Template tools or graphic designer? Visual branding 101

Off-the-shelf design platforms have grown in popularity in recent years, giving less experienced creatives the chance to create simple designs quickly.
Whether your graphics are created with cost-effective Canva or Adobe’s industry-standard software, the fundamentals stay the same.
Our Creative Director, Martin, answers the most common questions, explains how design and visual identity plays a key role in brand reputation and discusses if you could be paying the price long term for free design tools.

Can I save money using a template design software?

Canva is one of the most successful cost-effective tools with templates and an online ‘design school’ to give people the skills and confidence to create professional-looking designs. It’s perfect for freelancers and smaller teams who need to adapt quickly.

In the short-term, it may appear to be a quick way to save some money, but it is likely to cost more in the long term. The visual brand identity should be positioned correctly, aligning with your brand promise and values – this is critical to your marketing success.

Can I easily print designs from a free template?

Graphic design resources
Brand positioning can’t be found in an online template.

If you have plans to move beyond the screen and into the physical world – yes, some people STILL get things printed! – this can be where using the DIY online tools can fall down. Specific file types and formats are needed to achieve a professional end result, even if the visuals themselves are nearly perfect.

Most of these won’t be available with the free, online solutions but a professional designer will have the experience to supply any file formats necessary to help your brand look its best in print.

The free template tools are perfect for quick and simple images for online channels. But you need to understand the right dimensions and file types to make sure the images adjust depending on what platform they are being viewed on.

Will customers notice that I have used a free template?

On the surface, free design tools can help create professional-looking graphics. But, without a well-planned brand strategy laying the right foundations to begin with, your customers could notice.

Consistency plays a crucial role in how your brand builds trust and awareness with new and existing customers.

Even if you’re on top of your consistency, know your colour pallet and have specific typography, using online tools could prevent your brand from really standing out in the market place.

How do I build brand trust using visual graphics?

Brand identity book on office table
design and visual identity plays a key role in brand reputation

First, let’s start by asking the question, what’s unique about your business? Your marketing may appear to offer nothing new over your closest competitors.

How can you persuade someone to choose you over another if they can’t see a difference? A brand strategist will dig deeper to help identify the vision, values, history and culture that will set you apart before they even think about your brand identity.  This is called your brand promise, and it’s not something you can find in a template online.

What’s involved in building brand identity?

Photography, Illustration, Typography, Logos, Icons, Colour Palettes and Tone of Voice all come together to convey your promise in a way that appeals to your target audience.

This is called your brand positioning – another thing that you can’t find in an online template.

With your brand promise and positioning now established, the creation of graphic assets in whatever method you choose should achieve a consistent result. If you plan on using multiple people to help do this, the added extra of brand guidelines will help make sure nothing strays too far away from your core identity.

Why is consistency vital for customer trust?

Consistency plays a crucial role in how your brand builds trust with new and existing customers. Anyone visiting your website, social channels or reading a newsletter should experience the same visual identity and language across all platforms. Research shows that obvious differences across brands assets can result in an unsettling user experience.

If an Instagram advert directed you to a differently styled website, you’d question whether you’re on the right page. And then, if you got a newsletter through for the same brand that looked different to both assets you’d already seen from the “same” brand, it would go straight in the Spam folder!

Consistency builds recognition, which in turn, builds the trust of how legitimate your brand is.

So, what’s best for my business? Template or bespoke graphic design?

Although we’d love to say you should always go bespoke, there’s nothing wrong with using free design tools… Once you’ve laid the groundwork.

With the right understanding of your brand’s identity and limitations of the platforms, they can help create professional graphics quickly and easily. But don’t let your brand suffer because of your budget. If you need to create assets on a limited spend, investing in guidance from a professional designer from the offset will pay dividends in the long run.


Written by
Martin Lovegrove
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