule

Understand Hierarchy

Before beginning the designing process, it's a good idea to outline your key message points. Understanding what you want your audience to hear or see first will guide content placement, size, color, etc.

Reflect your Prospects' and Company's Personality

It's important to know your target market in the minutest detail… their wants, problems, needs, and interests. Your communication pieces, therefore, should reflect your understanding of your prospects' personalities.

This can be accomplished in many ways such as choosing the right paper (size, weight, color), fonts (for example formal fonts for wedding invitations; ‘childlike' fonts for a day care center sign), size, and language (apt buzzwords). Traditionally, more upscale offers have uncluttered designs with plenty of white space while discount offers are just the opposite… you can fill them up with graphics and words.


While excellent marketers understand that effective use of color is elusive, they follow a few fundamental rules.

As you probably expect, there is plenty of scientific research on all aspects of color… that is which ones are considered most attractive or eye-catching; what feelings certain colors inspire; or which colors are easiest to see. After sifting through the mounds of information the following tips were echoed repeatedly:

These four colors were symbols for the following:

• Red: action, emphasis, recall, excitement
• Yellow: happiness, sunshine, attention-getting
• Green: reassurance, security, stability
• Blue: order, tranquility, coolness, relaxation

Use these findings to guide your choices… for instance, dentists should consider painting their walls a lovely shade of blue! Also, test your own color instincts, and those of friends and family, to find out what works best for you

A “quick printer” conducted a recent study in Cleveland, Ohio. He tested different color reply cards (identical wording and offers) for his in-house mailers. Surprisingly, the pink postcards resulted in the highest response rates!

Artwork and Graphics

Visual images are simple, yet widely effective ways to communicate a lot. Trite phrases such as “a picture is worth a thousand words” are certainly overused because they continue to “ring true”.

Your artwork will help you:

• Tell a compelling and appealing story
• Symbolize your company's values and culture
• Evoke important feelings
• Explain your product/service
• Itemize key points

Thus, visually pleasing communication is important and can increase your chances of capturing your prospects' attention. Here are some tips for ensuring that it does:

1.Take your time while creating or choosing your artwork. If it's rushed… it shows. Great photography and graphics are affordable and easy to find on the internet. Check out these three:;, and

2.Make sure your artwork is compatible with your company's and target market's personality

3.Do not create an ad where your artwork overpowers your content, headline, product, etc. Yes, it should be noticeable and “tell your story”… not be “the story”

4.Your artwork should increase the odds that your message will be notices, even to casual readers or viewers.

5.Don't waste money investing in unnecessary, and often distracting, “pizzazz” – you know, graphics that flash, move around, dance, etc. They increase costs substantially and result in negligible or negative reactions.

6.Find ways to reuse photos, illustrations, testimonials, and blowups again. This will save you money and if they continue to work, why change?

Fonts and Typefaces

What exactly is a “font”? Simply put it is the specific traits (size, intensity, and typeface) for letters, numbers and symbols (that is, characters). “Typeface” is a subset of font and refers only to a character's design (e.g. Times New Roman, Helvetica, Verdana). The right font will make your copy easier to read, create harmony with your artwork and graphics, and be reflect your company's and target market's personalities.

Choosing the right font can be daunting… particularly given the sheer number of choices. However, let the following general tips guide you:

1.“Sans Serif” fonts are easier to read because they leave more “white space”.


Serif: little decorative “doolollies” (adornments, flourishes) on the ends of the characters

Sans: Means “without”

Some popular “sans serif” typefaces are: Gautami, Microsoft Sans Serif, and Arial. I also like Verdana.

2.For a more traditional look you'll want to consider using “serif” typefaces such as Times New Roman, Century Schoolbook, and Garamond.

3.While it's okay to vary font styles within a piece, try not to use more than two. Also, if you decide to try different fonts mix choose one of each – sans serif and serif. The contrast will result in an “eye pop”.

4.When choosing size, italics, and bolds keep readability in mind. This doesn't have to be a major pain in the neck! Look in your own magazines, newspapers, and direct mail… copy styles that you find appealing, easy-to-read and in keeping with your company's tone and feel.


- Reverse Type… while it works well for eye-catching headlines, it's harder to read and tough on the eyes. Use sparingly…

- Overdoing italics, underlining and capitalization… it looks unprofessional.

- Fonts that look typeset (making them fuzzy). They should be clean and crisp.

Mary Eule specializes in helping small and medium-sized businesses get and keep profitable customers. Formerly a Fortune 500 marketing executive; founder of two successful small businesses and award-winning speaker, Ms. Eule is President of Strategic Marketing Advisors, LLC. and co-author of a new book, "Mandatory Marketing: Small Business Edition". She holds a master degree in marketing from Johns Hopkins University. Log onto for free articles, newsletter and helpful tools, tips and templates.

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