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[DOWNLOAD] Use This 6-Point Facebook Ad Design Checklist Before Launching Your Next Campaign (…and draw inspiration from 20 critiqued ads!)

DigitalMarketer has been on quite the ride as we’ve solidified our brand and style.

As our resident Graphic Designer, I’ve spent the last three years developing our design aesthetic and process across multiple channels—especially Facebook advertising.

Design is all about trial and error, and we’ve pushed our ads to the limit by changing the creative process over and over until we saw results, then we did what we do best…

facebook-ad-design-inspiration-quoteDocumented that process so we can keep doing what works.

Today, I’m sharing our process with you using the 6-Point Facebook Ad Design Checklist—with a swipeable PDF! You’ll use this checklist to help build your ads, from font and color choices to coming up with a creative concept.

I’ve also included an analysis of 20 Facebook ads from a variety of brands, including Seventh Generation, Hubspot, and AdEspresso. I’ll point out what they did right and, perhaps more importantly, what they could improve.

Let’s get started!

6-Point Facebook Ad Design Checklist

You don’t have to be a professional graphic designer to create ads that generate leads and conversions.

If your ads convey your messaging, stay true to your brand, and follow a few simple guidelines… you’ll fit right in with the rest of the big league advertisers!

Before launching any of your ad campaigns, put your ads through the paces of this checklist and see how they stack up:

1. Create a Powerful Message & Conceptualize Images

Don’t be afraid to get a little creative for this part! Start with lots of research. It’s important to have a simple, clear representation of the marketing message.

Here’s how you can begin your research:

  • Search Google for similar products to yours. How are they being marketed?
  • Why are you offering this particular product/service?
  • What are the benefits of the offer?
  • Who do you want to target? Who is your audience?
  • What’s the end result they can achieve?
  • What is the emotion/feeling you want to convey?

Communicate the answers to these questions in your image wherever you can. An effective Facebook ad image is much more than just a pretty picture.

A good image will weave in the marketing message as much as possible.

2. Sketch Out Ideas Before Laying Out Design Elements

This is all about planning what you are going to do and where you want things to be.

Don’t worry about colors or font choices just yet. facebook-ad-design-inspiration-quote

In this step, start planning your graphic aesthetic (photo-based vs. illustration), what program(s) you’ll use to create the image, and, most importantly, the layout/placement of your design elements.

When design is used strategically and planned out, it will ultimately benefit the company to grow and reach goals.

3. Use Complimentary/Contrasting Colors

Facebook ads have to POP!

Using only a few complementary color choices will help obtain this goal. You don’t have to add 10 different colors to your ad!

Avoid colors that are harsh on the eye.

  • How can you get people to stop on YOUR ad?
  • How can you set your ad apart?
  • How can you create a pattern interrupt?

4. Choose Your Fonts

Only use 1 or 2 different font families for your image. Too many font choices will be distracting from your overall message.

Pick legible, clear fonts especially if it’s going to be a small Facebook ad.

An abstract, complex image that is hard to define will only deter readers.

5. Add Text & a Call-to-Action (CTA) to Your Image

The perfect place to add a short description of the offer or your CTA is on the image. Some people won’t read the ad copy as they scroll through their newsfeed – but the image, and the text on it, is more likely to grab their attention.

Keep in mind, by having a really strong image/graphic, you may not always have to rely on the CTA/text to get the job done.

6. Is Your Image Congruent with Your Brand?

Make sure the image/graphic not only makes sense with the ad messaging/hook, but that it makes sense with your overall brand.

Be consistent with styles throughout your ads and your website. You want to keep people hooked and to maintain ad scent.

By staying consistent, you will ultimately help your users achieve their desired end result.

Swipe the 6-Point Facebook Ad Design Checklist now.

Now, let’s take a look at a variety of Facebook ads to see what they got right, what they could’ve done better, and what you can take from them to create your own ads!

1. Ad Tests with AdEspresso


What They Did Right

The concept here is really clever!

Very nice, eye-catching illustration of a doctor testing the heartbeat of a Facebook ad. And it creates a nice rhythm by subtly adding other “Facebook Ad people” in line waiting to be tested, which also goes along with the hook, “We Tested Over 100 Different Facebook Ads in One Month.”

The use of color is great, too. Using a yellow background with red bold text to contrast really makes things stand out. The call-to-action (CTA) and text are simple and limited to two font families and centered to draw your eye to the main graphic of the ad. The text doesn’t have to be huge either because the imagery is really strong. Also, adding in a complimentary color of bright blue ties it together and allows the ad to pop overall.

What They Did Wrong

Overall, it seems a little busy and cluttered. And the hook, “We Tested Over 100 Different Facebook Ads in One Month” could be in all bold rather than the copy below it – “Here’s What We Learned.”

