It is almost 5 o clock on Friday afternoon. Do you know where your newest marketing pieces are? If you are a small business owner, they may be buried on your desk because you have got so many other important details to handle. Or they are still sitting on your assistant’s desk where she is staring at them hopelessly. She is an admin assistant, for heavens sake, not a designer, and she knows what she is produced so far is not very memorable or effective.

All of us would like to think our product is so good, our services so unique, they will simply sell themselves. Not so! Strong branding, powerful images, compelling web pages and outstanding marketing pieces make or break that upward sales curve you crave so urgently. In today’s market, your customers and clients are influenced more than ever by the visual presentation of your marketing pieces. If they are well designed, they are likely to be read, remembered and respected.

Here are five simple, but essential tricks of the designers trade that you can use immediately, at little cost, and with excellent results to profit you both short and long term.

  1. Chances are you are not an illustrator or photographer, but that should not stop you from using professional illustrations or photos in your marketing piece. You can use clip art sometimes at a very low price to enhance your layout. Check out the Internet for sites that feature clip art or stock photo libraries that provide a wide variety of quality and prices to choose from. Use the same style of graphics throughout your piece to create a consistent look.
  2. Using contrast means having clearly apparent differences among the design elements that come together on a page, business card, or computer screen. These include contrasting colors, shapes, fonts, and sizes of text and graphics. A high degree of contrast helps create dramatic interest and draws the viewer’s eye to specific areas of your page. White space also provides contrast, aids legibility, and gives the reader’s eye a resting point. Controlling the amount of white space you use affects the overall page design.
  3. Good design calls for repeating certain elements throughout your piece to make the whole piece come together visually. For example, use the same color, shape, and size for all your bullets. Also make all your headers the same size, color, and font. Go for more and repeat specific graphic elements (e.g., boxes, banners, rule lines, etc.) throughout the piece. A word of caution: When you review your work, look carefully for any inconsistencies.
    In 1959, the first run of the Shepherd of the Hills play was performed in the Old Mill Theater on the farm. The farm has since come under ownership of one of the plays former actors, Gary Snadon, who vowed to keep the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead and Outdoor Theater true to the novel and the time.
  4. Pay attention to Proximity. Proximity refers to the exact spatial relationships between elements. For example, you create visual relationships between photos and their captions by keeping the captions close to the photos. For subheads, a pro positions them closer to the text below than the text above. Apply this principle of exact spatial relationship to all other graphic and text elements where appropriate.
  5. In general, when you have a large amount of text, it is best to use a serif font because it is easier to read than a sans serif font. Serifs are the tiny horizontal strokes attached to the letters that help the reader’s eyes flow from letter to letter. Bold sans serif (without serifs) are good for headlines and subheads because they slow the reader down thus bringing more attention to each word or concept. Some examples of serif fonts that are good for body copy are: Times, New Century Schoolbook, Garamond and Goudy. Some examples of sans serif fonts that are good for headlines are: Arial Bold, Helvetica Black, Univers Bold and Trade Gothic.

Its 9 o clock Monday morning. You are smiling because you have incorporated these important design elements into your marketing strategy. You are ready to face a new week with vastly improved opportunities to keep smiling at a growing bottom line.