As a brand designer, most people assume that I am against companies using design templates. After all, how can you make your marketing materials feel unique you when you use a template that is probably used by thousands of other people?
Still, I feel the opposite: templates are a great way for small businesses to expand their often small design budgets. In fact, you you shouldn’t invest in premium, custom marketing assets before you have enough money and before you solidify your business strategy and really define your brand.
But there are also a lot of bad templates, and it can be overwhelming to know how to use them if you haven’t before. Whether you use Canva, Adobe Spark or any other web design template tool, read on for my best advice on how to make sure your brand continues to shine.
1. Keep it simple
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the options available when browsing most design template applications — which can tempt you to choose the first thing that looks good instead of deliberately choosing a template that fits your brand.
To prevent this, have a vision of how you want your template to look before you even start looking at options. Think about what elements you need for the tool you are creating. Simple header and photo for Instagram graphics? A few blocks of text for an event? Buy Now button for website graphics? Which of these elements should stand out the most based on your goals for this post or campaign?
With that in mind, you can easily sort out scattered distractions that don’t actually serve your needs. In general, it is best to choose the simplest option that marks all the boxes you are looking for. Ideally, it’s also something that could easily be adapted for use for multiple types of marketing tools so you can keep things cohesive across all channels.
2. Customize the look of the brand
Design templates are a great starting point, but they should not be used as they are. Obviously, you’ll want to fill in your own content, but you can also update colors and fonts to make the template look and feel like it was made just for yours brand.
If you don’t already have some sort of brand style guide, you’ll want to make it simple before you start using templates. Include at least a color palette and specific fonts to use on all design elements. There are many tools to help you define them if you are just starting out and do not have the money to pay a professional.
You may want to add guidelines for other elements, such as illustrations or photographs, to your style guide. For example, if you’re going to use a stock photo or illustration, you can describe some of the qualities you’re looking for or even make a list of specific artists from whose collection you always draw to make things look cohesive.
3. Don’t be bothered by trends
It’s easy to get excited about the design trends you see all over Instagram, but it’s also easy to be too preoccupied with those trends and integrate them into your design tools, even though they’re not actually in line with your brand.
I recommend that you find a few templates that suit you and stick to them. People don’t realize that it’s okay to use the same template multiple times — in fact, it might be better to make your brand look consistent.
But if there’s a new design template that really catches your eye or a trend that you think could help you gain more engagement, there’s an easy way to make sure it’s the right brand for you. Simply customize the template to the look of your brand, and then compare it to existing materials on your feed to make sure it feels like part of the family. If it looks cohesive, go ahead and add that template to your mix – if not, your brand is better off letting it go.
4. Focus on what your brand is really trying to say
My last tip to make the most of templates is not to spend so much time stressing around your templates! So many small business owners put too much emphasis on design in general when there are so many other things that are critical to your brand, like the messages you use with your customers and your overall business strategy.
Choose a few templates you like – prioritize functionality over glitter – then let yourself redirect your energy to writing great copies for your graphics, A / B CTA testing and everything else you can control to make your brand featured online.
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