How They Could Make It Better

Shrink the imagery down a bit. Or take the nurse out of the image on the left. I think having the doctor there will still get the message across. A Facebook ad’s size is already a small space to work with – but it is okay to have a little breathing room and not take up the entire space necessarily (less is more).

2. Leave Nothing Behind with Seventh Generation


What They Did Right

Image is everything.

The image sells the business – happiness and “feeling good” about using the cleaning product. It has great, high-quality, bright imagery cropped nicely to show the child’s expression. The body copy is simple with one font choice and a clear hierarchy, and the design elements behind the text evoke a sense refinement. Overall, the ad is very well-balanced.

What They Did Wrong

Make the copy “0% Toxic” stand out more since that is an important part of the message. Overall, this ad is very nicely executed, and I do not have many changes to suggest.

How They Could Make It Better

I’d bold the copy “0% Toxic,” so it doesn’t get lost when the image shrinks down as it will on mobile. I’d also advise that they test a couple different images that still plays with the hook to take this ad to the next level.

3. Crash Course in Content Marketing


What They Did Right

They used bright, vibrant colors to catch your attention, and the text block and font choice have a clear hierarchy. The pencil is pointing towards the CTA and the text, which helps direct your eye to the main focus of the ad. And it is always a good idea to brand your ad with your logo, if possible (especially if people are not aware of your brand just yet).

What They Did Wrong

The concept here is lacking just a bit. I’m not sure what a gopher has anything to do with teaching someone a course about content marketing. The design elements aren’t flowing together and are placed in a random order with no concise rhythm to it. Finally, the yellow copy at the bottom of the text block is way too small – a person has to strain to read it.

How They Could Make It Better

To make this ad better, they should simplify things a little more. Your image should always tie back to the messaging and, right now, this ad is lacking in that. I’d also advise to think about three to four other image ideas and concepts that can go along with the message “Content Marketing Crash Course” and then test them out – see which one performs better.

4. Secret Niche Funnel


What They Did Right

I love seeing cat ads – who doesn’t?! They are cute, likable, super soft, little creatures. Also, it is a very nice, bright image that grabs your attention. And someone may be interested to know what that cat is looking at.

What They Did Wrong

This ad is suffering extremely.

Not only is there no clear messaging on the ad or any type of branding, it’s not very clear what they are offering. Then, the space is poorly utilized.

When I first see this ad, I do not think of any kind of marketing – I think maybe this is an ad for a pet store (keep in mind ad scent).

You want people to understand your ad within two to four seconds as they scroll quickly through their newsfeed, so it grabs peoples’ attention. You have to make it clever and interesting enough for someone to stop and take the time to find out more about the offer.

How They Could Make It Better

They need to add a CTA and a short description in the empty space, which will make it look more like an ad/offer, rather than just a normal cat photo.

To help maintain ad scent, think of some other elements/graphics that are in the training video that you could possibly use and tie that back into the ad image.

5. Where Did He Learn to Sell Like That?


What They Did Right

The image does showcase someone selling something with multiple laptops open and a headset on. So it does relate somewhat back to the ad copy of, “Where did he learn to sell like that?”. But I was not very impressed with this ad.

What They Did Wrong

This ad uses a really poor image. It is low-quality, dark, and blurry, which can be hard to catch people’s attention. Next, the sun glaring in the window takes the focus off what the person is doing. There’s some empty space that can be utilized for a possible short CTA of the offer or an opportunity to brand it with their logo.

How They Could Make It Better

Brighten up the overall image or find a better high-quality image that is more in focus and easier to convey quickly. Then, add some branding, logo, or a short CTA in the empty space to tie it all together and make it stand out.

6. Increase Business Sales and Engagement


What They Did Right

I like the simplicity of this ad: It has good copy and a nice, bright color scheme to grab your attention. Font choice is limited to one font and italicizing/bolding fonts is good to show emphasis.

What They Did Wrong

Some things just do not make sense.

The old fashioned styled pin-up woman looks as if she is yawning or tired, rather than being excited to, “Create a Video in 5 Minutes.” Gradient backgrounds also can sound cliche if they aren’t used correctly, and this one, for example, isn’t blended very well, so it just comes across as bad Photoshopping instead of professional background lighting.

How They Could Make It Better

Have someone look like they are editing a video on the computer or create/use a custom video graphic that is related to the program. Next, tone down the gradient in the background. Finally, adjust the text to be a little bit bigger overall.

7. Holiday Swipe File


What They Did Right

I like the Christmas color scheme going on and the overall simplicity of the ad.

What They Did Wrong

There is no clear hierarchy on this ad.

The spacing between the headlines in the bottom right of the ad needs some slight adjusting. As is, this ad can be a little hard to read when the lines of copy are that close together.

