Sometimes it feels like brand managers and designers speak two completely different languages. While one is focused on content and overall strategy, the other is trying to satisfy highly specialized ad requirements while delivering exciting, innovative designs.
This tension can often lead to frustrating misunderstandings — especially when neither party really understands the others’ needs and requirements. From DPI to PNG to CMYK, there are plenty of technical terms it’s important brand managers learn if they want to be able to effectively and efficiently communicate with designers.
But why is it so important for brand managers and designers to understand one another? Because design plays a huge role in the marketing team’s overall success. While an ad needs great copy to convert new customers, it also requires eye-catching, on-brand design to be noticed.
Therefore, in order to grow and succeed as a team, brand managers need to take the time to learn the ins and outs of designing for marketing content. From ideal ad design for print and online to tips on balancing branding with innovation — this #AskLatana article will provide you with a crash course in design know-how.
Let’s dive in!
Design 101: Best Practices
While there are numerous topics that brand managers should learn about to become more familiar with design, here are a few of the most important ones — as outlined by Latana’s very own designers.
1. Logos & Images
Adding a brand logo or image to a design — seems easy, right? Wrong. There are so many small factors to take into account in a task like this, it’s important brand managers are aware of the time and effort required.
First, there are two important acronyms to learn: RGB and CMYK. RGB, which stands for Red Green Blue, is an additive color model used to display images on digital screens. Therefore, when designing for digital, the RGB color code is utilized.
On the other hand, CMYK, which stands for Cyan Magenta Yellow and Key (black), is a subtractive color model used for print. It refers to the four ink plates used in color printing and is the color code of choice when designing printed materials.
Secondly, when adding a logo or image, there are two main formats designers use: vector or bitmap. To give some background, let’s start with definitions.
As a general rule, bitmap graphics are created from rows of different colored pixels that come together to form an image. Because they’re very pixel-heavy, bitmap graphics take up more storage space and are less flexible in their application.
Bitmap graphics are often used to depict lifelike imagery on websites and in ads — like when you need to add high-quality photographs. Common bitmap formats include GIF, TIFF, JPEG, PNG, and more.
On the other hand, vector graphics are more like mathematical formulas — consisting of a combination of curves, shapes, lines, and text which, all together, define an image. Many designers use vector graphics to create logos, illustrations, animations, and infographics.
Vector is often used for digital designs, as they take up less storage space and are easy to edit. Additionally, they load faster due to the fact that they’re made up of lines of code rather than pixels. Common vector formats include SVG, EPS, PICT, and more.
It’s also important to note that only vector graphics can be enlarged without losing resolution. Therefore — whether it’s for digital or print — when using or sending a logo or illustration, make sure to choose a vector format, as it’s possible to enlarge this version safely.
However, for any bitmap graphic that is used in printed materials, the image has to be at least 300 Dots Per Inch (DPI) or it may end up looking grainy. And for digital bitmap images, 150 DPI is recommended — while the lowest advised resolution is 72 DPI.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind, when bitmap graphics are used digitally, many designers go for a lower DPI, as it means faster loading times on landing pages.
In the grand scheme of things, margins may seem rather insignificant. But, any designer worth their salt will tell you otherwise.
Why? Because, whether you’re designing for print or digital, every design has pre-set margins. For print, the margin is usually around 5mm, and for digital, it’s usually 10 pixels. So, if a bit of text or an image goes over the margin — you risk the integrity of your entire design.
For printed materials, it’s even more complicated — as there’s the bleed (the outer edge of the margin that you definitely cannot touch) in addition to the margin itself. Anything in the “bleed” area risks getting cut off when printed, which is a huge design faux pas.
While you can let some small elements enter the margin, as a general rule, designs look better when the margins are respected. Essentially, margins are a tool that designers use to organize their composition, as well as make it readable and aesthetically pleasing.
When it comes to content designed for marketing, it’s helpful to be aware of these kinds of small rules. That way, designers don’t have to waste their time or yours explaining why there’s “empty white space” leftover.
3. Buttons & CTAs
When it comes to call-to-actions (CTAs) and buttons, some less experienced marketers may go straight to: “the bolder, the better!” Red, flashing GIFs! All caps and three exclamation points!
Therefore, it might be slightly confusing for them when a designer nixes their request for a neon green “Sign Up Now!” CTA button.
