How can design help online advertising engage with its audience Bannersnack
11 minutes read

What is design today? Is it the creative visuals on a billboard or a great viral poster that conquers the internet? We talk about different types of design: product design, intelligent design, responsive design, user experience design. 

The word “design” has crawled into our daily routine. Just take a look around and notice your smartphone, laptop, office or watch. Behind all those products there is a beautiful design that helps you connect with others, work better and smarter and be more productive.

Design is more than just a good visual, design is the answer to a problem. 

If you work in advertising, you definitely know who George Lois is (by the way, you really need to see Art&Copy) and how unusual he was for his time. Personally, I liked his style very much and I think that is one of the elements every advertiser needs to have in their daily job: that crazy passion for good advertising.

After seeing the documentary, I read George Lois’s book “Damn Good Advice” and a quote stuck with me:

Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.

Now I’d like to ask you: Does your design solve a problem? Does your advertising engage with your audience?

I was curious about how design can help online advertising engage with its audience. So I asked several designers to answer this question.

Find the answers below and feel free to share it to your community!

1. Andrea Pacini


“In visual communication, the secret to engaging with your audience is to keep your design simple. Online advertising is no exception. When designing an online ad, companies should ask themselves “What’s the minimum amount of information I can share with my audience?”. The minimum, not the maximum. In a sea of noise, what stands out is simplicity.”

[Tweet “Keep you design simple via @echopresent“]

Andrea Pacini is an international business at Bosch UK. Content Curator and author of the blog Echo Presentations.

2. Zipeng Zhu


“I think online advertising now has a lot of interactive possibilities that allows the audience play and interact with the brand. [Virgin Blinkwashing] Also with animation, 3D, interactive, apps and websites – all those allow the audience experience and live the brand more than seeing regular print ads.”

[Tweet “Allow the audience to play and interact with the brand via @zzdesign”]

 Zipeng Zhu is a designer in New York @sagmeisterwalsh who wants to make everyday a razzle-dazzle musical. 

3. Stefan C. Asafti 


“Considering there is already a very saturated market in the field, creatives should always find ways to make things a bit more unconventional but not fake. Things that speak for themselves, connect physically and psychologically with the audience. This is a show and tell game, first you show a good product than you tell the story behind it. Today, everybody is fed up with too many promises, hard to keep.”

[Tweet “Creatives should always find ways to make things more unconventional via @StefanAsafti”]

Stefan is a photographer and a self-taught designer with professional experience in web design for more than 8 years.

4. Jacob Cass


“There’s no denying that online advertising is difficult – people’s attention spans are extremely low and the screen real estate of online ads is often quite limiting. For this reason, you not only need to consider the design of the ad (is it right for the audience & goal?), but also where the ad is located & targeted. If you consider all these constraints then your advertising dollar will go much further.”

[Tweet “Consider your goal, audience, location and targeting when designing your ad via @justcreative “]

Jacob Cass is the the founder of ‘JUST™ Creative’. He works as a freelance graphic designer & blogger while traveling the world.  

5. Miruna Sfia


 “As a designer, you’re not supposed to create ads that look nice. You’re supposed to create ads that “make people click”.

Designing ads isn’t about making art. Be honest, how many online ads have you ever seen and went “Wow, that looks awesome, I wish I had designed that!”? I haven’t seen many. And I’m not sure how efficient were the ones I did see (not because gorgeous ads can’t be good for business, but because I haven’t really tried to check out if they were, or not).

Designing ads is about knowing your goal. Is it selling? Is it clicks? Is it getting more email opt-ins? Is it creating an emotional connection? Whatever the project is, goal is something that needs to be discussed and clarified with the client, before starting work on the first drafts.

As a daily internet user, one who spends up to 12 hours a day online, I can tell you I hate most of the online ads. They’re intrusive, ugly and they’re of no interest to me, because I usually do my own research when buying stuff, looking for online reviews and such. As a matter of fact, I even use an ad blocker to make browsing easier. But if I was in the market for a new TV, camera or whatever gadget I don’t know much about, I might pay attention if something pops up, in bright red and blue, promising a 50% discountArrow 10x10 if I shop in the following 24 hours. I wouldn’t care if it’s ugly, hell, perhaps if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t even had noticed it in the first place. This is why goal is so important.

