12 ad design tips

John Foust
By John Foust, Advertising Trainer

Want to get more eyes on your ads? Let’s take a quick look at some ad design tips:

  1. Keep things simple and uncluttered. The four basic elements of a print ad are (1) headline, (2) illustrative element, (3) body copy and (4) logo. When they are arranged in a way that is easy to follow – and when there are no unnecessary images – the ad is more likely to be noticed.
  2. Use easy-to-read line breaks in headlines. A line break is where one line ends and the next line begins. Since readers naturally pause for a split second at the end of a line, the break should be placed to look visually correct — and sound right in the mind. Here are two headlines. The second one works better.

    big on ceiling

    Save big
    on ceiling fans
  1. Use a graphic hook. A dominant visual element stands out on the page or on the screen. If an ad features a number of illustrations or photos, make one considerably larger than the others. Don’t hesitate to make the image so large that it bleeds off the edge.
  2. Use white space. Like a room with furniture which is placed too close together, a crowded ad doesn’t provide enough room to navigate. In addition to giving readers some walking room, white space can be a powerful graphic hook.
  3. Don’t use distracting borders. It’s what’s inside the border that counts. The border shouldn’t become an extra element.
  4. Use all-caps sparingly. There are two times to use all upper-case characters: (1) in short words in a short headline or (2) in a proper name, like IBM, BMW or NHL.
  5. Use readable fonts. Trendy styles can be difficult to read. It’s best to stick with traditional fonts. Generally speaking, serif fonts are more legible in lengthy body copy and bolder sans serif fonts are fine for headlines.
  6. Put the logo at the bottom right or bottom center. Resist the temptation to place the logo at the top. Because we read from top to bottom and from left to right, an ad’s logical ending point – the spot for the logo – is at the bottom right or center.
  7. 9. Use relevant illustrations and photos. Pictures must be meaningful and should clarify the headline. The best illustrations show the advertised product in use or demonstrate a benefit.
  8. 10. Set body copy flush left. Ragged left text is nearly impossible to read, because readers are accustomed to starting each line at a consistent left margin. Justified copy blocks are problematic, as well, because they create wide spaces between some words.
  9. Use color with restraint. Research shows that color helps ads stand out. But don’t overdo it. Too much color creates clutter. You’ve probably seen ads that look like an accident in a crayon factory. That’s no way to appeal to readers.
  10. Stay away from reverses. It’s not a good idea to use white images and words on a dark background. Readers are accustomed to dark print on a light background. Make it easy for them.

(c) Copyright 2020 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: john@johnfoust.com

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