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Writer Wednesday: Writer's Toolbox Week 6

Guest Post: Designer Lucy Rhodes & How to Utilize Design Templates

Well hello there Wednesday, and to all you wonderful writers as well! Congratulations on making it halfway through another week in the year that just keeps on keeping on. I’m Lucy Rhodes, Sword & Silk’s in-house cover designer, and I’m back this week to talk you through the biggest badly-kept secret when it comes to implementing your branding like a pro: Design Templates.

What is a Design Template?

In technical terms, a Design Template is an editable file containing text placeholders, images (either stock

or placeholders), borders, backgrounds, and other design elements in a predetermined layout. Ideally these elements—including fonts, colors and overall aesthetics, iconography and themes—and, of course, the design as a whole, should all align with your Author Brand.

A Design Template can be both something like a pre-filled form, where specific details, such as the name and profile picture of different guests or events, are customized and switched out as needed, or a fixed design that is scaled for different platforms (e.g. a social media header image).

Essentially a Design Template acts like a Mad Libs for your marketing and social media feeds; you can make small changes but the framework stays the same. And, like, totally professional or whatever.

While you’re most likely to use a Design Template for social media posts, they’re also useful for:

  • Creating your Author Branding elements, like your logo,

  • Newsletters and emails,

  • Swag

  • Website banners and pages,

  • Blog posts,

  • Cover images for Pinterest boards and Instagram story highlights

  • And SO much more!

When it comes to creating a Design Template, your options are basically either to make one from scratch, either yourself or with a Graphic Designer, or you can use a pre-made.

I’ve outlined some more info on pre-made Design Templates below, but first a quick note: Just like with stock images, fonts, and other graphic and design resources, it’s important to be mindful of ethical sourcing and associated legal implications, particularly when it comes to things that are very cheap or free. Some are only licensed for personal use, which your branding or marketing may not fall under, for example, book covers or anything that’s going to directly make you money definitely don’t fall under ‘Personal Use’. ‘Standard Licensing’ might also restrict the number of times you’re allowed to use the resource. My blanket advice is to err on the side of caution when it comes to the legal stuff. I also encourage you to do your best to respect the original artists and creators through attribution, fair compensation, and obeying licensing and usage terms. We all know plagiarism sucks.

Three reasons why (and how) you should be using Design Templates:

1. They save time.

One of the biggest benefits of using a Design Template is just how much time can save, particularly in the long run. There’s a small time investment as you get everything set up, but remember that what you’re setting up is basically a conveyor belt of ready-to-customize marketing images you can churn out at your convenience. Consider, for example, a weekly blog post, and the time and effort you’d need to put in to create an attractive, well-branded marketing image from scratch every single week, versus a couple of hours once and then five or ten minutes switching out the text and maybe a stock image in a template the rest of the year. That time cost really adds up!

If you’re using pre-made templates, then you’ve also got the added time-saving of not having to create your templates from scratch. Sure, you’ll once again need to sink a little time (and maybe money) in at the start to find and customize the right templates for your Author Brand, but you’re also saving dozens of hours from doing it yourself.

At the end of the day a Design Template will both allow you the freedom to work within the constraints of your schedule (picture those frantic last-minute mornings when you totally forgot an event was starting today!) and free up extra time in the long run. This time-saving aspect is also a huge asset when small adjustments need to be made last-minute.

2. Prestige without the price tag (or the profession practice).

A major benefit of using pre-made Design Templates, as opposed to creating them from scratch, is that someone else with a high level of skill, talent and experience is doing the hard yards for you. They’ve got the inspiration, creativity and proficiency covered; you just need to fill in the blanks and click ‘download’. At the same time you’re also not paying the premium a personalized batch of Design Templates would cost if you hired a Graphic Designer.

There is a huge pool of Design Templates out there, especially when it comes to social media posts. If you sit somewhere between fluent and comfortable in a pro design software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, you can very easily access Design Templates as .psd files from sites like Creative Market (pre-paid credits or PAYG), Envato Elements (subscription based), or FreePik (subscription based), as well as directly through Adobe Stock (PAYG or subscription based, as well as a range of free templates).

If you’re not a Photoshop pro, there’s an abundance of fantastic design apps and websites just waiting to do the hard work for you. Confession: Even as a professional Graphic Designer, I often prefer to use some of these apps (specifically, Canva and BookBrush) over Photoshop when it comes to creating marketing images. There’s a small learning curve, but overall they are simple to use, have a great range of in-built resources, elements and templates, and make it really easy to collaborate with my clients. BookBrush is particularly awesome because it’s targeted to authors. It has the added bonus of being able to turn your e-book covers into 3D mockups with just a few clicks! Some other apps with similar functionalities include Pixlr, Placeit, and Easil. The best news is that all of these apps have free subscription tiers that include thousands of Design Templates for you to use.

3. Control Brand consistency and cohesion.

This one’s a bit of a no-brainer. Mad-Libs references aside, I also find it helpful to think of Design Templates as digital cookie cutters.

Not only do they function to maximise efficiency, they also establish and maintain visual consistency and cohesion within and across each of your marketing platforms. This also carries over to instances where you’re working with a team, whether that’s a VA, a specialist provider, a co-op or collab, using Design Templates means that you can trust that there will be baseline consistency and cohesion to the marketing images being produced as part of your Author Brand.


First of all, rude and you missed some good stuff. Second of all, basically Design Templates are amazing and you should be using them if you’re not already. Work smarter, not harder!

I’ll be back again soon to cover some more design-related topics. If you have questions or would like us to do a deep dive into another graphic design topic, drop us a comment below.

Thank you Lucy for the fabulous post! Stay tuned this Friday for another episode of The Pumpkin Spice Girl Murders, an S & S cowritten horror story!

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1 Comment

Oct 22, 2020

I loved this post. It came at the perfect time when I needed inspiration to move forward on a project I've been uncertain about. Thank you Lucy and Kristin for sharing this helpful stuff.

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