So, if as a user, I could go ahead and wish for better looking ads, with a fresh palette of colors and flat style lettering, as a designer I won’t make that a priority. Because I’m not designing a banner to match the awesomeness of my portfolio. I’m designing a banner that converts, according to the client’s specific goal.

As a designer, I will look at the website(s) the banner will be displayed on and I will use that in order to create something that stands out. I will ask about the targeted audience, because I want to be able to research what those people react to. What “makes them click”. I will do whatever it takes to make sure my design gets the most of the client’s money, even if that means that ad will be jarring, annoying and not very pretty looking. Because if my research, based on the client’s needs, got me there, than that’s where I need to be. There’s not much art involved, other than the art of making people pay attention.”

[Tweet “Designing ads is about knowing what your goal is via @mirunasfia “]

Miruna is the creator of . Graphic designer passionate about mobile apps, illustration and concept art. 

6. Leigh Guldig


“Great design can always spark a connection from a user to a brand or product. But true connection with audience goes beyond that period of initial engagement. Now with video ads, smart phones, and ever-changing platforms to connect with – there has never been a better time to create and curate those stories for viewers to remember. Pairing great design with responsive and innovative technology is one of the many reasons to be excited about the future of digital advertising.”

[Tweet “True connection with audiences goes beyond that period of initial engagement via @leighster”]

Leigh Guldig is a freelance illustrator and artist who lives in Boston, MA

7. Bogdan Albulescu


Personally, I consider that a successful online advertising campaign should always be the result of 2 important factors: creative (the design process) and scientific (BT – behavioral targeting).
I strongly believe that the data from a BT analysis holds important insights for a designer that has to compose a unitary and clear design structure including banner ads. And the key word is “including”.

While designing for a certain project that includes banner ads, the page layout should always take into account the size, number and ad space. They represent design elements and, like any other element present in a website, they should be treated with the same attention to detail, considering that the ads are calls-to-action and that they should automatically be part of the user experience through the content flow.

Thus the second level comes to mind after establishing the place of ads in a layout: the ad itself. I would say that the most essential aspects of an ad is its position vis-a-vis the rest of the main content and the color scheme.

Ad position is dictated by the specific needs of the client/project, while the color palette is more socio-geographical conditioned. A strong lesson I have learned along various projects from different countries is that, color can change significance depending on culture. One color might inspire positive (re)actions in one place and be offensive elsewhere.

[Tweet “The ads are calls-to-action and they should be part of the user experience @The4ThFloor “]

Bogdan Albulescu is the founder and Art Director of The 4Th Floor branding & webdesign studio.


8. Thomas Burden


“Design can help online advertising engage with an audience in the same it can with any other form of advertising. The problem with online advertising though is that you have a less captive audience. Online, there are a lot more things competing for a viewer’s attention, so design is really important to help your content stand out. Also, technology is very fast moving online so there’s a lot more freedom to create original and engaging content, but also more pressure to keep up with emerging trends.”

[Tweet “Design is really important to help your content stand out via @andunicorns”]

Thomas Burden describes his own work as referencing “anything from indigenous art and folk costumes, to alpine souvenirs and all the toys I was never allowed as a child.”


9. Samwoo Ee 


“There is an obvious correlation between the quality of an ad vs. its engagement simply on the media side.  This also translates to the way online ads as a format product are developed as well. The more we cater to the needs of the user in ways that are actually beneficial for them, it can set the stage for the media component to be presented in ways that feel a lot more natural and higher in quality. All keeping in mind with the business needs, of course.

So a bad example of this is simply slapping on a display banner. This is probably the laziest way for online advertising to engage with users. Simply section off a portion of the app or site and rotate display banners on it. This not only causes fatigue but also creates blindness from its users.

A good example is what VOX media is doing with their properties. Their ad formats are integrated into the site and use parallax in creative ways for the brands to create something unique for people who scroll past the content. Having this as an ad product also sets the media that’s presented in this format to automatically feel more premium. Clients would probably create something unique for this, that in turn would also create better engagement. So in this case, the ad format guides the level of quality of the ads shown in the format as well.”

