Friday Design Tip: Customizing Templates to Save Time

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the week has been kind to you and that you have a relaxing weekend ahead. Today I want to revisit some design topics that I’ve written about before as they have become even more important to my graphic design work as I seem to continue to have less and less time to do more and more work (why is that? It just doesn’t seem right.). So the two topics I want to focus on today (and I promise there are examples!) are: how not to hate templates and how to customize templates to save time.

Those who’ve read any of my writing and posts before know I’m not the biggest fan of templates. From reading resumes and cover letters based on fill-in-the-blank templates to social media graphics to flyers and websites, I’m not a huge fan of templates. All too often the flatten the design world so that everything starts looking the same and nothing stands out. I’ve written before about how templates can also constrict our design work, and not in a good way.

But over the past year, especially, I’ve had to make peace with templates while not letting them overwrite my design style and design needs. I don’t know about you, but for me, the last year and change has been so stressful and topsy-turvy that I haven’t even had my usual (rushed) time to create from scratch graphics for a lot of what I needed to do. So I’ve had to rely on templates and templates, good ones, have definitely saved me some time.

I don’t just plug-and-play with templates, though. I think the important things to remember with templates are: 1) they should save you time–either because you found one that can easily be modified to your needs or you are creating one that will be reused many times saving you time overall and 2) they should always be customized so that your library’s design style and look shine.

So how does this play out? I’ll share a recent example from my library where we needed an Instagram graphic to advertise our student job positions and we needed it, well, frankly we needed it yesterday so I knew I needed to create something eye-catching (because we were competing with all the other departments on campus for applicants) and create it fast (again because of the fierce competition for student employees). So I went into the Adobe Spark templates to see what I could easily (key word is easily!) customize to work for us.

I found this template:

Image of Instagram job ad template with hexagons and icons with limited text

Why did I pick this one? It is simple and eye-catching. I knew I could swap out the icons in the hexagons quickly and even use our logo in one of them to brand the ad. I liked the simple, Sans Serif fonts used and the clean look overall of this template. I also knew I could quickly swap out the colors to again use colors from our secondary color palette.

So here’s the finished job ad graphic we used on our Instagram post:

image of template changed to be branded with library colors and logo along with the job information

The basic layout of the template was left unchanged, but with the colors swapped out along with the icons and logo, it feels completely different. It is hard to beat read for eye-catching and this ad was completed in less than 20 minutes and ready to post.

So, the big question, did this help us recruit students to work in the library? Definitely. It was one of the most viewed and liked posts and we saw and increase in job applicants once it went live.

And, as a bonus, we can reuse this now-branded template the next time we need to advertise that we are hiring saving even more time.

I hope this example was useful as you look for ways to use templates effectively and efficiently in your design work.

I’ll be back again soon with more graphic design notes from the library and other news. Until then, stay safe, be kind, and have a lovely, rejuvenating weekend. Allons-y, friends!