Digital design and developing advertising for the digital world is just as much a science as it is an art. If you’re not accounting for both, you’re probably not maximizing your investment. I spent time visiting with a team of resident LF experts to provide insights on how to effectively design for digital advertising. Here’s what Digital Marketing Specialist Laura Plumb (LP), Graphic Designer Tiffany Rasmussen (TR) and Creative Director Chris Hanson (CH) had to say.

How do you approach designing digital ads?

TR: “To start, you have to put yourself in the viewer’s shoes. Your message has to be clear, consistent with the brand and have a strong call-to-action. One trick I’ve learned in digital design is that it’s important to review the ad as it will be displayed — not blown up on a big screen. This gives you a more real sense of how the viewer will see it.”

LP: “So much of digital advertising is mobile today that it’s important to approach it with a mobile-first mentality. That means button sizes need to be big enough, usually at least 48 x 48 pixels. File sizes need to be kept low — under 40 kb if possible. And you need to design to fit within a “grid format” so websites that are responsive are able to display your ads correctly.”

CH: “There are simple things to consider as well. The text should be in web fonts so they display correctly. Often people have their browsers set to turn images off. If you build an ad that is graphics only, they will not see the message. If you don’t maintain a level of consistency in fonts, colors, and imagery, you can lose brand consistency.”

Explain the biggest difference between digital design and design for traditional print advertising.

LP: “There are a lot of things to consider with digital ads. The biggest is that it can be displayed on any number of devices. If you’re designing for a magazine, you know your ad will be printed on paper in a specific size. But when it’s digital, your ad will display a number of different sizes on various mobile phones, tablets, or computer screens. Your ad is going to appear different on each one.”

TR: “From a design standpoint, readability is key. The space is small. You can’t have a lot of text. You almost have to think of it as a billboard. Seven words and a strong call-to-action. If you try to do too much, people will just ignore your ad.”

CH: “One thing is that frequency of the ad is much higher. Someone might see a print ad in a magazine once, but they not see it again for a month (or again for that matter). But with digital, you might see the same ad 20 times in a week. So there’s a balance between what we call ad fatigue and also making sure you’re being consistent with the brand.”

What other trends are you seeing in digital design?

TR: “I don’t know if I’d call it a trend, but designing with high contrast in colors is important – especially for those with impaired vision. It’s just smart design and it shows that your brand is aware which puts it in a positive light in the eyes of viewers.”

LP: “We also see things like Apple’s switch to allow people to use “dark mode“. This means that the look of an email, for example, can be completely different. You need to design things with that in consideration. Using a smaller color palette is smart. When designing video ads, using text or subtitles is smart, as a majority of video ads are played without sound.

CH: “There are a lot of new ways to expand or extend your digital ads. Video and gifs bring motion to ads. Carousel ads, for example, allow the viewer to interact with your ad. There are new formats being launched all the time. The one thing you need to be careful of is that search engines like Google give sites a lower rank for using ad formats that some would consider large and intrusive. That means you risk potentially less traffic.”

Any final takeaways?

CH: “The last thing I would say is that it’s important to think through the entire experience. Does your ad stand out on the site? Is it easy to read and understand? Does it have a strong call to action? When you click, does the experience continue with a landing page that makes sense, or are you dumping them on a home page, expecting them to figure out what to do next? Are your retargeting ads complementary to your brand and the experience they have already had? Brand experience plays such an important role in credibility. If your brand is choppy from the viewer’s perspective, they may be less inclined to take the next step.”

It is clear that design for digital isn’t as simple as print ads were back in the day. That’s why we’re here to help. Ready to chat? Give us a ring and let’s drum up something great.