As the founder and CEO of Ranch House Designs, I am a self-taught graphic designer. Each day when I look at where our agency started, and where it is now, I am so thankful for the opportunity to be involved in this business and work with the talented staff here at Ranch House.
Design and marketing are two of my biggest passions (along with Brahman cattle of course!). I love how artistry can work together with facts and brain power to help our clients have success in their advertising. Livestock design can come with it’s own set of challenges, so we wanted to share some tips that might help you avoid learning some lessons the hard way like we have over the years.
1. Control yourself
The hardest thing I had to learn while designing was self-control. When I would pull up a blank canvas to start an ad design, I wanted to try everything. A cool background, lots of effects, drop shadows, bevel and emboss, gradients, outer glow, inner glow. I would use EVERY available artistic element. Today, my designs are very simple. Solid backgrounds, easy to read fonts, and big pictures. Just because those special effect tools exist doesn’t mean you have to use them on every design. I use a rule of thumb to limit myself to 2 effects or less for each design.
2. Limit your fonts
Similar to the Photoshop effects available, you want to limit yourself to no more than 2 or 3 different fonts per design. This makes it easy for people to read your content.
3. Watch copyright and piracy laws
It is tempting to go to Google images and try to find some clipart, but as a designer one must always pay attention to copyright and font piracy laws. Only purchase stock photos from reputable vendors and NEVER just hit “Save As” and save a picture off the Internet. Same rule of thumb for fonts. Unless you are purchasing a font from a free provider like DaFont.com or a similar service, always buy fonts and save the license. Don’t use black market fonts or fonts downloaded from sketchy websites.
4. Cool designs don’t sell cattle
A cool design will catch a reader’s eye, but in order to actually convert to an inquiry or better yet – a sale, you have to have some guts to your project. List the benefits of your product, include some ad copy, and by all means include contact information! Recent research has shown that in the agriculture industry, print designs are an excellent way to drive traffic to your website. So don’t forget to include that too.
5. Make a plan before you design
Before you turn on your computer, make a mental plan of what will be the objective of the ad and the goals you want to accomplish. Sometimes it is even helpful to sketch your ideas out on paper. For example, if your objective is to promote a sale, then think about the best methods to get people interested in the sale. Obviously including the sale name and sale date and location is imperative. Show pictures of cattle selling this year, or cattle that have sold in the past that have successful results.
6. Don’t forget a headline
Your headline is the attention-getting device that draws people in and sets the stage for the main idea of your ad. It can be tempting to just use your ranch name as a headline, but see if you can come up with something clever that will stand out and make people pause to look at what your ad is all about.
7. Remember your margins
This sounds boring, but taking notice of your margins is very important for all designs. If you are designing a print ad, take into consideration the thickness of the magazine and think about increasing the margins so that your text doesn’t get caught in the binding. If you’re designing signs, keep in mind where your grommets will be to hang the sign. You don’t want a metal grommet right in the middle of your bull’s eye.
8. A black and white ad can be very effective
Color is great. In a mixed ink publication that has both black and white and color sections, you definitely want color. However, if your budget only allows for black and white, these ads can still be very effective. Don’t rule out newspapers or commercially-focused publications just because they aren’t big flashy glossy coated magazines. Depending on the audience for your ad, sometimes substance can carry a lot more weight than flash.
9. Give yourself plenty of time
At Ranch House, we allow ourselves 3 hours of design time for each full page ad we design. If we are designing a bull banner, we plan for 6 hours. If we are doing a sale catalog, we block out at least 20 hours no matter how big or small the catalog. As designers, I think sometimes we short-change ourselves on how much time things actually take. Give yourself plenty of time to dedicate to the job. Don’t forget about the time you might spend looking for photos, waiting for Photoshop to load and open and any email correspondence time you’ll need to get feedback. You won’t be as stressed and you’ll be proud of the finished project.
10. Don’t be scared to try something new
A good designer has an overall personal style, but is also willing to adapt and try new things. Currently, I’m on a real minimalistic design kick. I like light backgrounds, big pictures, and easy to read text. Ten years ago I was on a real dark grunge style. Lots of black grunge backgrounds, bevel and embossed, metallic accents. Times change and your readers preferences change. Sometimes it’s good to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.
Need more design help?
As experts in both livestock marketing and graphic design, we’d love to help you out. If you are an aspiring livestock designer check out our templates and resources that can help you get started. If design really isn’t your thing, let us do it for you! From print to web to logo design, we’ve done it all. Check out our design services and request a project quote when you are ready to get started!