Chronogram’s Three Rules for Great Ad Design

Scout’s honor: When was the last time you actually looked at an ad that wasn’t your business’s? Like, really looked at one—not just registered that there was in fact an ad in that magazine, email newsletter, or website you were reading?  

If you put any amount of time and energy into your small business’s ad design—from messaging to graphics to how it furthers your campaign goals—it may be hard to admit that you might not actually pay a lot of attention to other advertisements. But admitting that fact is actually the first step to creating better ads.

Because advertising is a constant presence in our lives, we’re all subconsciously learning how to filter it out. Creating great display advertising today is all about generating powerful brand awareness in the shortest amount of time possible.

To do that, you need some killer graphic design guidance.  

That’s why I turned to our in-house advertising design guru, Chronogram’s production director Kerry Tinger, to help put together a few tips for creating your own display ads or working with our team on a new one for any of our publications. 

Afterall, as editorial director Brian Mahoney humbly admits, people often tell him that Chronogram’s ads are as enjoyable to read as the rest of our content. Score one for Kerry! 

Read on for our three rules for great ad design.

1. Less Is Always More

Clark Art Institute's ad for the exhibition "Rodin in the United States" is simple but strong, using just a few lines of bold text with an emphasis on the business name first and an unexpected, lively pop of pink that catches the reader's attention.

Simple, strong ads are much more successful at capturing a reader’s attention than those that are chock-full of information. Simplicity actually entices people to stop and read.

It’s actually not that important to include as much information about your business as possible. That’s what your website is for. 

Embrace the presence of white space on your display ad. It’s much easier on the eyes and will help your ads look more thoughtfully designed. Aim for fewer words. It will make the information that does matter more prominent. Want to help readers make that jump from a print ad to your website? Use a space-saving QR code—they’re making a comeback! 

And here’s a subtle, but important bit of advice: Be selective with your fonts. Use two or three fonts total for a cohesive look that enhances readability.

2. Information Should Flow Logically

Mise en Scène Design's full-page print ad takes advantage of the large space with a gorgeous photo of the design firm's work, while keeping the information streamlined and in a well-organized, easy-to-read order.

Your business name, contact info, and the call to action should all appear on your ad according to importance. 

Your business name should always be one of the most prominent elements. Your goal for the ad will help dictate the rest. 

Hoping to generate general brand awareness? Your business name and website url should probably be the largest text elements. Want to sell tickets to an event? A call to action like “Buy tickets now” should bump accessory info like your website url or hours of operation down to a smaller size. 

Your information should also appear in a way that is easy for the eye to follow. Make sure your ad reads well from left-to-right and top-to-bottom like you would read an article. Use pop-out design elements like bolding and badges with info like “new location!” or “20% discount with code CHRONO1” sparingingly.  

3. Design for Format

Garner Arts Center's banner ad in our Eat.Play.Stay email newsletter has a concise design that best utilizes the smaller space. It communicates the experimental, arts-centric vibe of the organization with a bold call to action to "Get Tickets".

With so many different sizes of display ads to design across print and digital, it can be tempting to just create one graphic that works for them all just to make everything easier. Resist the urge! 

Pay attention to display ad specifications and create designs that work well for those sizes. 

Digital display ads should be as simple as possible. If you want people to actually click on your ad, your call to action should be the most prominent text element. If you’re using photography, select an image that readers can easily discern from a distance. An interesting text-only digital design can be incredibly powerful in a smaller digital ad space. 

Larger print ads, however, can handle a more complex design, but try to stick to three to five pieces of text information max. The print format also allows you the opportunity to feature a few beautiful, high-resolution photos of your own products or services, offering readers an instant feel for your brand identity with just one quick glance. Because in today’s advertising world, just a few seconds to create a meaningful impression is often all that you have!

Want more marketing tips just for small businesses in the Hudson Valley, Catskills, and Berkshires? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, The Art of Business!


Start typing and press Enter to search

Shopping Cart
No products in the cart.

Support Chronogram Media!

Now more than ever, it’s important to support and nourish the Hudson Valley community. But we need your help to do it. 

Click here to support us.