Graphic designers are experts in creating designs that sell your product. Having access to a professional graphic designer can be a huge asset to your business if you know how to utilize this resource properly.  Your branding is most likely the very first impression that your company will make on a potential customer.  Investing in a well-designed logo, a professional website, and quality advertisements is a huge key to the successful marketing of a small business.

After having completed thousands of brochures, websites, advertisements, and other marketing collateral, we have come up with a couple of suggestions that might help the design process run more smoothly for your business if you ever enlist the services of a graphic designer to help you with a website or an advertisement.

#1 To have Design that Sells, Have a single goal and a single target audience for a single product

Focus on one thing at a time

Too often, small business owners get really excited about the dozens of products they offer and the wide array of customers they sometimes see in their businesses.  They often don’t realize they if they try to sell everything in the shop to every type of customer in the neighborhood they’ll end up not selling anything to anyone.

A good advertisement, landing page, digital ad, or website has a clear, concise goal.  If not, the ad can be disregarded by a potential buyer and the money spent for that piece of media is wasted.

Lings C

A Poorly Designed Website

Take for example this website for

Users of this website are immediately overwhelmed with the dozens of calls to action on the page that are intermingled with animations and eclectic imagery.  It feels like chaos.

In my experience, most small business owners think a busy page like this makes people excited about all the different things they are offering.  The research shows that people are more likely to click away (or turn the page on) this type of cluttered layout than engage with it (and be excited about it).

Simply put: Users are more likely to make a purchase based on a clean advertising layout than with a cluttered one.

Compare lings site with Apple’s ipad pro site

A Well-Designed Website


Apple offers a fantastically simple design with a great photo of the product, adequate white space, a bare essential amount of text, a clear headline, and a simple, well-designed menu.

It also features the user-experience.  When I look at this picture, I instantly think about how handy and portable my experience with this new iPad would be and the young women’s hand hints that the product is light and stylish.

The hip integrated keyboard suggests that the experience would be different than the typical experience of a hot laptop awkwardly sitting on your lap during a business meeting.  This ad features a simple, well-taken picture and well-written headline says “iPad Pro – Your Next Computer is not a computer.”  The headline suggests that the new iPad has all the benefits of a tablet with the power of a laptop.

Does Apple offer dozens of products?  Of course, they do! But they know the purpose of this advertisement is to sell an iPad and it is clear that their target audience is a 30-something, modern,  professional woman.  They are not trying to sell everything to everyone.

Apple knows their product, they know their customer, they have a clear call to action, and they are clearly marketing one product to one critical buyer.

So, have a single goal, for a single target audience that features product one at a time

#2 Before the design process begins, send the designer copy that is complete, well-edited, and organized with headers.

Headlines sell and copy is intended to support great headlines.

First of all, think about your customers point of view and write a great headline that piques the curiosity or captures the attention of your potential customer.  Remember you aren’t selling just a product, you are selling an experience.

  • The appliance dealer is not selling a washer, but a date night out in a clean dress or in this old time ad, they are selling time with a good book
  • The web designer is not selling a website, but credibility and leads generated online
  • The electronic store is not selling just black boxes, but a movie night in a new home theater

You’re not selling your truck or your store.  You are ultimately selling something more meaningful.

So write your copy to support a great headline.  AVOID PUTTING TOGETHER A LAUNDRY LIST OF SERVICES.  Rather, focus on 1 product at a time and write compelling copy to sell that single product.

A few rules of thumb for design that sells:

Poorly Designed Advertisement

Poorly Designed Advertisement

  • Effective headlines are rarely more than 7 words
  • Effective copy is never longer than 150 words for any given section. Less is ALWAYS better.

Here is a professionally designed advertisment that got a few things wrong

Upon first glance, I’m not sure if this is an advertisement for a bike or maybe a gadget for a bike.  The use of a nascar is a little unclear.  Maybe it’s a speed accessory.  But there is a contest and a $50 back offer…. But I’m not really sure what those offers are for.

So if we were to just look at the copy it would say, quite literally

“Win a Bathurst experience at $7,000 – come ask me about it. And you’ll never have to carry keys again. And we’ve got a V8 Super Car driver riding a bike here. Oh and don’t forget our $50 cash back offer that closes soon. I’m from Lockwood by the way. And we have a product called 001Touch. It’s a touchscreen that you put in your home, so you don’t need keys. Give us a call.”

So here is what is wrong with this copy:

Why this is a poor design

Why this is a poor design

  • No clear headline: Where does the reader start?
  • Multiple images: Making the piece too complicated and confusing
  • Person on the bike: It’s not clear who this is. If it’s the V8 Super Car driver, what has cycling got to do with V8 super car driving?
  • Logo position: Bottom middle. Perhaps the worst location possible
  • Ill positioned headline: The headlines aren’t being positioned with the relevant pictures, causing confusion
  • Multiple call to actions: The ad has three separate call to action boxes.

“Ninety-nine percent of advertising doesn’t sell much of anything.” David Ogilvy

The role of a designer it to help you sell you product well, so let the designer do his job and you’ll benefit from his expertise.

Take a look at this next example of an advertisement done well.

This Colgate ad has a number of things that are working well:

A Well-Designed Ad

A Well-Designed Ad

  • It is laid out is a standard Z formation
  • The headline is clever
  • There is an eye catching picture in the most critical position in the ad
  • The logo is in a logical place with an arrow that point over the to call to action
  • The call to action is implied but asks the reader to look for this product at the grocery store

Although ads have many different objectives, which are either highly emotional (e.g the experience of a new car) or highly rational (e.g supermarket specials for the week), there is often a middle ground that most ads play in. In general a good printed ad will have the following elements:

  • Headline (stating problem or solution)
  • Image (it is been researched and proven that a front facing, smiling women is highly effective)
  • Body copy (the more copy you have, the less people will read your ad)
  • Brand
  • Call to action (call us, visit our website or store)

Once you write your copy, edit it thoroughly.  A designer will design with that copy to make sure to fits well in a space.  Sometimes changing just 1 letter or adding just a word or two can cause the design to undergo a major amount of editing to make it all fit again.  These types of edit can cost you time and money and are easily avoided with good editing.

Also, keep in mind that a graphic artist is not an English teacher.  In fact, they may have ditched English class to hang out in the studio instead.  Designers will often be staring right at a typo and they are so concerned with the balance and spacing and flow and weight of an ad that they simply don’t see the typo on the page.

A Few Final Thought about creating Design that Sells

To get the most out of your designer, it takes some thought and intentionality on your part before the project begins.

You need to understand your product and who buys it.  This information is critical for a designer to design your advertisement properly.

Then, you need to write, clear, concise and compelling copy.

Doing so will help you get the most sales out of your media purchases.