Design is intimidating, especially for the non-designer.

It seems like an elite club, where only those who have that delicate mix of artistic talent and technical ability are allowed entry. The sheer volume of buttons and doohickeys in professional design programs like Photoshop or Illustrator can send even the boldest of creatives running for the hills.

But there’s good news for you: there are more tools than ever to help non-designers great stunning custom graphics, and they’re very easy to learn. With a handy program and just a little design know-how, you’ll be creating impressive graphics for your brand or business in no time.

Use an app to help you.

With the array of intuitive (and often free) design technology available at your fingertips, there’s no reason why you should be hobbling up the learning curve of an advanced program. Unless you intend to start a career in design, it’s not sensible to spend your limited time learning advanced programs with their infinite capabilities.

Instead, check out tools like Canva, Typito, Fotor, or Snappa. These types of tools come with thousands of templates for different types of graphics – from eBook cover designs to social media graphics – and they’re insanely easy to use.

Focus on composition.

If you only get one thing right, have it be the composition.

Composition is the arrangement of your design elements. Because the goal of design is to tell a story with images, the way you arrange these images is essential to the overall success of your design.

Most great designs have a main focal point, and a clear line or path for the eye to follow from that focal point. You can create this focal point in several ways, but here are some of the most common ones:

Use color. Warm or bright colors tend to draw the eye. High-contrast areas also pull viewers in. Use complementary colors (red/green, blue/orange, yellow/violet) or black-and-white to create interest.

Use typography. Larger print catches the eye before smaller print, so use headers and titles the same you would for written text to create order and structure.

Use lines and shapes. Lines with arrows beckon viewers to follow them, and different types of lines (horizontal, vertical, diagonal, wavy, etc.) can evoke different moods. In addition, shapes can create visual interest and help a viewer better process what they’re looking at.

Place important content using the “rule of thirds.” Take your design area and imagine splitting it into thirds both horizontally and vertically (you’ll wind up with a grid with nine squares). Place elements along those lines or at their intersections to create visual interest.

Be intentional with your alignment. Most design programs nowadays have a feature that makes it easy to “snap” to align with different horizontal or vertical areas. Aligning headers with paragraphs of text on the right, left, or center all have different effects — but it’s best not to mix them, or else your design could look cluttered or haphazard.

This infographic from Unbounce follows many of the rules above AND gives you even more info about infographics. We 💓an infographic about infographics. 

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Use high-quality stock photography.

One of the easiest ways to give your design a professional edge is to incorporate professional stock photography. It’s inexpensive, easy to find online, and can really help your target audience connect with your ideas. 

This one is sourced from Pexels. Free, high-res and colorful. What more could you ask for?

If you have the budget to pay for photography, check out iStock, Shutterstock, or Adobe Stock. If you’re looking for free options, Pixabay, Stocksnap.io, Wikimedia Commons, and Pexels have a great selection – though you’ll need to make sure the license applies to your situation. For example, some stock photos can only be used for editorial purposes, so these would be off-limits in an ad campaign or for other commercial use.

Do less.

One of the most common faux pas that non-designers commit is trying to cram too much into a design. To avoid creating something too “busy,” try limiting your palette to about three colors. Limit typography to just one or two fonts. Though there are plenty of good designs that break these rules (and artfully, at that), as a non-designer, you’re more likely to create something stunning – while saving time – if you keep it simple.

One way to check yourself against this point is to ask, “what purpose does this element serve?” If you have two icons where one will do or two photographs where one would be just as effective, get rid of something.

Pay attention to why some designs are “good” – and some aren’t.

One of the best ways you can get some design know-how is to pay closer attention to good design. Analyze emails, billboards, graphics you see in everyday life. What makes them “good”? Is it the color scheme? The composition of elements? Unique typography? Does the piece communicate a specific message with visuals?

Intuitively, many non-designers know good design from bad, but they don’t have practice identifying the “why.” When you consider what actually makes something work (or not), you’ll get better at incorporating good design into your own projects – and communicating with any graphic designers you hire.