During my time as a Graphic Design intern at Slice Communications, I have received a crash course in designing ads for social media. Listed below are the rules I have learned for designing engaging visuals, and for receiving the highest ROI on promoted social posts.

Check Your Text-to-Visual Ratio
Facebook has a firm rule about the amount of text that you can include in an advertising graphic. While 20% may feel limiting, it is this way for a reason. With too much text, users view the ad as spam and will not read the information. Though other social media sites do not have a hard rule about the amount of text that you can include on a graphic, keep in mind that Facebook created this rule based on research. Therefore, you should apply this idea of limiting the text on your ad for every social channel. You can place as much text as you want outside of the graphic, but keep the focus on the visual.

Become Friendly with Negative Space
When designing a social ad, a common myth is that you must use up every square pixel of the graphic with content. But any graphic designer will tell you that negative space is your friend. Keep the graphic from looking cluttered by keeping some areas free of text and objects. Negative space helps to increase hierarchy within the visual and keeps the user from assuming that it is spam.

Choose Your Colors and Fonts Wisely
Social ads should be an extension of the brand, so that means that you must design them to look as such. Pick colors that are in the brand color palette, and fonts that are in the style guide. Avoid free fonts at all costs! Though they may seem creative, they often come across as cheesy and cheap. Your best bet for readable fonts are clean sans-serif and classic serif fonts.

Create Multiple Versions
Don’t create one design and settle on it. Utilizing different headlines and different images, create at least four versions of your social ad. Then A/B test these ads, and promote the one that does the best. WIth analytic tools, you can check to see if your audience responds better to illustrations or photos, and quirky lines or classy ones.

Utilize High Quality Images
When you do choose to use photographs over illustrations, make sure that they have a resolution of at least 300 ppi. Stock photos usually have this resolution, but it is important to check. When photos have low resolution, they look blurry– which certainly is not beneficial in an advertisement. People have a tendency to feel stuck when using stock photos, as if their creativity is being stifled. However, there are many options available to customize a stock photo. Using editing programs like Photoshop, you can crop an image, put a filter over it, or change the overall color of the image. The possibilities are endless.