7 Hacks for Designing like a Pro

If having to design something for yourself leaves you in a sweaty panic then check out my 7 hacks below. The below tips will make sure you are on the right track to designing something meaningful, beautiful, and functional.

7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro

1. Negative Space

First on the list we are going to talk about negative space or in other words, white space.

White space is any unused space in your design that helps separate copy, images and other objects to make it feel less crowded. 

Just because you have a certain amount of space to design with doesn't mean you need to fill it up with unnecessary clutter.

Let's take a look at the example below of copy laid out. If I told you to read the below copy which example would you prefer to read based on the layout?

The text in the first image stretches out to each end of the paper and feels very cluttered. Not only that but wide blocks or text exhaust the eye and you risk losing the attention of your reader.

 

7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro

The text in the image below is much easier to read. 

The space between the title and the body copy is enough to give your reader a break before jumping into the body copy. 

The smaller margins bring the text in which not only looks nicer but makes it so much easier to read. 

7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro

Spacing applies to much more than page layout.

If you are designing a logo, a poster, an invitation, or a business card, you want to make sure you have enough breathable space to keep your reader from feeling overwhelmed.

Let's look at a business card design.

As I mentioned above because you have space doesn't mean you need to use all of it.

Let's look at the first image.

The front of the card isn't so bad but the back feels a little too cluttered. The cupcake icon over powers the business information and the business information is looking a little too in your face.

7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro

Now let's look at a revised design. 

7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro

The logo on the front of the card is a bit smaller which gives some breathing room. Remember, your logo doesn't need to be huge to get the point across.

The back of the card is a heck of a lot more breathable and nice looking.

The cupcake icon is smaller and light pink which doesn't steal the attention away from the important info.

The font size was also brought down and placed at the bottom of the business card.

 

2. Hierarchy 

Hierarchy is arranging your design elements in order of importance.

Hierarchy should be applied to all of your designs and even blog posts.

Have you visited a blog and found an interesting article but the blog post was not broken up into sections, lacked headers, and was hard to read? I think we've all been there. 

Not only does breaking up your blog post with different header sizes make your content easy to read it also helps with SEO and bumps you up in the rankings.

Let's look at an example of a blog post mockup.

7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro

As you can see (if this wasn't in lorem ipsum) it's very easy to scan through and read.

Everyone is busy these days so reading a full blog post might not be an option. Breaking it down helps your reader pick out different sections that appeal to them.

Now let's look at a simple piece of text.

7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro
7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro

Let's say your blog was called The Best Blog. There's nothing wrong with the first image and having it laid out on one line but maybe you want "Best Blog" to stand out and add a bit more visual interest. Bringing down "The" font size and using a different font adds that visual interest and hierarchy. 

7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro

When it comes down to it figure out what info you want to grab your readers attention first (most important) and then work your way down to the least important. 

 

3. Typography


Let's dive into my favourite thing, typography.

Typography makes up 90% of design so it's suuuper important you understand the basics.

Below I've listed some of my favourite typography tips.

  • Use no more than 2-3 fonts on your website.
  • Use no more than 2-3 fonts in your brand or on your next design project. (Of course, depending on the project this rule can be broken.)
  • Make sure your fonts are legible in both print and web designs.
  • Learn to pair your fonts and create contrast in your type. For example use a serif and sans-serif, or a light and a heavy weight font. Read more about pairing fonts HERE
  • Align your text, for example, avoid centering long blocks of text.
  • Learn what kerning, tracking, and leading is. It will take your type from okay to designer quality.
  • Avoid using super light / small fonts for web and print body copy.
  • Break the rules. I will always remember what one of my design teachers said to me. "How can you make the type in this logo stand out?" Experimenting and manipulating your font can take your logo from average to unique.

Check out some of my favourite logos where the type has is manipulated to create something unique and beautiful.

7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro
7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro


If you are interested in learning more about typography I suggest signing up for my free course. Click the image below to get started. 



 

4. Functional

Creating a design that is appealing is only half the battle, you also have to make sure it's functional.

What does this mean?

If you are designing a logo it's important to make sure it can be scaled to different sizes. Scaling confirms the design will work on different branding elements such as business cards, stickers, or buttons. If your logo looks like a blob at 1 inch then it's not functional.

Another example is if you spent hours building your website only to realize your viewers have a hard time navigating it. Maybe the layout is confusing, or you have too many distractions and your website doesn't flow.

It's important to keep your audience or user in mind when designing anything. You can spend days, months, or years designing something but if it's not functional than you've wasted your time.

A good way to avoid this is to do research before starting any project. Figure out what you need, how you can make it work, and have a few people test it out and get feedback.
 

5. Colour

Colour is one of the most impactful design elements. You are able make your viewer feel certain emotions with your colour choices so it’s important you understand how to use colour .

Let's first dig into understanding the colour wheel and the different colour schemes.

The colour wheel has three different sections:

primary colours - red, yellow and blue

secondary colours - green, orange and purple

tertiary colours - yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, red-violet and yellow-orange

 
7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro
 

 

Complementary

The complementary colour scheme uses colours that sit directly across from each other on the colour wheel. 

 
7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro
 

Split Complementary

The split complementary colour scheme uses three colours, a colour and two others that sit directly next to the first colours complement on the colour wheel.

 
7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro
 

Monochromatic

The monochromatic colour scheme uses two or three colours from the same colour family on the colour wheel. 

 
7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro
 

Analogous

The analogous colour scheme uses one colour along with the colours on either side of it on the colour wheel. 

 
7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro
 

 

Triad

The triad colour scheme uses three colours that are equally spaced from each other on the colour wheel.

7 Hacks for Designing Like a Pro

Use warm colours such as red, orange, yellow and green if you want to incorporate happiness, passion, enthusiasm, and energy to your project. 

Use cool colours such as blue, purple and green if you want to incorporate calmness and professionalism to your project. 

Below I've listed a few tips for picking out a colour scheme and sticking to it.

  • Avoid using light colours on small text
  • Never place coloured text on a dark background. For example, red text on a black background. Doing so will make your text extremely difficult to read
  • Avoid using more than 6 colours in your branding / designs
  • Figure out what emotions you want to convey and choose your palette based on the appropriate colours 
  • Once you've decided on a palette write down the hex codes so you aren't guessing when it's time to use your colour palette. 

 

6. Simplicity 

An important question to ask yourself when designing is, "do I really need that element?"

If your design is feeling a little cluttered or confusing ask yourself what elements you can do without and cut back if possible. 

If you are working with a project that requires the use of multiple elements then go back to hierarchy, contrast, and space and figure out how you can arrange the elements in the best possible way that makes sense to your viewer and your design goals.
 

7. Think outside the box

Finding inspiration is part of the process with every project, however, avoid tunnel vision and definitely don't go with your first idea. 

The whole point of designing something is to create a beautiful and unique final product. 

When starting any project you should spend a good amount of time researching, sketching and thinking of how you can make your project different and stand out from the rest. 

A good starting point is to avoid any design trends that will go out of style and if you see more than one person doing it go in the opposite direction. 

I would love to hear any tips you have for designing, drop them in the comment section below!