The Core Principles of Great Design in Marketing 

Good design in marketing can be the difference between a successful campaign and one that falls flat, with 94% of first impressions of a website being based entirely on their appearance. Despite that, design principles are often overlooked or given less attention than warranted. 

A good, clean design can impact conversion rates; for example, Expedia allegedly gained an extra $12 million in profits after simply removing one form field. This article reviews some core principles that all great designs share and that will improve overall customer experience and therefore, conversions. 

Truly Understand the Target Audience

Naturally, it is essential to truly understand the audience when creating a design. This means understanding their values, habits, wants, needs, and interests as well as their online behaviour, and therefore, what design elements will resonate with them.  

Several basic factors should always be considered: their age, their interests, and how to best convey a given message to them; for example, a design that appeals to a younger audience might not work as well for an older one, and vice versa. Knowing that an audience is young and enjoys vibrant visuals, one could create a high energy design that incorporates bright colours and bold, playful fonts. On the other hand, if the target audience consists of professionals that prefer a more conservative look, the design could be based around a more muted colour palette and minimalist fonts.

Understand the Consumer’s Psychology

Aside from these superficial demographic factors, to really make designs effective, it is important to understand the customer’s psychology. What makes them tick? How do they engage emotionally with an ad or other marketing material? What does the behavioural data indicate about their interaction with a webpage? How will they respond to different design elements?  

There is no definitive answer to these questions; conducting surveys and focus groups, and analysing behavioural data will provide the insights needed in order to create designs that leverage all of these factors. An uncluttered website will not only make it easier to use for everyone, but it may even give users the visceral feeling that the company is easy to do business with; for users that do not have a lot of time on their hands, this is the exact message they want to perceive. Therefore, conducting surveys in order to understand user impressions of a brand is a must.  

Another aspect of the target audience to consider is where they will be viewing the material. Is it for a website? A print ad? A billboard? When creating a logo design for a website, for instance, it will need to look good with no loss of quality or detail both on a standard browser and on mobile devices.  

Tailoring a design to the needs and preferences of an audience can help to ensure that marketing efforts will be successful and actually land with the people it is meant to reach.

Use the Right Imagery

Selecting suitable, high-quality imagery for a marketing design is key to resonating with the audience that will receive it. It should be eye-catching and memorable, while also conveying the precise message it needs to communicate.  

The first step is to consider the correct tone. Does it need to be playful? Serious? Inspirational? Knowing the specific tone to convey visually will help to narrow down the type of imagery to select from. 

Imagery should also be unique and creative, as the audience will be far more likely to remember a design if it really stands out with novelty. By choosing imagery that’s relevant, eye-catching, and thoughtful, the design has the potential to truly impact the people it is intended for. 

Unsurprisingly, positivity makes a difference in people’s reaction. Positive images of people are effective since they are relatable and can be used in a way to invoke a desirable and persuasive emotion. Humans tend to mimic each other, and this is true even through static images; a smile goes a long way, even in a photo.  

Again, where the design will be used needs consideration, as this will determine various specifications such as resolution.

Keep It Simple

There is endless data supporting the fact that simple, professional looking designs create an overall better impression of a company and its credibility. For example, in a study published by Google, two main factors were observed regarding simplicity: users judge websites as beautiful or not within 17 milliseconds and visually complex (crowded) websites are consistently rated as less beautiful than simpler ones.


Simplicity in design means using contrast, fonts, and spacing correctly. The contrast should be clear, as this directs the eye to the right place and also provides accessibility. The use of adequate white or otherwise light or empty space will effectively prevent the design from looking crowded. 


Font should also be clean and simple, with appropriate letter spacing and line height. Optimising the language so that the message is expressed in as few words as possible per section makes it easier to maintain a clean design on mobile screens. This is not about reducing the amount of content for the sake of it, but rather about removing needless flowery wording and focusing on the core message.

Directing Users to Action

Simplicity in design not only makes materials more readable and easier on the eye; it also helps direct the audience to take the required action. Asking people to do one thing at a time and signposting them towards it is key; giving multiple options is not recommended here as this increases the chances of them not taking any of those options. Whether it’s purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading an e-book, it’s important to ensure that customers are aware of what the next step is supposed to be.  

If users cannot clearly tell what to do next, they may end up leaving a site or page without taking any action at all. By strategically placing calls to action throughout a page, a designer can ensure that the users will be guided along the intended path.  

Whatever the action, it’s important to make sure it’s as easy as possible for users to take it. Place the call to action in an obvious spot and make sure it stands out against the rest of the page. Use words that clearly describe the action and make sure it’s easy to click. These small tweaks can make a big difference in converting users into customers. 

A great design should be intuitive and easy to navigate, and should include visual cues like arrows and highlighted buttons. This way, users don’t get overwhelmed with too much information, and can easily find the right path towards the desired goal.

Brand Colours

Colour is a powerful tool, and the colours used in marketing materials should reflect the values, personality, and goals of a brand. An example is the use of a specific shade of blue for the links when Microsoft were designing Bing. The shade that was chosen ended up generating an extra $80 million annually; a user experience manager had said that the previous, lighter shade “lacked a bit of confidence”. 

Designers can use colour to evoke certain emotions in the viewer. Red is powerful and energetic while yellow tends to create positive feelings; IKEA may use it to invoke a feeling of contentment associated with the home. Also note that many memorable brands use one dominant colour along with an accent, such as Coca Cola’s red and white scheme. Regardless, all colour schemes must be simple; using too many colours makes the design appear cluttered.  

Many successful brands follow the principles of colour psychology, selecting colours based on common associations with them. Blue tends to be associated with traits such as trust, communication, professionalism, and security, while green is associated with prosperity and growth; it is therefore no surprise that many banks use one of the two as the dominant colour in their branding.


The visual identity of a brand should be instantly recognisable. Therefore, the importance of consistency throughout all marketing assets cannot be understated, whether it’s for a logo, UI design, ad, infographic, business presentation, digital brochure, or even the documentation used in a business proposal.  

By being consistent in terms of colour and all other elements in all materials, a unified look emerges that supports a clear brand message; this is essential when creating a strong omnichannel experience, where all of the brand’s platforms offer a completely seamless experience for the users.

Wrapping Up

To summarise, great design in marketing is all about creating a clear and concise brand message that resonates with its target audience and creates the required impression. While it is important to consider fundamental demographic aspects such as the user’s generation, there much more to it than that; one must really delve into the consumer’s psychology and emotional responses to marketing materials through research. 

General principles that apply regardless of the nuances among audiences is keeping designs clean and simple, without clutter of any kind. This applies in terms of the layout, spacing, fonts, colour schemes, contrast, and so on. It is also important to direct users to the action they need to take using visual prompts.

The right design can effectively make marketing more powerful and help businesses better connect with their target demographics. Therefore, each element of the design should be carefully considered in order to create a cohesive and effective final product.

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