Golden Rules of Graphic Design

The Golden Rules of Graphic Design

We spoke previously about rules for non-graphic designers and how you can make your designer’s job easier, well today’s focus is all about the golden rules for graphic designers themselves. Times change, skills adapt but some rules should always stay the same, here are a few of our favourites:

Get to Really Know Your Client

Seriously, before any planning goes ahead, figure out exactly what your client wants, how they work, what kind of deadlines they want and most importantly their exact specifications. Extract as much information as you can from them, it will make the whole process so much easier. A happy client means a happy designer.

Print Areas

Before excitedly getting into the fun, creative process, remember to think ahead. Set up your blank document and set print area margins (the print area guidelines where text and images should finish). 10mm from all sides for A4 documents, 8mm for A5, 6mm for A6 and 4mm for business cards (to allow for print bleeds).

Never Stretch Fonts and Images

Keep an eye on images and type in your design, so that you don’t stretch them out of proportion when making adjustments. Typeface design is a very skilled, time-consuming job, especially when you are dealing with logos. It needs to be just right. While you may not think that anyone can see the image is slightly out-of-balance, everyone can see it.

Saving Versions and Layers

As you go along, mistakes will occur, it’s inevitable. But make sure to save your early layers on Photoshop (even if you create 10 versions in 1 day). It may seem like a lot of space to use up but you just don’t know when those early edits could really save your bacon. You even use them again in the future as templates. And, of course, save regularly! Make it an obsessive habit. Technology fails, be on top of it.

Widows and Orphans

When creating pages of text you have to be careful not to create ‘widows’ and ‘orphans’. Widows are end sentences that fall onto different pages (therefore away from related text) and ‘orphans’ are words or part of words at the end of a sentence that get forced onto their own line. You want all blocks of text to be grouped together. Consistency is key.


Use Pantone references to make sure you get your colours exactly right for your client. You don’t want any nasty surprises on print day. Read more about our print specifying tips here.

Top 10 Tips for Non-Graphic Designers

In times of financial difficulty, one of the first departments to have its budget cut is Marketing.  The job of putting together advert designs or brochures can fall to a Marketing Manager or Assistant with little or no knowledge of what it takes to put a solid layout together.  They might be armed with Adobe Creative Suite, but often it’s a case of ‘all the gear and no idea!’  

Similarly, small businesses often have someone juggling marketing, sales and who knows what else because it’s preferential to hiring a dedicated resource.

Let’s assume you’re in that position, but your boss has granted you some budget to get your design work outsourced.  It can be tricky when putting a project together to understand what your graphic designer really needs from you. But you can actually plan a lot in advance, which will save you both time and money as a result, keeping that boss of yours happy.

So here’s our top 10 musts for non-graphic designers:

  1. First up when you’re thinking about sending images over, make sure they’re high res and bear in mind the print bleed. You will lose around 3mm of image after printing and trimming, so if there are bits that you really want to see, make sure they are not going to be too close to the edges.
  2. Research the type style (fonts) you would like to use in advance. Do you want a serif or sans serif style? Bold or handwritten? Establish what kind of tone you want to set for your work and pick a typeface that reflects it.
  3. Think about sizing. Plan out how big you want your type and images to be – get the idea across at the start and it keeps it all nice and easy.
  4. Colour is very important, so remember to provide specific Pantone references if you have certain colours in mind. Then, you can be assured it will be right.  If you’re not sure with this, your graphic designer will be able to help you.
  5. Get super specific – if you want your brochure to be folded in a certain way just spell it out. Designers like specifics, and so do printers.
  6. Save your work as a PDF.  This is the best form for designers to work with.  Adobe InDesign has various presets to help you export your work to PDF.
  7. Think about what style of paper you would like your finished project to go on. There are varying finishes including matte & gloss. Which would you prefer?
  8. Time is of the essence so plan your project from your deadline backwards and add days for contingency.
  9. The most important tip of them all: PROOFREAD your copy, read it repeatedly and get your colleagues to do the same. You don’t want mistakes and neither does your designer.
  10. If you have to make any changes let people know as soon as possible, and remember – once you’ve signed off a proof, if your work comes back and there’s an error you missed while proofreading, that’s your fault – not the printer’s!

Doing the above will ensure a faster turnaround, a happy relationship between designer and client, less time/money wastage and a better quality of work.