If running a small business is your full-time job, the last thing you have time to do is get a degree in Graphic Design under your belt just so you can create impactful materials that market your business to potential customers/clients.  And since for many small businesses, keeping expenses down is a huge concern, you may find that you can’t really afford a consultant to do this job for you, which means that, like it or not, you are probably going to take on this task yourself.  Whether business cards, postcard mailers, flyers or tri-fold advertisements, don’t take the job of designing these materials too lightly – after all, if these are going to (hopefully) bring customers to your door, they should reflect the style and quality of your business well.  There are lots of DIY online services now that make putting together your project fairly doable, but what they don’t provide is the guidance to put create materials that really reflect you and your business/service/product.


Whether you are leaving stacks of business cards at local gyms, posting flyers on neighborhood bulletin boards or at the local health food store, or placing ads online or in publications, you often will have only this somewhat non-personal way to let people know who you are, what you offer, and what they can expect from your business.


Award-winning Art Director/Graphic Designer Robin Hercia has some tips that can save you time and money, while helping you “paint a picture” of your business and what it offers.  Gone are the days when slapping a line drawing rep[resenting your particular business and a phone number on a pack of blank business cards from the print-it-yourself aisle of Staples will bring eager customers to your door.


So, if you are working on those vital printed (and digital) materials that are going to tell people who you are, what your business is and why they should come to you, here are a seasoned professional’s 5 Key Design Tips:



Choose a color that best fits the vibe of your business. Bright colors might work well for one business, while more subdued and understated colors are better for others.  If you are offering yoga instruction, for example, go with a color that evokes the harmony clients will find with you, but if you are offering accounting or clerical services, neutrals are probably best.  It’s your business and you can (and should) put your personality into your design, and color is a great way to do that.


If you're tempted or interested in using more than one color, stick to a maximum of two additional colors, provided they are direct neighbors to the initial color on the color wheel. This will provide automatic harmony within your color scheme, called ‘analogous’ in the design world. The more complicated the color scheme, the more difficult it will be to make them work, so easy does it.



Some of your promotional materials can require so much information that it looks like a garage sale - with a lot of stuff.  First, group pieces of information by type. Think of it as organizing a closet - socks all go together in the same place, as do pants, t-shirts, hats, etc.  Group your text the same way – by description, practical details (location, time, cost), biography, technical aspects of the workshop etc. Once you've got everything grouped find font sizes for each one - your description is probably the longest continuous piece of text so use a smaller letter size. Location and date are important so use a larger size for them. Play with these elements until you've found a happy place where each area of information is identifiable from the next using only size. Quick tip: you generally don't want to make anything abruptly larger or smaller than the rest as it often creates visual discord.



Not too many. Again, too many will give you that garage sale aesthetic. In many circumstances it's best to have just one. Ultimately you want to simplify and ask yourself what you're dealing with and think of an image that most succinctly represents your business or product.



The world of design is divided into two types of people - those that believe one font and only one font shall be used per project (albeit in varying weights, sizes & style), those that believe the sky is the limit (think of those very cool chalk board signs offering services at cool barbershops or microbreweries). Either can work but you have to be confident in what you're doing. Start with a main font - choose something clear and simple and avoid the ever alluring 'decorative' typefaces. Those with serifs are classic - they evoke a sense of tradition, while sans serif type is open, spacious, and modern. You can't go wrong either way - it's about evoking the mood of what you're offering. Once you have a font that you adore, explore it’s variations and implement them on details you want to highlight. For example, your main body text is in Garamond and you want to highlight something like your hours of operation; make a little larger and in bold so people can clearly see it from a distance. Play within the availabilities of your single typeface and see how interesting you can make it without getting too crazy.



Do not overcrowd.  Regardless of how little or how much information you have, if you spend the time to play with the elements you're working with you will eventually find a way for them all to exist and ultimately complement each other.


Robin Hercia is a Canadian living in Los Angeles, where her AWMYL Design Studio creates brand identities and products largely for small business clients – including custom fabric and wallpaper design, signage and other print materials.  She initially works with imagery and materials that are analog and tangible in origin; only later does she transition the work to digital for further manipulation and printing.  She works with hand-rendered painting, pattern, illustration, calligraphy and collage.