Image courtesy: Gaius J. Augustus

This is a guest post by Gaius J. Augustus, a visual storyteller who communicates science through multimedia projects.

Gaius is dedicated to improving science communication through art, and believes in empowering others to start their own creative projects! With formal training in the fine arts, video production, and science, Gaius can help you take your project to the next level. If you’ve been waiting for the right moment, now is the time. Contact Gaius for coaching, consulting services, or to plan a workshop for your group.

CONTACT GAIUS: Website | Twitter | Instagram

What’s the point of creating graphics about your work if no one sees them? Today, I’ll be giving you a few tips to make your graphics work for any audience. Whether you’re creating for a presentation or a website, these tips will elevate your work, which hopefully means getting eyes on it!

If you’d like more information on creating beautiful and engaging creative projects, I have a growing library of resources on my website. Visit me at and don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list to get worksheets and challenges delivered straight to your email inbox.

1) Use color wisely

No matter how interesting the topic, if I see a graphic with too many colors, I’m not going to read it. Too many colors can make a reader confused at best. The same can be true for black & white as well, although there are certainly minimalistic styles that accommodate this color palette.

The best way for beginners to use color is to choose a color palette with 2 colors. The first will be your primary color. You can choose a highlight and shadow that match your primary color. The other color is your highlight color. For example, perhaps you use green & orange. Your final palette will be light green, green, dark green, and orange. I typically add white and black to all my color palettes because it adds contrast, so don’t forget that these two colors can ground your work.

Use your primary color as a thread that ties everything together. Your primary color is great for:

  • Headings
  • Key image tints
  • Borders

Shadow and highlight colors are most useful when you need multiple colors to define shapes or create levels (i.e., foreground, middleground, background) in your piece.

Use your highlight color strategically. Use the highlight color for:

  • Text that you want to “pop”
  • Your main message or call to action
  • As a tool to move your audience around the graphic (e.g., arrows).

As you get more familiar with color palettes and styles, you can increase the number of colors you are using. Typically, I never use more than 5 colors in a design unless it’s full color, and even then, I try to tie the colors together somehow.

2) Give eyes a break

Nothing gives me anxiety like seeing an overcrowded graphic. I know you want to fit as much as possible into that image, but it’s not worth it. That’s because when you crowd a visual piece, you also are reducing its readability.

“White space” is the space around objects in a design, and it’s an overlooked and underappreciated element of every good design. There’s a balance, though. You have to put enough information so that your audience can understand the message, but not so much information that it tires your audience out.

Here are some places that should always have white space:

  • Borders of your graphic
  • Between words and an explanatory image
  • Separating different discrete text blocks.

3) One graphic. One message.

You’ve got a lot of great ideas you want to get across, and getting into the nitty-gritty of each of those topics through a graphic may seem like a good idea. 

Well, it really isn’t. Any graphic you create should have one main message. Define that message before you start.

You don’t want to overwhelm your audience, right?

Once you decide what your main message will be, then it’s time to decide what points are necessary to get you to that message. Remove any extraneous information and only keep the minimum you need. Ask yourself if any of the concepts can be presented visually to take the burden off of the words.

The goal is one message for each graphic. Have too much info? Create another graphic! It’s that simple.

I hope these tips give you a boost! Cool graphics can improve presentations or websites if done well, and a few design tips can go a long way. Don’t forget that an important part of improving any skill is practice, and just as important as practice is getting (and implementing) feedback from an expert.

I offer coaching and consulting services that give you the feedback you need to improve more quickly and make your creative projects shine! And the best part is that you’ll have specific action steps will improve your design.