Next, there are three font choices used, which doesn’t help the ad have a theme.

Also, the other CTA blurb, “34 Holiday Images, Posts, & FB Covers” is way too small and seems to be placed randomly on the ad with no rhyme or reason – it gets lost, which is not what you want with your CTA.

How They Could Make It Better

Take time to plan and think about placement and layout. I’d sketch out a few ideas before placing any design elements on the ad.

Next, adjust some text sizes, line spacing, and narrow the font choices down to one to two font families.

The “Free Download” blurb in the tree could be a little brighter shade of green to help it stand out from the darker shade of green behind it.

8. Live Masterclass


What They Did Right

I love how Amy Porterfield is looking directly at the CTA/messaging, which draws your eye directly to it.

The color scheme of this ad is bright and stands out, and by keeping the black and white it allows the CTA/text to be bright and the main focus.

What They Did Wrong

This ad has three to four font choices, which makes the ad hard to read.

The top line “Free Live Masterclass” gets lost with the rest of the messaging. The big yellow line at the bottom feels like it is not serving this ad any purpose – it is not necessary.

How They Could Make It Better

They could start by brightening up the words “Free Masterclass” to a much lighter shade so it does not get lost in the black background.

Next, to help with readability, avoid stretching text like in the word “LIVE.” Add a logo or a very short CTA in the yellow line so it has more of a purpose or just get rid of it altogether.

Limit the font choices to one to two font families. You can still choose different weights from within those font families so you have more to play around with.

You can see a much simpler ad below:


This variation is much better with two font choices and colors. And by making the yellow color in the font match her shirt, it allows for visual echo.

9. Find Your Next Job


What They Did Right

This set of Facebook ads by the company Hired is a great example of keeping the brand consistent.

The design aesthetic here has been carefully thought about before going into creation mode. Having one typography choice, high saturated color scheme, and a consistent white font with a contrasting “pop” color really allows for these ads to be powerful in its simplicity. And all the concepts play really well with each of their hooks/message.

What They Did Wrong

Keeping the font consistently white throughout limits your background colors. Also, some of the graphics are a little small and could take up more space.

How They Could Make It Better

I would suggest to make sure the background colors have enough contrast with the white so it is not straining on the eye. Or change the white font to a darker color. Adjust some of the icons/graphics to be slightly bigger so they are more of the main focus.

10. Free Book


What They Did Right

Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything that was done right about this image. And I really wanted to like this ad, but there are a lot of things that threw me off.

What They Did Wrong

First, there is no clear messaging or ad creative direction at all. It looks like this man is begging for forgiveness rather than praising to people about how good the book really is. A dark gloomy image of someone with their face down (with no clear messaging) immediately causes a disconnect from the viewer.

How They Could Make It Better

Choose a colorful, bright image of people excited or someone shouting with joy with a book in their hand (I’d test a few different image variations). Also, add a short quote/testimonial for a CTA in the ad image to tie things together.

11. Back to School


What They Did Right

The concept here is simply amazing, and I loved how they tied the hook into their imagery. The little paper airplanes are pointing towards the ad copy, directing your eye where to go – a brilliant design choice.

The color choices are subtle, but pop just enough to catch your attention.

They were also able to tie back in the message, “Stand out! Be a Trailblazer” by making one of the paper planes a bright red color separate from the others.

And, finally, adding the logo in the top left corner was the key to tying the brand together.

What They Did Wrong

There was a missed opportunity here to be trailblazer with their text. “Stand out! Be a Trailblazer” could’ve been larger and bolder, while still fitting the Facebook guidelines 20% rule.

As it stands, the top line is a bit hard to read. As the main hook, it could stand to be more prominent.

How They Could Make It Better

Adjust the text size a little bit, and they’ll be good to go. Overall, this ad is top-notch.

12. Save Time with HubSpot


What They Did Right

I love the concept here. HubSpot did a great job with this one. They do a really nice job tying in the imagery with the offer.

What They Did Wrong

The overall resolution of the image is definitely low which makes it hard to consume.

Although the concept is great, it is executed a little rough. I think it just needed a bit of Photoshop retouching to make some things stand out, or just use a better camera when taking the original photo.

How They Could Make It Better

Zoom up on the phone a little more since that is that main focus.

Also, brighten up the image overall. It’s much harder for your eyes to focus on something when the picture is dark and grainy — there is no clear focal point.

13. Need a Loan?


What They Did Right

The concept, colors, layout — I love everything about this image!

It definitely catches your attention right off the bat. They executed the flat-illustrated look very nicely.

I love the hook, “Small business loans are changing,” and the correlation with the imagery of the world’s ever-changing technology.

The color palette is a great choice; very bright and vibrant.

