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How to Design the Perfect Banner

by Bryan Cunningham
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Custom banners are incredibly versatile. From weekly promotions to trade shows, they offer an affordable way for business owners to advertise their wares, increase brand awareness, and support other marketing efforts. Business owners who have never been interested in graphic design often underestimate how challenging the process can be, but the good news is that anyone can create the perfect banner with a little help. Read on to find a step-by-step guide to getting started.

Step One: Define the Central Purpose

Every situation is a little different. Some business owners want general-purpose banners that advertise their brands for frequent use at trade shows and similar events. Others want to advertise one-day sales or draw attention to a new branding effort. There’s no wrong reason to incorporate custom banners into a company’s marketing repertoire, but make sure the purpose of each banner is clear before visiting to reach out to a printing company.

Step Two: Identify the Target Audience

Business owners using banners to support broader ad campaigns usually know who their target audiences are from the beginning. For those who are commissioning single-use banners, the process of audience definition is just as important. Creating buyer personas helps to ensure that the marketing is on point and helps with the creative process by narrowing down who the graphics and text are designed to reach.

Step Three: Start Brainstorming

A successful brainstorming session is all about getting creative. There’s no wrong way to start brainstorming. Just write down every idea, from overarching concepts to minor design details, and go from there. Some ideas will be worth fleshing out, while others will get scrapped. By the end, the creative field should be narrowed down to one concept with at least a few details to back it up.

Step Four: Conceptualize

Brainstorming offers an opportunity to get a broad view of what a banner or campaign will do and how. The conceptualizing stage is all about narrowing the focus. Take the best ideas and try to mold them into a rough framework for the campaign. Decide on banner sizes. Create some basic sketches. Figure out where the banners will appear and why they belong there. By the end of this more detailed process, creators will be ready to start tackling the design process in earnest.

Step Five: Meet with a Professional

Most business owners don’t enter into the actual design stage of banner creation alone. They consult with professional designers, ideally from the same company providing the printing services. The best way to ensure a positive result is to show up to a design consultation armed with a fully developed concept, plus notes about the company’s brand, mission, values, and target audience.

Professional Tips for DIY Design

Some business owners like to play a larger role in coming up with the final designs for new banners, and that’s also perfectly fine. A good banner printing company will be just as happy to work with clients that can provide their own files.

The only problem with this approach is that turning down an opportunity to work with a graphic designer who has experience with grand-format printing can leave the customer with a less-than-perfect final product. Even business owners with professional graphic design experience should take a few tips from the pros to make sure the banner will look as good at scale as it does on the screen.

Keep Text Short, Sweet, and Easy to Read

Banner designers only have a few seconds to capture their audience’s interest. No one is going to stop a car to read the fine print on a billboard. Most people won’t even bother reading large blocks of text on storefront signs unless they are already sure the message will be relevant to them. Keep statements short, make sure they convey the right message and use a font that’s easy to read from a distance.

Pay Attention to Color

Choosing the right palette for a specific banner isn’t just about staying on-brand, it’s also about making sure the combination of colors is attention-grabbing but still easy on the eyes. Now might be a good time for DIY designers to brush up on their color theory because it’s harder than some people think to get the right combination. A good color palette will pop against the banner’s intended backdrop, elicit the proper emotions, and work well with the company’s brand, even if it doesn’t perfectly match the logo.

Use Vector Images When Possible

Graphic designers work with computers to create images. When they’re used for banners, those images need to be scaled up many hundreds of times, which can create a blurry or pixelated look. While traditional raster images are compiled using pixels, vector images are composed of line art based on algorithms. This makes vector images infinitely scalable and eliminates problems with pixelation.

Create a Focal Point

Having a clear focal point is always a good idea when it comes to design. For large banners, though, it’s a necessity. Designers use focal points to draw attention to lines of text, logos, or images that give passers-by a quick idea of what the banner is about, even if they can’t stop to read every line of text or take in the entire design. To create a clear focal point, try:

  • Creating contrast using not just bold colors but also white space.
  • Stressing certain words in the text by making them bold, italic, or underlined.
  • Emphasizing one portion of the banner over the others by making the text or image bigger.
  • Think of the focal point as a hook. While it’s true that it’s the part of a banner that will garner the most attention, the idea is to get people interested enough that they will take a few seconds to look over the rest of the banner.

Start the Design Process Now

Creating the perfect banner design takes some time, so don’t leave it until the last minute. Start brainstorming ideas for promotional banners, trade show backdrops, and other key large-scale advertising products now.

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