Marketing Design Guide for Non-Designers

Sarah Pendleton-Moorhead
Sarah Pendleton-Moorhead
January 15 | 9 min read
Marketing Design Guide for Non-Designers

Design is all around us. It’s the proverbial water in the goldfish bowl, so ubiquitous we often don’t even notice it. Our clothes, packaging, websites, logos, and on and on; design touches just about every aspect of our lives. Strong marketing design is a critical part of any company’s overall success, but it can be hard for non-designers to wrap their heads around what that actually means.

You understand that it’s important. You probably even have an eye for what good design looks like. Understanding the jargon and the ins and outs of design, on the other hand, is a tricky proposition.

Fear not—we’re here for you. Read on as we break down what marketing design actually entails, examples of the various types, and some basic tips to help you create better marketing designs on your own or when working with a team.

Speaking of teams, if you’re looking to learn the lingo (at least enough that you understand what the heck your designers are talking about)—check out this helpful Design Glossary: The Design Terms You Need to Know.

Marketing Design vs Product Design

All designs have to strike a balance between form and function. Some designs should blend into the fabric of your life. The design of your car dashboard or your computer keyboard should just plain work; if they’re aesthetically pleasing, that’s a bonus. Others are designed to get noticed, and that IS their main function. This is one of the fundamental differences between product design and marketing design.

product design team planning new design

The Goal of Product Design

The primary goal of product design is to provide value to the user, and there are often four big steps that go into the creation of a new product design. They’re thinking about the flow, and how users will interact with the product itself (hence why user testing is necessary). Whether it’s an app or a reusable water bottle, the function is prioritized over form. A stunning water bottle is useless if it has a hole in the bottom. If you can balance both the aesthetics and the usability, you’ve got a winning product design.

Marketing design for an outdoor ad

The Goal of Marketing Design

Marketing design’s primary goal, on the other hand, is concerned with grabbing a user’s attention, educating them about your product or service, and converting that user into a customer. Form, in this case, directly impacts function. The better the design, the better the marketing piece will succeed in its function (conversion).

Types of Marketing Design

There’s a long list of design that falls under marketing and it goes way beyond just pop-ups or banner ads. There’s obvious stuff like email, social media, advertising, event booths, and company swag. Don’t forget, however, that things like landing pages, websites and blog design can also be bucketed into marketing design (or a combined team effort from both product and marketing).

Marketing Design Examples:

  • Email
  • Social
  • Advertising
  • Landing pages
  • Websites
  • Print
  • Packaging
  • Events / booths
  • Company swag
  • Blog visuals
  • Brand guidelines
  • And sometimes even sales enablement

Below is an outline of some of the most popular styles of marketing design that you and your team are likely responsible for.

Email Design

When used properly, email marketing can leverage sales, as well as generate and retain customers. The single most important ingredient in a successful email marketing campaign is personalization. It’s important to make sure you’re delivering content relevant to that user.

It should be no surprise that good design is equally important. As with most pieces of marketing, if it doesn’t catch the eye and have a solid responsive design, it’s going straight in the e-bin. Both the Casper and Moo emails below are examples of great email design.

Casper email example

In the case of Casper, the copy pops on the dark blue background, which fades into an image that showcases their bed in action. The CTA is clear (Shop the mattresses and get ten percent off for our fourth of July sale), and they don’t overload it with too many options or buttons.

Moo surprise email example

Moo, on the other hand, uses a moving GIF and tempting copy that pushes viewers to reveal a surprise. You can’t help but want to “Pop that balloon”.

Social Media Design

The new kid on the block (social media) isn’t so new anymore. Can you believe it’s now 2020? Social media is an established juggernaut that shows no signs of slowing down. And new social apps are continuing to emerge — what is TikTok even?!

Though social media can seem like a beast to tackle, when done well, it can drive real impact. According to Social Media Examiner, 93% of all marketers report that social media efforts have generated more exposure for their business and 87% report positive results.

Beautiful design is absolutely critical for social media campaigns, especially on platforms like Instagram or Pinterest where everything is visual. It can be tricky to strike the balance between organic and advertisement, but the best brands are doing a great job with it.

TargetStyle Instagram ad

TargetStyle is crushing this on Instagram using the platform's new shopping feature. They use clean, attractive product photos that would look just as at home in a catalog as they would in your most stylish friend’s feed.

When a user sees one of TargetStyle’s posts, it just takes a tap to see which products are featured. One more tap takes them seamlessly to the product page. Just a few clicks and the user has gone from browsing to buying in a matter of minutes. THAT is the power of social media.

Engaging users requires a perfect pairing of smart marketing and great design. If you’re looking for more social advice, here are ten tips to increase social media engagement overall.

Advertisements

In the 2020s and beyond, any advertising effort should be omnichannel — that includes both online and offline advertising. It’s easy to get so focused on cyberland that we forget about the importance of reaching consumers out there in the real world. But it’s still really important.