Check out how they showed emphasis on the typewriter by making it orange and contrasting against the rest of the image.

What They Did Wrong

Nothing. It’s great as is! The concept is amazing!

How They Could Make It Better

They could’ve made the text in the image stand out just a little bit.

And, for branding purposes, they could add their logo in the corner. Overall, a very well-done ad :).

14. Got Backlinks?


What They Did Right

The imagery looks fun and playful, but the concept here is lacking just a bit. I am a little confused and not really sure what to do or where to go with this one. The illustration is nice, but it’s a little too misleading and unclear.

What They Did Wrong

This is not a good example of leaving text off the ad image. By adding a CTA in the image to grab someone’s attention, it could make someone a little more interested to find out more about the offer.

How They Could Make It Better

Re-think the hook, and correlate it with some better imagery that ties into their offer a little more.

Also, add some text in the ad image, and be clearer on the overall message.

15. Craft Your Design


What They Did Right

This ad really did a great job catching my attention and to the “specific target audience” — especially considering I know this design platform a little too well ;).

I love how they took the hook, “Craft your design without code,” and implemented it in an actual design program. Then, made it look like it was in the process of being designed – very, nicely executed.

Also, the subtle splash of bright yellow and blue buttons against the dark background was a nice choice to make it POP!

What They Did Wrong

Nothing. They really did a great job!

How They Could Make It Better

They could’ve made the CTA button a little bit bigger – as long as it would work with the 20% rule.

16. Change the World


What They Did Right

I do like how the logo is implemented in the ad, but it is a bit confusing on what the offer is or what they are trying to convey.

What They Did Wrong

Not giving enough thought into the concept and imagery choices. Leaving out any type of CTA to the image. There’s no reason for someone to click on the ad.

How They Could Make It Better

Think more creatively to tie the message into the imagery while still implementing the brand – look for examples and research to get inspiration (We all do it!). It helps to create many rough sketches/mockups before creating the actual final ad image on the computer.

Also, adding a clear, short CTA in the image is always helpful and makes people interested to find out more about the offer.

17. Built for Small Businesses


What They Did Right

I wanted to show a few ads from InfusionSoft to show how they stay true to brand consistency.

By having a similar color palette and one to two similar typography choices throughout their aesthetic really allows these ads to be easily recognizable. They always have a very, clear message.

Also, it is great how they can take regular stock imagery and Photoshop them very slightly to their brand by bringing in branded colors and fonts. Overall, they stay true to that “business” look and feel since they are a platform for small businesses.

What They Did Wrong

Nothing, this is a great example of using design and imagery to reach your audience and stay true to your brand!

How They Could Make It Better

Not a note to share — this a great example of staying true to your brand across the board!

18. Selling Smart


What They Did Right

The color choice is nice, and I do like how they incorporated the logo. Branding is always very important.

But the imagery seems to be a little off and it is not really clear to me on what they are selling and may even seem like a scam to others.

What They Did Wrong

Just correlate the copy with the image a little better.

The copy, “Smartest Way to Sell On Facebook,” and a girl looking at an iPad in a pool does not really tell me very much at all. It leaves things open ended and unclear, and is not really engaging to the consumer to learn more about the offer.

How They Could Make It Better

To be able to convey a simple, clear message that can tie in with the imagery a little better while still maintaining the brand’s identity.

19. Get Hired


What They Did Right

The concept here is absolutely spot-on!

I love how they tied in the hook with the imagery and I really enjoy the simple, custom illustrated look. The two different people in different job settings is very nicely executed – especially by the change of color and how they put more emphasis on the right side by making it bright blue, vibrant, and happy looking – and the left side is very sad, dark, and gloomy.

Also, the use of white space around the circles is really eye-catching and breaks out of the normal “rectangle” dimension that we are all used to seeing! This is also a good example of the imagery being so strong that it conveys the message without needing any text on the ad image.

What They Did Wrong

Nothing, this is a great use of imagery and message-match.

How They Could Make It Better

Nothing — the imagery explains it all! No need to clutter it with more info.

20. Be a Social Monkey


What They Did Right

They mention “successful entrepreneurs,” so adding a person smiling looking directly at you can definitely grab your attention, but it’s just not enough to make someone interested enough to click.

Give them a CTA on the image, especially while trying to gain credibility.

What They Did Wrong

Not adding any text or CTA on the image.

How They Could Make It Better

Definitely adding text or a CTA and playing more with the image; maybe adding a speech bubble with a message inside.

Something to make it pop and look more like an ad and not just a random picture on Facebook.

You want something to stand out NOT blend in.

(RELATED: [Template Download] How to Build Highly Engaging Images for Your Facebook Page)

And that’s it! Use these ads for inspiration when you’re creating your next campaign, and reap the rewards with your audience.

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