Design to Impress your Target Audience, Not your Boss

All of the points you are about to learn are based around one principle: Clarity. If you want to get a message out to your target audience, then you better make sure your message, STANDS OUT and is obvious and very clear when your target audience comes looking. If there is any doubt as to your message, then the piece has failed and you may have just thrown some of your precious marketing dollars down the drain.

The below ideas we are about to cover are great for designing flyers, brochures, billboards, posters and almost any other type of advertising piece.

But that’s not all…. The following design principles are useful in many fields, not just to graphic designers and those of you who are looking to convey a message to their target audience.

But these principles are also very useful if you have ever needed to create a Powerpoint (slideshow) presentation, create a new process for your department, create a design brief for your design agency or if you are involved in any project where a message needs to be communicated to a group of people, you will find great use in knowing the below principles of design.

Have a goal….

This is the most important detail to consider and also the most overlooked with all design/advertising projects. In 12 years more than 70% of our clients including our larger clients, haven’t had a clear goal in mind for their project. A goal is something to measure your new design or advertising piece by. An example of a goal is to get people to visit your website, or sign up to a course. If you don’t have this clearly defined then you won’t be able to measure the effectiveness of your new masterpiece.

Learn more about setting goals. (Free workbook download also available)

Keep things simple….

Especially your message. We are in the information age and never before has there been so much information available to people and all this information has come at a cost to our attention span. Researchers have found that people skim content now more than ever before. This makes headings a VERY important aspect of your design. As it allows people to skim your brochure or annual report for the sections they are interested in.

Just watch the next person you see with a Newspaper in their hand and how they read the paper, it’s not from front to back, it’s flicking through pages until they see an enticing photo or a heading before they stop on that page and possibly read the related article.

Your content should be as light as possible; you want to get the message across in as few words as possible. Especially when it comes to advertisements or single sided designs. One Ad says “This Porsche car is super fantastic Awesome” that’s… ok. Another Ad says “Porsche. Awesome.” Thats better. Quick, simple, and you have lost nothing of the message. (a terrible example but you get the my drift).

Most people get carried away with adding more flair and pretty stuff to a piece. If it isn’t necessary, it’s just noise.

Make sure the page has a clear visual hierarchy….

Is it obvious what is a heading? Where are you supposed to start? What is the MOST important section or paragraph? (And don’t be fooled, not EVERYTHING is important).

To find out what is MOST important ask yourself this….. “If I could only include ONE message in my entire piece, what would it be?” Congratulations, you’ve just found the most important message, and it should be obvious to everyone who reads your piece.

Use colours neatly and effectively….

Having red text on a blue background doesn’t make it stand out, they just drown each other out. If you’ve ever experienced that combination, you’ll know first hand that it hurts your eyes just to look at!!

As a comparison, if you have a white page with a large, bold, red heading, guess what is going to stand out? Look at how Apple designs their material – white, black and grey. Usually the only colour in their artwork is on their products. Learn from the best, don’t copy your local competition around the corner. They may be doing it wrong and if you’re copying them, then you’re probably making the same mistakes as they are.

Use apropriate fonts….

Fancy fonts are nice, but they aren’t for everyday use. The boring fonts are boring for a reason: they are easy to read. Easy to read is good. This is your goal when choosing a font.

Limit the number of different fonts on a page to just 2. You can have several different fonts to make up a heading to some degree but aside from that, you want a heading font and a body font. Again, look to the larger companies for great examples of how to best use fonts.

Keep it aligned….

If elements are all over the place then your design will tend to look unprofessional. (Not always true, but is a general rule of thumb). Keep things neat and tidy, as much as possible.

The basic structure of how you have arranged the page is the foundation of your piece. Builders lay solid foundations to build houses, units and skyscrapers on. If they didn’t, it would fall over. If you don’t lay a solid, neat foundation to your design, your design may end up falling down and not achieve its goal.

Include the next step….

A lot of people and agencies call this a “Call to Action”, which to your target audience, really just means “what do I do now”. So if someone IS interested in what you have to say then make it easy for them to get more information, sign up to your course, get prices on your products or book in a meeting.

It’s one thing to add your website address or phone number to the bottom of a flyer or catalogue but it’s entirely different (and you’ve all seen it before) when there’s a clear next step telling the reader what to do.

When the answer to the question “what do I do now” is obvious to your reader, you may be able to get away with just adding your website address, shop address or phone number. But at least give it some thought before you make this decision and finalise your designs.

So make your designs appealing to your target audience, use headings and images which will relate and engage them and ensure your main message is abundantly clear to everyone who see’s your new masterpiece.

We’re currently working on some worksheets to help you better organise your next project so keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter, and we’ll let you know when it’s ready for you to download.

Did this article help you or do you have something to add, leave a comment below or send us an email to so we can continually update this article with new ideas.