How to…bring simple graphic design in-house

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If you don’t know by now, visual, well-designed, curated content is in. Instagram usage has doubled in the last two years and is well on its way to overtaking Facebook as the most engaged AND popular network.[1] At the same time, both video and infographics have become powerful tools for brands looking to communicate more easily with their readers. Effective communication is undeniably becoming more about visual aspects than ever before.

Agency work is varied; while we at Twelve produce traditional PR, develop media relations, etc., more and more communication relies on visual elements – we also produce newsletters, posters, leaflets, social media adverts etc. Infographics often accompany important research-based press releases as a visual way of communicating the topline news. And with the importance of high quality graphics on the up, clients have high expectations that we need to match.

It makes sense then, that many creative PR agencies are thinking about how they can bring some elements of graphic design in-house. While we do use an external designer and printer for some jobs, sometimes we need to put together a quick, professional-looking creative ourselves.

And while taking a photo at an edgy angle and adding a snazzy filter may be anyone’s game, professional graphic designing is not. Here are some tips to get started on your own in-house design:


For beginners, free online software Canva is your new best friend. It’s super easy to use, intuitive and really made for creative assignments without the fancy, difficult to use features of a professional graphic design programme.

It has a range of background, font, layout and size options and templates, as well as various images, logos and shapes you can use for free. You can also upload your own images, so brand logos and specific imagery can be easily added to your design.

There are some elements you need to pay for, but here at Twelve we use the free account and it’s more than we need to design social media creatives and other simple visuals, like a blog graphic or an email header. There is also a free infographic template which is really useful for creating a simple infographic if you don’t have time (or budget!) for professional design work.

The eye for design 

Many say that some people just have an eye for design. While it may come more naturally to some, it is something you can learn by looking at or finding similar designs to what you are aiming to create. There are all sorts of resources online that you can use to find inspiration and use as a base for your design, whether you’re making a creative for a Facebook advert or your building a four-page newsletter. As you get more experience and more confident with the process of designing, you will start to trust your own nose more and be more creative.

For practical tips and to learn basic design principles, Canva itself has a really useful blog to help beginners get started:

InDesign courses

After becoming more proficient using Canva, you’ll start to notice it can’t do all the things a professional graphic design programme can. This only really becomes a problem with more complicated design jobs, like a newsletter or leaflet for example (Canva is definitely still my go to for social media visuals and smaller jobs). But if you do want to bring these types of more complex graphic design jobs in-house, InDesign is the next step.

InDesign is a paid-for Adobe product, which is used by most professional graphic designers. This means it has a LOT of features so you can get the precision required for complicated graphic design jobs. This being said, if you are thinking of getting InDesign, I would recommend going on a course to get to grips with the programme, rather than trying to navigate it yourself like you can do on Canva. You can get some fantastic results from InDesign, but it is an complex programme to learn to use.

I won’t give a step-by-step guide to using InDesign, as this blog would become VERY long, but to really understand the programme and use it to its full potential, look into booking onto a beginners’ course (probably a 2-day course) and see how you get on.

graphic design in-house

Infographic designed on Canva

Visual PR?

The statistics to the left speak for themselves; visual communication is effective. In order to help brands and products to be heard through the noise across the proliferation of media channels, where visual aspects matter just as much, if not more, than words, design skills are something we need to look to understand as experts in communication, ensuring we keep up with trends and stay ahead of change.





Creative PR ideas

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Are you looking for creative ideas, to energise your brand or engage your customers more effectively perhaps?

Did you know at Twelve we offer all our retained clients a new idea every month, to drive their PR and marketing activity and keep our work fresh and exciting?

These twelve ideas are in addition to the creative programme of work which we have agreed for the year, so that’s quite a tall order, to keep those fresh ideas coming.

A question we are often asked is ‘how do you come up with creative PR ideas’ or ‘how can we make ourselves stand out from the crowd?’.

Developing creative PR ideas

Our approach to creativity at Twelve is actually surprisingly target driven.  We believe very firmly in creativity that helps hit targets or meets an aim, to deliver a return on investment.

