The Seven Mandatory Rules Of Advertising Design

DG frequently points out that when you are running a middle-to large-sized business, you often forget that the newer employees may not know many of the basic rules that make the business work. He puts it this way: “When it’s just you and a handful of trusted colleagues, everyone understands the most important things.

But a few years later, when you have 60 to 100 people busy at work, these same ‘important things’ are sometimes forgotten.” That is true, and it’s the only explanation I can conjure up to explain the fact that at AGP, an employer of 350 hard workers, the most atrocious advertising artwork keeps making its way out the door and to customers. It’s not that AGP has lost the knowledge completely.

There are dozens of individuals who understand not only the basics of design but also the advanced stuff. The problem is that much of the artwork (among other things) that is done is done by beginners. And these young tyros — however talented and enthusiastic — have not been taught the basics.

So for them and for you and for anyone else who is involved in graphic design that’s meant to support sales and marketing, here are seven rules that every single piece of advertising art should slavishly adhere to:

1. All headlines should be in black.

2. Never ghost an image behind printed copy.

3. The body copy should never be smaller than nine-point type.

4. A single line of copy should never contain more than 60 characters, including spaces. In other words, the type should be big enough that you can’t get more than 60 characters in a line.

5. All body copy that has more than 50 words should be in sans-serif type.

6. All main headlines should be at least three times the size of the body type.

7. No single page of copy should have more than four different type styles.

These rules should be pasted on the top of every computer screen of every graphic artist in the advertising universe. The only exception: master artists who have been successfully practicing advertising art for at least 5,000 hours. If you follow these rules, success will not be guaranteed. But if you fail to follow them, you are guaranteed to experience a good amount of failure.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]