Any visual element associated with your brand influences how others perceive your brand. An obvious example of a visual element is your logo, but many people put less of an emphasis on social media imagery. For bootstrapping business owners, the decision to create their own graphics or use an inexperienced designer can leave your visual elements with room to improve. These lacking graphics can lead to a negative opinion of your brand. If you’re trying to get by on a small design budget, here are three design errors that are red flags for “unprofessional” visual elements.
One of the easiest mistakes to avoid is sizing errors. However, many people don’t realize they’re making them! With multiple social media accounts to manage for one brand, it may be easiest (and quickest) to repost the same image on every site. This may work a lot of the time, but you risk running into situations where the automatic resizing from a website interferes with your messaging.
For example, Facebook’s cover photos aren’t the same ratio as a standard post and key information could get cut off. Or the text you added to your printed flyer design could be too small to read once you post the same graphic on Instagram. Now instead of generating excitement for your event, people will scroll past without any reaction – or worse, thinking the post is “broken” or amateurish.
The “Grand Opening” date is cut off when the wrong size is used for a Facebook cover photo.
While spending the time redesigning a post for every platform’s size may sound like a lot of effort, the results are worth it, and creating the initial design with these restrictions in mind will help the process go faster. Just be sure to keep up-to-date on each platform’s sizing guidelines!
Sometimes related to a sizing error, another design pitfall are pixelated images. What does that mean? All web images are made up of very tiny squares called “pixels.” When an image is stretched larger than its original size or undergoes file compression during saving, those once-small squares become very large and obvious. That’s what a pixelated image looks like.
Left: Uncompressed Image | Right: Pixelated & Compressed Image
Notice how the donuts look blurry and areas of a single color become square.
While not everyone knows the exact definition of pixilation, anyone can recognize something looks low-quality about those images. If you’re trying to present your brand in the best possible light, using high-quality images are essential. To avoid pixelated images, don’t stretch standard images to be larger – instead find an image at the correct size or larger than your final design.
One of the most obvious signs that graphics weren’t professionally designed – but one of the hardest to fix – is an inconsistent style. For the average person, this can also be the hardest fault to pinpoint, but it contributes to an overall feeling of a brand being confusing or untrustworthy.
When you think of a popular brand, like Coca-Cola, an image and feeling of the brand pops into your head. And most people would immediately envision red. That’s what a brand’s style encompasses – a general feeling that’s consistent across their audience. But they’ve spent millions of dollars on advertising over decades – how can your business hope to have such a consistent style? Well, every post contributes to that style, influencing people’s opinions and feelings in a split second without them realizing.
Coca-Cola’s Instagram page features red in every post. When someone scrolls past a Coca-Cola post in their usual feed, it is immediately recognizable as Coca-Cola.
While working on your own designs, it may be fun and exciting to use a new font in every design, but that inconsistency can damage your brand perception in the long run. People may scroll right past your post without realizing its your brand because your content doesn’t have one consistent voice.
To maintain consistency, use a few curated fonts and colors throughout your designs. Color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent, according to a study from the University of Loyola. If this is your first time deciding this, you could research color theory and how different fonts make people feel. This doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to the two colors in your logo – but to be mindful of how your overall feed should communicate your brand’s personality and message.
Now that you’re aware of some of the biggest pitfalls of inconsistent design, you can make immediate improvements on your brand’s posts. If this seems like a lot of information to keep track of for quick day-to-day social media posts, the best solution to maintain consistency would be a brand style guide. Style guides are comprised of design elements and rules that help solidify your brand’s voice. This includes fonts, color palettes, and the rationale behind why those choices are the best for communicating your message. If you don’t already have a brand style guide, consider working with a graphic designer to have one done professionally. Investing in a style guide will allow you to continue making your own graphics with one consistent voice without the expense of hiring a graphic designer for every post.