It’s lovely coming up with fantastic ideas that we all find exciting, or funny, or which are beautiful to look at. But really, how much will that idea cost to deliver and what will it achieve among our target audience?

My favourite idea is for a Cheese Festival here in Chipping Norton. Great idea (in my opinion) but not very practical for our client.

So how do we keep coming up with new, effective creative PR ideas every month?

  1. Start with the reaction you want to achieve.

We start by checking our targets, and clarifying what behaviour we want to achieve. For example, it might be that we want new mothers on average to low incomes to think: ‘That looks tasty and easy, I can afford it, I’ll give it a try.’ We build the brainstorming structure around that specific reaction.

  1. Understand the target audience

Totally immerse yourself in the life and world of your target market. Take our example of the new mum –  what’s her house like, what’s in her kitchen cupboard, what’s a typical day for her? How does she eat her evening meal, who does she chat to? What’s she worried about? What makes her laugh and smile?

We explore the target audience in detail, using our own knowledge but also interrogating external information such as surveys, market reports, news we’ve discovered. Our aim is to understand motivations and emotions, because we’re looking to inspire emotional engagement, action and reaction.

  1. Understand the communication channels

Next drill down into communication channels – what media does she (our target audience) consume, what does she read or listen to; whose opinions does she trust and value? Our idea has to be conveyed to her in some way, so understanding the channels we need to infiltrate or influence is key.

  1. Use ‘tried and tested’ brainstorm techniques

There are some brainstorming techniques that are well known and well used for a reason – they really do help.  So use some of these techniques, such as ‘new shoes’. For example ‘How would Madonna promote this product?’ or ‘If you were Lady Gaga what would you do?’ to inspire a different way of thinking.

Other techniques we find really work include ‘get yourself sacked’ and ‘scratch and sniff’ but you’ll have to give us a call to find out more about them!

  1. Build on ideas

Most important is to build on each other’s idea and respect every grain of an idea, wherever it comes from.

We’re a small agency at Twelve but we’re from all walks of life and ages and that means we have very different experiences and ideas to offer. This is so important when it comes to thinking holistically about communication challenges – that we can benefit from each other’s input and build on, rather than knock down ideas.

  1. Be like Shakespeare

Never mind Bill (this is a social media meme joke) Shakespeare is our hero. We’re celebrating his 400th anniversary this year; his words and phrases are part of everyday speech, his plays and poetry still move us today.  What greater reaction or legacy could be hoped for? Wouldn’t he make an incredible PR man if he were alive today?!

This is why we’re delighted to sponsor the Shakespeare events at this year’s Chipping Norton Literary Festival. The Festival is from 21- 24th April and we’re sponsoring two events:

  • Explore a Shakespeare Play with Phillida Hancock Friday 22nd April 20:00- 21:00
  • Learn a Sonnet with Jonathan Stebbings Saturday 23rd April 18:00 – 19:00

You can find out more about the Chipping Norton Literary Festival on its website

  1. Enter our competition

To celebrate the beauty and inspiration of a great idea and a beautifully crafted phrase, we’re running a competition to win tickets to the Shakespeare workshops in the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, and also one grand prize of a creative inspiration kit.  Just go to our Facebook page to take part

This kit includes some key ingredients for dreaming up blue skies and creative ideas:

  • soft, luxurious blanket
  • comfy cushion
  • the collected sonnets of Shakespeare

Creative PR  kit

With this creative inspiration kit  you could find a lovely spot to rest in, and who knows, perhaps come up with the most amazing idea… Because our eighth tip for how to develop a creative PR idea is:

  1. Take time out

Visiting places, seeing new things, talking to new people, just sitting and day dreaming are all good ways to come up with new ideas. We usually run our idea generation across a few days, so that the ‘exploration phase’ is carried out first.  We make time to go away and mull over the challenge, armed with all the information we need, coming back later to the ‘ideas generation’ phase.

Great ideas can come from working under great pressure and focus, but how much nicer to have an idea pop into your head while you’re sitting under a tree, having a few quiet moments to think, maybe even nod off… hmmm “ to sleep, perchance to dream”….