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.





Beautiful idea, beautiful PR – how you can get it right too

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Water-saving shower crowdfunds almost $1m in less than 2 days

To read the full story of this incredibly exciting new product, which looks set to be in thousands of homes soon, go to, the market-leading information resource for sustainability in business.

“A new shower that is 70% more water-efficient than regular models is nearing $1m of funding in its Kickstarter campaign less than 48 hours after launch. Nebia’s campaign raised $100,000 to reach its original target in its first eight hours before driving on to half a million dollars within 15 hours. The Nebia shower, which claims to save water and energy compared to standard shower technology, has more than 2,700 backers and support from Silicon Valley bosses, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google chairman Eric Schmidt.”

Why has this idea been such a hit and how can you learn from it?

The Nebia shower story has ticked all the following boxes and by doing so been an instant success:

  1. Meets a need.
  2. Authentic back story.
  3. Handles objections head on.
  4. Double benefit to the consumer – intellectual and emotional.
  5. 360 degree communication offering.

Old school sales people will recognise some classic sales techniques in here, so let’s unpick them and complement them with some new digital techniques, to create a check list for an outstanding product launch.

Meets a need

Why would anyone want your product? This is the oldest ‘check list’ in the book. You have to make your customer aware of their need. Not hard in Nebia’s case, where people are living through the worst drought in California’s recorded history.


People crave authenticity and humanity in our highly engineered world now. The individual who triumphs, the pioneer who makes a breakthough, that lightbulb moment…“ Co-founder and fitness company manager Carlos Andonaegui found his gyms were using high levels of water in their showers.”…  Yes that makes sense, I can see that’s an issue, is the response you’re looking to achieve.

Handles objectives head on

Another classic sales technique – draw out the hidden objective, and then ‘overcome’ it..  Here it is done so nicely: “We set out to create a better shower experience first and save as much water as possible,” said Winter. “It turns out the age-old belief that more water equals a better experience isn’t necessarily true.”

Benefit to the consumer

You never miss out the benefit do you, it’s such an old chestnut! …. “According to Nebia, the new shower also saves energy due to its system being 13 times more thermally efficient than regular shower heads. The founders claim the shower could save an average Californian home of four 21,000 gallons of water per year, as well as saving $397.”

360 degree communication offering

This story includes a choice of  good quality images showing the product being used in different ways, plus there’s also the original Kickstarter video. There are two good reasons to include a video. Firstly some people like to watch them, they increase engagement, and secondly Google measures them, so they boost SEO.

So to summarise here’s your checklist for great product launch communication:

  1. Explain, in human terms, not ‘corporate speak,’ what the product does and why it was created, be honest.
  2. Describe the story, including any set – backs you had along the way in product development, be authentic.
  3. Drill down into the questions people will ask  – and then think even harder about how you answer these questions.  Make sure you communicate these points, don’t duck issues.
  4. Provide information in a range of styles: words + website + picture + video = every angle covered
  5. Get your message out, send it out to the right channels and influencers.

How to boost your presentation delivery techniques

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Here’s some really simple but effective ways to improve the delivery of any presentations you’re giving.

Because, whether you’re preparing to give a speech for your AGM; to be the key note speaker at a big conference; take part in a round table discussion, or just going to record a short vox pop, its always worth taking a few moments to consider whether a few simple changes might boost how well your words are received.

People were asked to watch TED talks with and without the words and the results are both startling and useful:

1. The words don’t actually matter

The audience rated the talks the same, with or without words, based on how the speaker looked and moved.

2. Smiling makes you look smarter

“Smiling not only gives off positive energy, but people actually perceive those who smile as more intelligent.”

3. The use of hand gestures adds context

The research found a direct correlation between the number of arm movements and how highly the talk was rated.

4. Storytelling is crucial

Fluctuating speaking tones are more captivating, with charisma felt to come from the varying tone, volume and pitch of the voice.

 5. Make a grand entrance

“On average, TED speakers who smiled, used hand gestures and acted comfortable before words were exchanged within the first seven seconds were perceived as more personable and charismatic.”

I was surprised to see these results from talks which are so famed for their leading edge content, rather than their delivery.  They prove that even the most interesting content can be made more impactful by paying attention to just a few simple presentation delivery techniques.

You can read more about the research from the brilliant PSFK website.