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Fresh Start, Fresh Ideas

· Categorized,Entrepreneurship

Happy New Year! 2019 is going to be a BOOMIN' year for business... Mark my words! One of my favorite things about a new year is the symbolic representation of a new chapter--a clean slate & fresh start. Take advantage of that energy & bring your ideas to life!

Don't you get tired of seeing the same marketing strategies over & over again by multiple brands? I know I do. I also know that there are many extraordinarily creative individuals out there who could disrupt this standard marketing scheme, but perhaps haven't been able to due to a variety of reasons. Keep reading to learn more about my free graphic design checklist, along with the download link.

Top Five Topics

Since not all companies have the resources or means to fund professionally-designed graphics, I've created a quick checklist to help small business owners succeed with flying colors. Before we dive into the checklist, please understand that it is not a complete list. There are many, many topics within graphic design, but to narrow down the list, I've picked five areas that I believe are most important, & these are the areas that are included in the checklist:

  • Space
  • Typography
  • Design
  • Color
  • Export/Print

The order of my checklist doesn't mean that some topics are more important than others. Standalone elements may not have much of an impact on its own, but when combined with other elements, it's those various combinations that can make or break a design.


Also referred to as depth, space is one element of design that greatly affects the overall image as a whole. There are two kinds of space: positive & negative. We'll get to that in a little, but before we get there, let's talk about sizing first.


Nearly everything revolves around social media nowadays, so tailoring images & posts to meet the platform's requirements are key to having successful pages. Each social media has its own sizing requirements, which greatly affect the algorithm. See below for a quick reference of all the guidelines:

Jo Nguyen Consulting: Sizing Chart (in Pixel) for Social Media Graphics


Similarly to how text documents have a margin, so should your design. But, in addition to having margins set, you should also have bleeds. The standard bleed is usually 0.125". Setting bleeds basically means telling the printer to print bigger than the paper size. It's an important step if you want to avoid seeing white around the edges of your printed design.

Positive & Negative Space

Lastly, don't forget to look at the picture as a whole & examine how the positive & negative space interacts with each other. Ideally, balancing the two is most ideal, but abstract art & minimalism is definitely also popular.


Simply put, typography is pretty much anything that has to do with text. Unlike other areas on my checklist, typography is one of those topics that makes a difference with or without other elements. Choosing too bold of a font can take away from the design elements of the piece, while choosing too soft of a font can make it hard to read.


Did you know that there's a whole world of fonts outside of Microsoft Office?! As with other artwork, fonts are owned by the creator, so when you're downloading fonts, please make sure you're reading the license & using it appropriately.

Overall, there are four general categories: serif, sans-serif, script, & decorative. Serif fonts have little ticks at the tips of every letter, & they're considered to be more traditional & classic. Sans-serif fonts don't have the little ticks, & they're best used for large bodies of text. Script fonts are beautiful & elegant cursive-like fonts, usually used as titles & subtitles. Lastly, decorative fonts creative fonts that are used very sparingly.

There are times where more than one font is needed, which brings us to font pairing. Although there are no explicit guidelines on how to "properly" pair fonts, people are generally drawn to one script/decorative & one serif/sans-serif. Serif & sans-serif can also be a font pair, but very rarely will you see script & decorative as a pair.


Fonts are measured in terms of "point." For print designs, it's recommended that you don't use anything smaller than 10 point. On the other hand, for web designs, it's a little trickier to know how big or small something should be, especially because most platforms are configured to fit all screen sizes. When testing out point size for web designs, it's important to see how things appear on varied screen sizes (cell phone, tablet, monitor, etc.).


Educational institutions often refer to it as "spacing" (for example, the standard academic paper is double-spaced), but the distance between two lines of text is actually called a lead. The more lead between two lines of text, the easier it is to read. If you're trying to save space, opt for lowering the font size rather than the lead.


Don't be afraid to play with the justification of your text! Left-aligned is usually the automatic setting, but center justification is usually the most popular for designs. Right-aligned is also commonly seen, but justified is so rare (& that's so sad).

Justified alignment is so underrated. I prefer all body text to be justified because it looks crisper & cleaner. When it comes to headings, titles, etc., I used to automatically set it to center-justified. Now, I like to switch it up; depending on the design & other elements included, there's honestly no telling what I'll end up choosing.

Color Contrast

A general rule of thumb is to use light text on a dark background & dark text on a light background. But, there's more to it--does the color make it easy to read the text? Does your text as a whole stand out? What about the specific words that you want to emphasize? Lastly, does it fit the brand?


