Get my FREE InDesign Mini Course!
Get access to my 5-lesson video course to learn how to create blog graphics, checklists, worksheets, promo graphics and more.
9 Behind-the-Scenes Questions to Help You Get More Confidence with Your Designs
When you’re designing for yourself, especially when you’re first starting out, it’s really easy to be unsure of your work and wonder if what you’re creating is going to be professional enough, or if everything is looking right.
You may step back from your design and wonder if your message is going to get across or if your design is going to work for what you’re doing.
The thing to know is that this is perfectly okay. It doesn’t mean you can’t do this or aren’t good enough to make your own graphics.
And trust me, even pros don’t have it all figured out all the time.
To help show you what this looks like, here are some of the top questions I ask along the way to make sure my design does what I need it to.
And if you apply these to your designs, they can help give you the confidence you need to know that you’re on the right track:
1. Is there any content that is not necessary?
Sometimes it can be really easy to try to say too much with your text, or just squeeze in this one other little thing, or maybe use a little too much artwork.
And the design just ends up looking cluttered.
This is a very common mistake in DIY design. People will try to say way too much, and the design basically ends up looking too cluttered. Nothing really stands out at all, everything just blends in together.
The thing is, many times you’ve got maybe a second or two, especially with a social media graphic, to grab someone’s attention. So the last thing you want to do is have a design with too much content to where nothing really stands out.
It’s best to keep your content to a bare minimum, just saying enough to get your message across. You don’t want to say too much, and you don’t want to say too little. It’s really important to try to keep things short and sweet.
Keep headlines short as possible, and with smaller text, try not to be too wordy and only say what’s necessary.
2. Does everything in my design look like it fits together well?
One important way to make your design look professional is to make things on your page look like they belong together — your images, art and headlines, body text — all of it.
Designers have different tricks they use to do this. Things like spacing, making sure everything is aligned, has good white space, and is sized properly. And with artwork, using things like image effects to make the artwork and text look like it belongs together.
Ask yourself, does anything look odd or out of place? A piece of text should look like it belongs in the space its in (without making the text too large or small), and artwork and images should look like they belong on the page and fit well with the text. Everything should look like it fits and nothing should look out of place.
3. Is everything readable?
This is a something I’m constantly checking for and is one of the most important things with design.
Readability is crucial to keeping people engaged with your content.
As in the previous question, is there too much content so that everything is squeezed together and nothing really stands out?
What about your fonts? Are they large enough to read or is the line spacing too tight?
Also, something to really watch out for is making sure your font style is readable for what you’re using it for. For instance, some types of fonts really do not work for body text because they are too ornate.
One thing to do is to take a minute and read it yourself.
Does it make your eyes strain to look at it? Is it comfortable to read? If not, try adding in some line spacing, using a simpler font, or making the font a little larger.
And a good rule of thumb with fonts is that the smaller it is, the less ornate and more simple it needs to be.
Tip: Please be careful with using script fonts too much. Those should really be used sparingly and please never, ever use all caps on a script font. It really is just unreadable and does not work.
4. Does the design flow the way it needs to?
Your design is going to “read” a certain way.
When someone looks at your graphic, certain things should stand out to draw them in and keep them interested. And, you want their eye to generally go through the content in a way that makes sense for what you’re trying to say.
The usual idea is to make the attention grabbing headline stand out the most, so it draws the reader in to look at your subheads, then the smaller text.
Some people call this visual hierarchy, and you can use different font sizes and also different font colors to do this.
To make this simple, take a step back and just look at it to see if what needs to grab your attention does, and that it reads in such a way that what you’re trying to say is getting across.
5. Am I following my design style?
Sometimes it can be tempting to try out a new font or tweak your colors a bit, and if you feel like you need to make an overall change to your style that’s okay, but it’s definitely something you want to do carefully.
Try not to stray too far in the fonts, colors and overall style that you’ve been using across your projects.
You definitely want to have consistency across all your graphics to maintain a recognizable brand.
6. Is my formatting consistent?
This is an important step for making your design look professional.
Something to watch for is if you do something one way in one spot, make sure you do it the same way throughout.
For instance, are all your subheads the same size? Is there equal spacing between similar groups of text? If you capitalized a certain word in one spot, did you make it the same throughout?
Or in a bulleted list, you want to make sure you’ve got the same amount of space between the bullet and the first word, or vertically between the first point and the second point.
And also for a bulleted list, did you capitalize the first word? Or put periods at the end of a sentence? If so it’s important to make sure you do the same thing throughout.
Another thing to check is that all the colors in the design consistent, and the fonts are consistent. For instance, am I using the same colors for my subheads across the board? Or the same font for body text? This can be surprisingly easy to miss and even pros can do it sometimes too.
7. Am I following design rules?
The good thing about design rules is that just by following them, you eliminate a lot of problems that can make a design look unprofessional. (If you need some basic ones, check out this post.)
But believe it or not, even people who have been designing for a long time have been known to forget to do something, or even fudge the rules a little.
Sometimes when I’m working on something I’ll just get the sense that things are a little off. And when this happens I check to see if maybe I’m forgetting something.
Maybe I’m not spacing things out right or I’m using too much color? Or maybe my artwork isn’t working right with the content? Is something standing out too much that shouldn’t or should something stand out more that isn’t?
This is when I will check my design to make sure I’m following the basics and if I’ve missed something, fixing it will usually help get things back on track.
8. Does it "feel" like it should?
Your design sets a mood, and the mood you create says a lot about you and your business.
Does it feel heavy? Does it feel balanced? Is anything awkward about it? Or is it too bright or too dark? Is it comfortable to read?
Does it match with my brand or style? If my style is light and bright, I don’t want something that feels clunky or heavy.
The look and feel of the design says just as much if not more than your actual text.
9. Am I getting my message across with this design?
I know I’ve been mentioning this throughout the whole post, but it’s a question I ask a lot, all by itself. Because it is the whole point of the design.
The whole point of anything you design to promote your business is to communicate a message to your audience. And anything you do with your fonts, colors or artwork needs to help to accomplish this.
Sometimes it’s easy for important points to get lost and it’s a good idea to check as you go to make sure that the way you’re laying things out is not getting in the way of the message you’re trying to send.
And many times when I’m finished I’ll just stop and ask myself if this whole thing is doing what it needs to. Am I creating a look and feel that is going to resonate with my audience?
Just stop, take a look and ask yourself “Does this say what I need it to? Does everything stand out that should? Does it ‘read’ correctly? Is my point getting across?”
For me, if the answer is no, I’ll just go back through some of the other questions above and see if maybe one of them is the problem. And while it may not be for every case, the issue will many times fall into one of those categories.
As I’ve mentioned, following this list and asking these questions about your designs can really help you get more confidence with what you’re doing and help you know your design is going to work for what you need it to.
And although it may seem like a lot at first, if you will make it a habit to use these while you’re working, they will eventually just come to you. They’ll become like second nature and will really help you think like a designer.
Download a PDF checklist for this post in my free Resource Library
Subscribe to my free Resource Library to get access to all my freebie downloads like pdf worksheets and checklists, plus InDesign template downloads.
About the Author
Hi! I’m Melodie, and I help bloggers and solopreneurs create their own graphics for their businesses. I’ve been a graphic designer for over 20 years, and I can tell you that just by learning some basics, you can definitely create a professional look for your brand, even if you don’t see yourself as a designer.