[Tweet “It is an obvious correlation between the quality of an ad vs. its engagement via @iconsam”]

Samwoo Ee is the Lead Product Designer, Spotify

10. Rodrigo Corral 


“Great design is increasingly appreciated by the masses and no longer just the design obsessed elite, thanks in some part to companies like Target, Pinterest, Apple and Etsy. So it’s strange that Banner design is often overlooked and compromised by trying to get people to click. A well designed banner impression is an extension of the brand, it will help people like it, try it and recommend it to friends. Great design also provides a better looking internet and we all can appreciate that.”

[Tweet “A well designed banner impression is an extension of the brand via @Rodrigo_Corral”]

Rodrigo Corral creates conceptual design and art for print, brands, interior spaces and film.

11. Jessie Bearden


“I feel it’s crucial for advertisers to utilize design in a unique way to hook the viewer and break through the media clutter. Right now, good design is not only beneficial, but expected. Advertisers can use design to prove their brand is on-trend, cool, sophisticated, or whatever they want, without using a single word. In a time of exponentially diminishing attention spans, fast communication through design is invaluable.”

[Tweet “Good design is not only beneficial, but expected via @jessie_bearden”]

Jessie Bearden is a art maker and lover for Austin


12. Szekrényes Rúben


“People are already tired of seeing bad design. Nowadays everything is based on aesthetics  – if a simple, usual product is well designed, or it has a strong presentation, more people will buy it – maybe just because “it looks good”.

Dieter Rams is a well known German industrial designer who introduced the “ten principles of good design”. I chose 3 of them – these apply to graphic design as well:

  • Good design is aesthetic
  • Good design is thorough down to the last detail
  • Good design is as little design as possible

A. Good design is aesthetic.

Banner ads are quite disturbing, when you have dozens on a page you would like to read. But people are curious, and if a banner stands out, maybe they will click because of its appearance. If a product, website or service is well presented on the banner, people will want to know more about it.

B. Good design is thorough down to the last detail

Nothing should be left to chance. When I started working at Creatopy, I could not understand how it’s possible for someone to see if a clip-art or a button is not centered, and that it needs to be moved with 1 pixel. After some months, my eyes opened as well :). Everything needs to be pixel-perfect. People won’t tell the difference, but they will say: I don’t know why, but this looks perfect.

C. Good design is as little design as possible

This weird sentence doesn’t mean that everyone can design. First, you need to learn a lot about design, to make something that’s “as little design as possible”. People tend to overcrowd banners with text, colors, pictures, because “more is better”.

A banner needs to contain only the most important things. It’s hard to select the relevant info, and exclude the unimportant stuff.

Today everything and everybody is online. If you are not online, you don’t exist. That’s why online advertising is very important.

But even now, not everybody cares about looks or the branding of their company. If you don’t like the website you clicked on, you back down like you’ve seen a cockroach. A well designed website will have more engagements than the “bad looking websites”. User interface and user experience design play an important role in building a good website.

Create clean, simple content. Increase desire by using high-quality photos – for vacations, products, services. Show product details in an innovative way – just think about how Apple is doing it. A crowded website distracts the audience, and you’ll lose customers.

A good value proposition will get you customers. Persuasive graphics will bring the desire of the audience. A good call to action button will bring you the audience’s money. It’s that simple, you just need to pay attention where and how you put all these together.

The designer plays an important role in engaging the audience. From the plain text and some pictures the designer can create a banner that will be clicked. He can create a website on what customers will forget about time. Don’t throw everything randomly on your banner, on your website. Hire a designer and you will be rewarded.”

[Tweet “Don’t throw everything randomly on your banner via @RSzekrenyes”]

Szekrényes Rúben is a designer at Creatopy


13. Dudi Ben Simon 


“I believe that the visual side (especially the design) is the eye catcher of the consumer. It must intrigue the eye in order to drive the consumer to enter and read the marketing content. Online design should be simple, clean and to the point without conveying many messages. The advantage of new age online marketing compared to print ads, is the ability as a designer to control the outcome up to the last detail.

As for the final outcome is what you see once you are done designing, unlike the printing process that can significantly ruin the message. Since the target audience is very defined online, you can adjust your style and delivery style in a convenient and specific way.”

[Tweet “Design is the eye catcher of the consumer”]

Dudi Ben Simon is a creative director from Tel Aviv


Now back to you – How can design help online advertising engage with its audience? Let us know in comments.

Robert Katai
Robert Katai is the Product Marketing Specialist at Creatopy. His work was featured on Adweek, Entrepreneur, Marketing Profs, Content Marketing Institute and other places.

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