For the purposes of this checklist, the following topics are meant to be reviewed from a distance. In other words, when you're considering the focal point, visual hierarchy, & balance of your creation, you need to be looking at the bigger picture, & it needs to happen literally from a distance.

Focal Point

Take three giant steps backwards from your monitor. What's the first thing that stands out? It should be the focal point, or the primary point of focus, of your design. There are strategies that artists use to influence a focal point, so it might be harder to pinpoint than you think. Also, more often than not, the focal point isn't directly centered--& that's perfectly fine.

Visual Hierarchy

We've been trained to read from left to right, top to bottom. So, naturally, our eyes also subconsciously follow that pattern. Are your text & images strategically placed to be the most impactful for viewers? When you scan your design, are the elements that you want to draw attention to standing out for positive reasons?


There are four different types of balances in the design world: symmetrical, asymmetrical, radial, & mosaic. Just like in the real world, you want to achieve some degree of balance so that no single element outweighs the other. But, with that being said, an unbalanced design doesn't automatically mean it's ugly or amateur.


As with graphic design in general, there's never a "right" or "wrong" way to combine or pair colors, but that doesn't mean everything always goes together. There's a whole science behind colors, & some people may think it's BS, but I do believe that colors can have subconscious effects on the way someone thinks.

Color Theory

You've probably heard of primary & secondary colors, but did you know that there are color principles that helped define the concept of color? It's not pertinent that you drop everything to learn color theory, but understanding how colors interact with each other strengthens the impact of your designs.

Psychology of Color

Although not obvious, colors do affect how people feel & act. In fact, there are people who are color experts, & their job is to define specific color palettes for various brands, product lines, interior design, & so much more. All in all, you don't really need to stress over the deep meaning behind your color choices, but it is important to be aware of this psychological aspect.


Last, but definitely not least, the last step is exporting/printing. Regardless of how you are planning to use your design, if you overlook the export/print portion, you could ultimately ruin the entire design. Below, you'll find a cheat sheet of things to check prior to exporting/printing.

Jo Nguyen Consulting: Export/Print Cheat Sheet


For the purposes of this post, "resolution" simply refers to DPI or PPI. Overall, it's better to have a number too high than too low, but this doesn't mean you should always use the highest number available to you. Instead, aim for the appropriate one that fits your project at hand.

DPI stands for dots per inch, while PPI stands for pixels per inch. For most standard print designs, the DPI or PPI should be set at 300. On the other hand, for most standard web designs, the DPI or PPI should be set at 72.

Color Format

The two most common known & commonly used color formats are RGB or CMYK. If you want to get technical, there's also variations of RGB and CMYK, but those minute details are not necessarily important for this post.

RGB (red, green, blue) is almost exclusively used in the digital world, while CMYK is almost always recommended for print designs. If you want to use your design for both print and web, I would recommend using CMYK first, then switching to RGB when necessary. Doing it in this order will give keep your web colors (RGB mode) as close to CMYK as possible. Reversing the recommended order would show a more noticeable difference--the colors may appear much paler.

File Type

There are many different file types that exist, but they are not exactly interchangeable. Nearly all social media & web hosting platforms allow uploads of PNG or JPG files. One of the biggest difference between the two is that PNG allows for a transparent background, while JPG doesn't. The best rule of thumb is to use PNG for designs that are text-heavy, & JPG for designs that are more photographic.

Another common file type is PDF, which is best for sharing across multiple devices & operating systems. A favorite feature of PDFs that I love is the ability to share documents with fonts that the receiver might not have. If you're using PDFs to preserve fonts, be sure to always save as "best for printing."

Lastly, two other file types that are often used in the graphic design world are SVG and EPS. Both of these are used almost exclusively for vector design; SVG is recommended for simpler vectors, while EPS for more complex &/or larger vectors.


For printed designs, the last step is to double-check the bleed setting. If you thoroughly followed the checklist, this was one of the first things you should have set up. Having bleeds eliminates the white core on the document after it's been trimmed.

This is a very minor detail, so if you accidentally skip this step, rest assured that it won't have any detrimental effects to your design. The standard bleed is set at 0.125 inches, but it's best to do a little extra research for your specific project. If you're using a third-party printing company, follow their guidelines.


For web designs, the last step is to optimize the image. When you post graphics on your website, if the files are too big, it can slow down your website load time. Some studies have shown that the average viewer waits no more than three seconds. So, if your page isn't fully loaded within a couple seconds, you may be losing out on views.

It's super easy to optimize your images. All you really have to do is upload it to a compressor website, such as Tiny PNG. Then, after the website works its magic, just download the optimized version & use the newer one for your content.


Click here to download my free Graphic Design Checklist!

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to subscribe below to get instant updates on new posts. Until next time (:

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