Three Design Basics Every Marketer Should Know
by Sara Kavanagh last updated on 0

Three Design Basics Every Marketer Should Know

Giving a prospect the nudge to visit your site isn’t just based on your slogan and ads. Enticing businesses need to have an equally enticing website. It’s no longer just about word of mouth, it’s also about the glories of good design. 

Marketing aside, as a business owner you need to put some trust in your design team. Your website would be nowhere without the Ai, Ps, and Id magicians. But great designers and superb tools aside (or free tools if you’re on a blogging budget) what happens when you don’t know how to create the branding/design foundation of your online business? What if you can’t make a decision or guide your team towards what you think would work?

These questions are the reason why I wanted to put together a little “design 101” – online marketer edition, featuring expert advice from Ivo Gabrowitsch and 99Designs.

The Right Images

Answer this honestly – do you use iStock images? Most of you will say yes, heck – I might even find myself looking through the generic stock photos once in a while. But the truth of the matter is that not everyone will get the Vince Vaughn cheesy “business” photos.

Start thinking about making your images awesome not 70’s iStock. You can go two routes:

  • Images
  • Illustrations


Don’t give into the classic “smiling businessman, looking at a screen.” Can you show a fancy, hipster dude flipping through his iPad? Maybe a modern business-mom that’s strolling through the city? Think of your team, the people who are buying your product or service – they’re a diverse group of individuals – be courageous and show off diversity, happiness, colorful backgrounds, modern fashion, and contrast!

Your first bet is going the paid way, most of us are used to websites like iStock or Shutterstock. The great thing about these websites, and actually paying for the images, is that you can use faces. What does that mean? Well, if you want a smiling businessman or a happy family on your website – you buy a picture and you can use it, because you have the rights. But like I already mentioned, they’re really cheesy.

Which is why I’d like to give you an awesome alternative, it’s still a paid stock service but with a great modern vibe to it – Stocksy. It’s just all sorts of fancy! You can find the perfect image in a jiffy with a great search tool:


Your second favorite image route will be CC0 images. There’s a plentitude of websites that will help you find just the right image for free and with no need for attribution. However, these websites will take longer to sift through, they may not always have what you want, people are less frequently shown, and you will sometimes need to double check attribution rights.

One of my personal favorites is Pexels:


A great gallery full of pictures! If you’re having a hard time looking through Photopin or Pixabay, where the images are necessarily artistic or modern, or you don’t have time to look through all the Google pages available to find the right CC0 website – check out The Stocks (which has collected most of the well-known CC0 sites), sign up for Death to Stock Photo, or rummage through this awesome Canva list of over 70 free stock image websites.


This one takes more time and an imaginative designer on your team. However, I’ve seen blogs and websites that really take illustrations to the next level. A great example of making a simple and illustrated website is SumAll:


As you can see, it only takes a bit of creative thinking and a designer that will take your thoughts and give them a look that will make your site all the more appealing (remember, no one wants boring long text… Studies show – we love visual content)

The Right Font

I’ve talked about typography in marketing in a previous post, but I also wondered how designers see typography in the digital marketing sphere.

So I asked Ivo Gabrowitsch from FontShop, a question that a lot of us have when we start putting together text: how can marketers make their content more interesting. Most of us use Helvetica, Arial, some will even go for serif fonts, but in your opinion as an expert, are there any other fonts that will look great in long format texts? Should marketers use different fonts for headers to create diversity? If so, what fonts could they use besides the ever popular Roboto, Lobster, or Avant Garde?

And here’s what he said:

“There are several approaches to look at this question. However, my first idea was to simply use some fresh new fonts, because what marketers need to promote is typically new as well and the chances are high that competitors have not used them yet either. There have been many top-notch typefaces released recently, both sans and serif that work well for long copy and work well as headline fonts too, especially when they are significantly different from each other.

So yes, marketers should use different fonts for headers. Depending on the particular content either a sans or a serif (also slab serif) works better for the copy. I’ve prepared a fontlist that only contains such typefaces. I selected only fonts that have been released in the last 3 years — which is pretty new in the world of type. I might add further fonts in the coming days. In our FontShop News section, we also have a series that recommends ‘Great Pairs’, which may be useful”

There you have it, use diversity, don’t afraid to go for the new to complement your products, and be bold in deciding on your headlines.

The Right Color

We’ve had a few great posts on colors in emails, but what about websites and blogs? How does color play a role in your virtual store front window?

99Designs has been working on color, I thought this was a great opportunity to find out what their research and work showed up. So I asked – why is choosing the right color for a cover or within text important in getting people’s attention and keeping it?

And here’s what they had to say:

“Choosing colors for a whitepaper or guide cover and within text is important in getting your customer’s attention and keeping it in three ways:

1. The color(s) you choose for your cover should complement your brand identity and speak to your target audience. While this piece may be a separate entity from your website, pick colors associated with your brand and site in order to create a consistent customer experience.

2. Use dominant learned associations of color to help influence the type of content you are providing. Colors convey a learned association and can evoke specific responses from your customers, both positive and negative. Align those associations to the message you are sending and ensure they resonate with your target audience and the brand you are trying to build. Let’s give a couple examples:

  • Pink is generally associated with nurturing, warmth and femininity – think Victoria’s Secret. Brown conveys seriousness, reliability, support and earthiness – think UPS. Using the color brown for Victoria’s Secret’s or pink for UPS’ marketing material may not have a negative connotation, but it likely won’t resonate with their core target audiences. However, if UPS wanted to join in on the fight against breast cancer, they would likely run a campaign using the color pink.
  • Or if you’re creating a piece about optimizing your landing page, a customer can find that daunting. You may think about using orange to help customers feel less overwhelmed, but instead more energetic or lively. Or think about using blue, which conveys confidence, trust and security.

For reference:

  • White – purity, cleanliness, and peace
  • Black – sophistication, dignity, and glamour
  • Red – strength, stimulation, excitement, danger
  • Yellow – friendliness, happiness, and cheerfulness
  • Green – nature and the outdoors
  • Blue – competence, trust, intelligence, and security
  • Brown – seriousness, reliability, support, earthiness
  • Orange – excitement, liveliness, and energy
  • Purple – dignity and authority
  • Pink – nurturing, warm, and soft (feminine)

3. Use the chosen accent color(s) throughout your whitepaper or guide to maintain design consistency, break up text through data visualization and help the reader move seamlessly through the document. The use of color can act as markers or visual cues to where your reader should be going next.”

Putting It All Together

There are various websites for inspiration (Fonts in Use or Logoed), numerous sites with free creative tools (Marketbook), and tools that can help you gather feedback from your team, but at the end of the day you’re the online marketer – not necessarily the designer.

You may not design everything on your own, but you have to be in sync with your company’s vision, know how design ticks, be a decisive leader in how to visualize your business. How do you use these three foundation steps to create your brand and encourage customers to stay on your website? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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