Ron Miller spent 20 years as a graphic designer, and today he’s sharing the fundamentals of design with us.

I met Ron when he joined my Set Up Shop course earlier this year, and he had a lot of great wisdom to share.

As makers who DIY pretty much all aspects of our businesses, there are so many things we need to learn – and creating our branding is one of them.

Even if you use awesome and intuitive graphic design software like Canva (affiliate link) you still can make a mess of things if you don’t understand the basic rules of design.

So – that’s what we’re covering today!

UPDATE: Ron has actually done a post on his blog with some visuals that represent some of the concepts we talked about! You can see that here.

You can listen to this episode below, or on your fave podcasting app!

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Highlights from this episode:

  • Ron has a background as a graphic designer for 20 years at ad agencies, marketing departments etc. He then changed to education later in life and has been teaching technology, and the integration of technology into the classroom, for the past 20 years. 
  • It was discussed how graphic design has become more accessible to everyday people through the use of programs like Canva, but this also means that designs are not always of the best quality.
  • “The technology has changed but the principles (of design) haven’t changed, you can just make much bigger mistakes, faster.” {Ron}
  • Common errors made when creating logos and branding are: 
    • Mixing too many typefaces together.
    • Fonts don’t match the type of product that is being sold.
    • Choosing the wrong colours, for example the colours clash, or the font is lost in the background colour.
    • Choosing fonts that are illegible.
  • The goal of graphic design is to send a visually appealing message from the eyes to the brain of the consumer, and to do it quickly, clearly and effectively.
  • Some basic principles of graphic design and branding were discussed.
  • When starting a business, choosing a logo is intertwined with choosing a brand name. Therefore it is important to ensure that the name you choose is actually available to you before you start designing your brand.
  • Once you have a name, keep it short and don’t necessarily include what you sell. If you leave out certain things, it adds an element of mystery to the name, and also allows for growth of the business to make / sell different products in future.
  • Initialisms, acronyms and alliteration can all be used to create interesting brand names.
  • It was noted that grammar is not important when it comes to branding. For example, the Apple tagline ‘Think Different’ is grammatically incorrect, but this is what makes people stop and think about the name for longer than they may have otherwise.
  • Use of fonts and typefaces needs to be carefully considered throughout your business and this was discussed. Typeface is the look and feel, i.e. is it industrial, ornate etc. Within the typeface, you have the font such as bold, italic etc.
  • You need to be careful when mixing fonts, that you don’t use too many, and don’t use fonts that are too similar as this can look like a mistake. Make a clear contrast between the two, for example, a flowy font mixed with a more simple Arial-style font.
  • When designing your logo, you should consider what kind of format it is going to be used in. For example, is it for social media, for print, for banners, does it need to be large or small, and how will it scale for all these different uses?
  • One way around this is to design two or three logos for different applications, i.e. one in portrait, one in landscape etc.
  • Colour use was discussed, and Ron noted that a great program for designing logos is Adobe Illustrator or Canva as these are vector-based, scale well, and allow the use of multiple colours without changing the clarity of the image.
  • You should also avoid saving logo files as either a JPG or PNG, unless you are saving the file at the size that you want to use.
  • Another important consideration for naming your business is regional dialects and lingo. If you are naming for a world market, make sure that people from other regions will understand what you are selling. Also, think about measurements and listing with both metric and imperial measures.
  • Ron discussed spacing, and noted that logos should be checked particularly for spacing that is either too large or too small. You don’t want the logo to look gappy or cramped.
  • Ron’s handmade business was discussed. This is Trisha’s Wares Home Decor, a business started by his wife Trish, that began when she started doing craft activities and wanted to make a business from it. Ron then got involved and they now run the business together and want to build it up as a legacy for their three grandchildren.
  • They have an Etsy shop, Trisha’s Wares, and also a blog at where Ron outlines tips and tricks they’ve learned along the way in the business, as well as showing items that are available or coming soon to their shop.

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