Spotify is doing a fantastic job with their advertising campaigns. They’re taking digital data offline to physical spaces with memes and screenshots plastered on subway walls and the sides of buildings. Of course, it helps when you have the budget for it.

Spotify meme billboard ad

Using bright color pops combined with a healthy dose of internet-savvy humor, Spotify even managed to be so eye-catching that their physical advertising made its way back to the internet through photographs posted to social media.

Print design is far from dead. Posters and other printed collateral are still extremely relevant and effective. Check out our ultimate guide to designing a successful poster for more.

Website Design

Once you hook the user, odds are, the first place they’ll head is your website. A stunning ad, email, or social media post is important, but if they get to your website and find a drab, outdated mess, it’s all for naught.

Basic principles for web design include but are not limited to the following:

  • High-quality product images sell products. Period. Invest in some great photography.
  • Keep it clean, simple, and uncluttered.
  • Make it user-friendly and scrollable.
  • Your website should look just as great and function just as well on a 5-inch mobile screen as it does on a 34-inch desktop monitor.
  • Keep your branding prominent, but don’t smack the user across the face with it. Subtlety is good.
  • Follow your branding guidelines from colors to icons.
  • Have clear call to action buttons in lots of places.
Harry's website design

Harry’s shaving does a great job following all these principles. Their clean-shaven (har har 🤣) aesthetic and great product photography keep their products front and center. They have a clear “Start Trial” button on the main page. Their branding is obvious in every aspect of the site. And it’s easy to use across all devices, delivering a consistent, aesthetically pleasing and functional experience.

Your homepage is the most important page on your website. For some tips on how to design homepages that convert, check out Designed for Conversion: Nine Examples of Effective Homepage Design.

The Future of DesignOps Ebook

Tips on Creating Better Marketing Designs

When it comes to creating great marketing designs, the first step is looking at your brand guidelines and then choosing a design style. If you’re unsure of the latter, check out this ultimate guide to design styles for some education and inspiration.

From there, follow these basic principles:

1. Know your audience and your medium

Think about who you’re designing for. This is marketing 101. Picture giving a presentation to an audience of all your potential and current customers — how are you appealing to them through your words and visuals? Remember, different kinds of visuals appeal to different personas. Your imagery should match your target demographic and speak their language.

Empty chairs in a stadium

Next, think about where you’ll be reaching them. The same user likely goes to different social media platforms seeking different types of content. Facebook, for example, is well suited to announcements and events since that’s what users are already expecting when they log on. It’s also a bit more text-friendly than sites like Instagram where it’s all about aesthetics or Twitter, where the rapid pacing gives you only seconds to make an impact.

2. To thine own self be true

Follow. Your. Brand. Guidelines. We can’t stress this enough. By all means, keep up on trends and ride those waves. Throw in a Baby Yoda… but only if it fits your brand identity.

Consumers, especially Millennials and younger, are very wary of poseurs and fakers. But they are very loyal to brands they see as authentic.

Use your brand fonts, colors, icons, logos and voice consistently throughout your marketing efforts. This immediately lets the customer know whose message they’re seeing and helps engender trust, familiarity, and bolsters overall brand recognition.

3. White space

It’s important to make good use of “white space” in your designs. Oh, and white space doesn’t have to actually be white. It can be any solid color, a pattern, or a subtle photo background.

Nike shoe advertisement

White space is whatever is between and behind the elements of your design. Properly spacing your design elements to allow for white space is what gives your design balance and dynamism. It also helps prevent your design from feeling cluttered.

4. Keep it simple

The media landscape is cluttered enough. Your design shouldn’t be. A whole bunch of graphical elements might draw the eye for a moment, but the most important pieces of your message will quickly get lost or ignored.

Stick to two fonts, at most. Any more than that and you risk creating what designers refer to as “font soup” and that isn’t a good look. It looks messy and unprofessional and it muddies your overall message.

Go for clean and inviting. This is also helpful in making sure your design looks good and works well on any device.

5. Know your “why”

Before the first pixel is created, clearly identify what the purpose of this marketing piece is. Different imagery has very different messages. Product photography is great if you’re just chasing the sale, but pictures showing your product in action will likely garner more engagement.

Designing Success

Whether you’re a marketing designer yourself or a marketer looking to better lead your designers, there’s a lot to take in and consider when developing great design. With the long list of work on a marketer’s plate, sometimes help is needed to relieve the pressure.

That’s where Superside steps in to shine. Whether you need help clearing the bottleneck or you need an entire, dedicated design team, Superside can help. We provide on-demand design at scale for companies of all types, all over the world. Set up a call to learn more, or check out our Behance portfolio to see what our talented team of designers is capable of.

Sarah Pendleton-Moorhead
Written by
Sarah Pendleton-Moorhead
Sarah Pendleton-Moorhead is a writer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. But that’s not all she does: She’s also an artist, singer, mom, wife and self-described sci-fi and fantasy nerd.

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