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Principles of Good Ad Design

Posted by on 12:20 pm

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Some people think good ad design is a subjective thing.

After all, everyone has own tastes. You might love country music while I hate it (unless we’re talking about Waylon, Willie, Kris and Johnny. I’m good with the Highwaymen.), but that doesn’t mean the music itself is good or bad. The same principle must apply to ad design, right?


You and I can debate about whether Brad Paisley is a good musician all day long, but if I walked on stage and twisted a peg on his guitar while he was playing I’m pretty sure everyone in the audience would recoil at the horrific sound. That’s because music has certain rules we all agree upon that make it coherent to our ears, if not always pleasurable. The same applies to advertising design.

Regardless of the format, your ads should always follow a few basic design principles. When your team is working up a fresh look for your next campaign, make sure they keep the following essentials in mind.

Keep headlines short and on point

It doesn’t matter if your headline is a short quip, value statement, or call-to-action –  it should always convey the core message of the ad. Make sure you are delivering the message in a short, punchy way.

No dense, lengthy blocks of ad copy

The ad that tries to say too much…says nothing at all.

This is the biggest mistake we often see in advertising design, and it’s easy to imagine the voice inside the business owner’s head: We paid good money for this ad, and by gum we’re going to say everything we want to say!

It’s easy to forget that no one is ready and willing to read lots of text in your ad. You’ve got an average of two seconds to grab someone’s attention. If you can’t convey the message or make them want to read more in those two seconds, results will suffer. It’s far better to pique their interest in the ad and send them to a landing page on the web for more information.

the image tells the story quickly

Instead of using reams of text to tell the story, try using a well-chosen image. A picture or graphic that is crisp, clear, and eye-catching will engage audiences faster than three or four sentences of text.

the image is a real photo

There are always exceptions, but photos are generally more effective in advertising than illustrations. Unless you have a truly stunning sketch that will enhance the message, try finding a photograph instead.

Go Big with your print ads

This rule is vital for print, but the concept applies to all types of advertising. Buying a half or three-quarter page ad is not as effective as a full page. This is more expensive, of course, but the extra space—and the absence of other content or distractions—will allow your image and message to stand out.

art and copy work together

No matter what image you choose or copy you write, both elements should function as a cohesive whole. If the text is set off in text boxes or looks like it was just tacked on as an afterthought, buyers will be more preoccupied with the sloppy look of the ad than with what you are trying to tell them.

Know Your Audience

Before writing the copy, designing the ad, and buying space—you need to think about your target audience. Who are you trying to reach? What is their lifestyle? What benefits matter to them most?

The next time you are in a pharmacy, pick two completely different magazines off the rack and look them over. Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated appeal to very different audiences obviously, but if you look at the ads you will see more than just differences in the copy. Everything – from the font treatments, to the colors, to the images – is carefully crafted to resonate with specific groups of people. Your designs should strive to do the same.

The Ad stands OUt

Every principle of good ad design boils down to this point. If your ad stands out to the right target audience, you have done your job effectively.

Creating a great design is no easy task, and it’s only one step in the process of inspiring people to action. Once the ad is ready, you still have to decide how, where, and when you will unleash it on the unsuspecting public, but getting the design right is crucial. By following the rules above, you will make a much greater impression on your audience.

We owe it to them never to walk and stage and play out of tune. I’m sure they would very much agree.


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    Topic: Advertising ,graphic design

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