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The 4C’s of Graphic Design

Sammy the Graphic DesignerRight from when I was little, I have loved packaging – weird I know – but my mum says I learned to read by looking at labels on cereal packets, ketchup bottles and leaflets that came through the door!

I wanted to design boxes and logos that people would see in shops and buy,  and so when I left school in the early ’80’s, off I went to college to learn to become a graphic designer.

What an eye opener!

I had never really understood why some designs really worked and some, well, just didn’t… but now that I was learning the rules of graphic design, it all started to fall into place.

4c's of Graphic Design - Customer, Concept, Components, CompositionOne of the very first things we learned about was the 4C’s of Graphic Design: CUSTOMER, CONCEPT, COMPONENTS and COMPOSITION.

Even though I have now been designing for many years, this is a check list I refer back to all the time, particularly when I am teaching. It also features right up there in lesson 1 of our Members’ training as it underpins the whole principle of graphic design.

Another revelation was that graphic design is NOT about being a great artist, nor is it about drawing or photography – it’s about CONNECTING WITH CUSTOMERS.

You could be the best artist in the world, but if you don’t connect with customers, you won’t make sales, and sales are why we are in business!

The 4Cs of Graphic Design


So before you even THINK of designing ANYTHING remember…

The Customer is KING!

All graphic design and on and off line marketing has to be centred around one person – your target customer.

Defining WHO your target customers are as precisely as possible is key.

Once you have defined them in your mind, try to make them ‘real’.

At Be Your Own Graphic Designer we have two ‘fantasy customers’, Steve, who already runs a small gardening business, and Julie, who has two very small children and wants to sell her beaded jewellery on-line.

Steve and Julie

We build all our services around what we think will appeal to them, what they need to make a success of their businesses and we deliver our services in ways we think will be the best for them.

If you want to read in more detail about Steve and Julie visit the ‘Meet the Team’ page on the website.

Whatever you do, avoid the trap of thinking that YOU are your customer – really take the time to ‘get in to the head’ of your ideal consumer/client and think of how they will react to the images and messages you are sending out – it will pay huge dividends if you do.


Once you have defined your ideal customer, you need to think of a CONCEPT.

This is basically the idea for your promotion – it could be as simple as an A5 flyer or social media advert to a complete weekend festival (although I don’t recommend this as a beginners project!).

Now ask yourself some leading questions such as:

  • What is my USP (Unique Selling Point) going to be?
  • What is the BEST WAY I can ensure my target market gets to hear about my promotion?
  • How am I going to tell them?
  • What EXACTLY do I want them to do when they hear about it?
  • When do I want them to do it?

SMART targets-03Make sure your idea is S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely).

Break your big CONCEPT down into a few smaller concepts if you can – make a list for each one, but remember they should all have continuity (look like they are all part of the same ‘set’) for a promotion to work well. For example,

  • A leaflet
  • and a poster
  • and a magazine ad
  • and a Facebook post with a graphic


List the things you will need to include in your design to achieve the CONCEPT you outlined above.

If you already have one, remember to use your logo, branding colours and typefaces.

(If you don’t have the above, take a look at the members website offering – we can teach you how to design your own!)

Branding wordsInclude (where appropriate):

  • Logo
  • Headline
  • Strapline
  • Call to Action
  • Event
  • Offer
  • Date
  • Time
  • Deadline
  • Address
  • Social media addresses
  • Multiple ways to respond: phone number(s), email


NOW you can start to put your design together!

This is where it gets creative, and as long as you have worked through the above steps, the design itself becomes quite straight forward to do.

If you take a look on the Be Your Own Graphic Designer website, you can find lots of free stuff to help you, and if you decide you would like to learn how to take control and become your own graphic designer and marketer, both on and off line, take a look at what is offered in our £10 per month, weekly training package.

Hope to hear from you soon,




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