While we all want buttons and CTAs to be bold and eye-catching, they also need to be on-brand. Ideally, there will be one or two brighter brand colors you can use to highlight your print and digital CTAs.
It’s also important to consider the punctuation and length of text used. While it can be tempting to throw in one too many exclamation points or use a longer phrase, CTAs should be short, sweet, and to the point. One exclamation point will do just fine.
Pro Tip: Make sure a CTA button’s text is of a contrasting color to the background. That way, users can easily read it and it doesn’t mar the overall user experience.
One of the most important things brand managers need to understand about web design is that there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach — especially when designing for digital.
Desktops, mobile phones, tablets — consumers use all kinds of devices to view your ads, blog posts, and landing pages. Therefore, when creating digital ads or landing pages, designers use something called “responsive design”.
Responsive design is an approach to web design that allows landing pages to render well on a variety of devices — adjusting to the various screen sizes and layouts. For example, when designing a new landing page, designers need to keep in mind the different formats and the modular systems underneath.
They have to adapt their designs to fit each format, meaning ads and landing pages for desktops won’t look identical to those on phones or tablets — they need to be mobile-friendly.
Pro Tip: When creating a new design, most website designers usually start with mobile — as mobile designs have more limitations. By taking a mobile-first approach, designers save time and don’t have to make too many changes when adapting later on.
3 Tips From Designers For Brand Managers
From varying color codes to formats to sizes, there’s lots brand managers need to learn to keep up with design best practices.
After all, when brand managers and designers have a shared vocabulary, collaboration is much easier and more effective.
So, here are some tips from Latana’s designers for every brand manager to learn from:
1. Always Test Print to Avoid Costly Mistakes
While designing for print is rather straightforward, it also carries a great deal more risk. For example, say you find a spelling error in a digital ad — with help from a designer, it can be quickly remedied and a new version shared.
However, for printed materials, one small grammatical error can turn into a thousand errors once it’s sent to print. Therefore, brand managers and designers should support one another and work very closely during the proofreading process for printed materials.
And before finalizing an order, take the time to order a test print. While it allows you to do a final error check, it also allows the designer to see how their designs are rendered on paper.
Perhaps the colors chosen looked better on the screen than on the printed material? Or maybe an illustration was cut off by the margin? By ordering a test print, both parties are able to see if it meets their standards.
2. Test Digital Designs on Multiple Devices
When creating a new design — be it a new landing page or an ad — getting it right is more complicated than it seems.
Not only do designers have to consider how their designs will look on multiple different screen sizes, but they also have to bear in mind the different software used by each device.
iOS devices don’t have the same setup as Android devices, and when designing for both, it’s imperative that designers are able to test their creations on multiple mobile devices.
It’s one thing to have the correct dimensions when creating a design and another to see how it actually shows up on different screens and devices. What looks great on an iOS device might be a bit underwhelming for an Android.
Therefore, when working with a designer to bring marketing designs to fruition, make sure you take the time to view their compositions on the actual device it will be shown on.
3. Ensure There’s Potential for Innovation in Brand Guidelines
One of the hardest tasks designers deal with is balancing established branding with innovation. While it’s important to keep to brand guidelines to ensure a consistent user experience, designers also need room to innovate and develop.
Of course, no two brand guidelines are the same. While some are rigid and hyper-specific, others allow for more wiggle room. For example, strict brand guidelines may allow the use of only three branded colors and two variations of the logo — whereas more lenient guidelines may a offer wider color scheme, such as three main branded colors and five to ten additional secondary colors.
Our designers’ advice for this issue? Keep innovation in mind at the very beginning. When creating brand guidelines, remember that there needs to be potential for evolution. Otherwise, you’re locked into a style that may not age well or you’re stuck frequently rebranding.
Neither option is ideal for the consumer experience. Thus, when creating brand guidelines, try to think ahead and consider your future needs.
Of course, this article by no means covers everything brand managers should learn about design best practices. However, it provides a good jumping-off point for those who are interested in improving interdepartmental relationships.
Instead of approaching your design colleagues with zero knowledge, you can show them you’ve taken the time to learn some of the basics. This will lead to a much more open and communicative relationship going forward.
Remember, a brand’s success depends on every team’s input — not just your own. The more you’re able to integrate with other teams and departments, the greater your chances of overall success.