Posts Tagged ‘Graphic Design’

We’ve all heard it before, the person who claims to be a graphic designer because they know Photoshop. Or how about the small business owner who creates his own website to save on costs. Maybe you know someone who printed their own business cards off a graphic design template they downloaded online. Anybody who wishes to call themselves a graphic designer these days can, they just have to buy a computer, the latest Adobe Creative Suite and give themselves the title. Does that mean they are a good graphic designer? Without any training, probably not. It doesn’t mean they can’t be good over time, but graphic design is an art form that communicates an idea or a thought with visual clarity. It is a skill. A hard skill to master. Sure, it’s a skill that can be learned.

These Common Mistakes Should Be Avoided

Too Much Stuff – Poor design is usually cluttered design. Good graphic design communicates in a clear manner, and when there is so much stuff on the paper (or screen for websites) then the message gets lost. It’s one of the most common mistakes, to keep piling on elements to the design that aren’t necessary. One of the best tips I ever got was to strip away everything that isn’t necessary to the message and that is usually the most effective design.

Bad Type – Graphic design is so much more than just pretty pictures. One of the most important, if not the most important, piece of graphic design is typography. A huge mistake graphic designers make is poor font choices and poor type layout. Typography is not just picking a nice font either. It’s the relationship of the characters to each other, to the design piece, and to the message. The shape of the font, the size of the type, the color, all these things fall under the typography category and make or break your design. Study up on typography and try not to use too many different fonts in one design. One or two fonts is usually plenty, (sometimes three). I try to keep them clean and in relation to the design.

Effects – Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and QuarkXPress all have preset effects in the program. Some are nice, some are not so nice. Using a bunch of them together usually results in a disaster. There is a time and place for drop shadows, and even glows, but most of the other effects look pretty cheesy.

Trendy – The best graphic design transcends time. Take a look at the work of Paul Rand, http://www.paul-rand.com, his designs from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s still look great today. Trendy design for the sake of trendiness is not good design. Unless you require a trend in your graphic design try to communicate with good design principles and your own creativity instead.

While working with these common mistakes in mind you’ll be able to further enhance your graphic design skills.

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Graphic design is a field that is quickly changing, both creatively and technically, and while it is easy to get caught up in learning new technical skills, it is just as important to focus improving and pushing the limits of our creativity.

Here are a few tips, exercises and practices that have helped me continue learning, strengthen creativity and become an all around better designer.

Become a collector
Each time you see a design that inspires you, collect it, bring it home and file it away. I have hundreds of brochures, posters and other collateral that I have collected over the years that is stacked away in folders and boxes that I can quickly access, a great source of inspiration when needed.

Buy books
Having an extensive book collection is always essential to learning. I try buying a new book at least every 2-3 weeks that range from inspirational, educational and technical topics.

Read design-related blogs
I can’t stress enough how much information I have learned by reading other great designers blogs. The web is an invaluable resource of information, take advantage of it and actually use it!

Start a design blog
Having started my blog only a month ago, I have found it to be extremely useful and educational for myself. It has made me more aware of the design community and more analytical of my own work.

Join and be active in the design community
As a designer, joining the online design community is a must. Not only does it keep you up-to-date in the design world, but is also great for feedback and critique.

Network with other designers
I always try to search out the designers that have more experience and talent than I do. I know – it’s hard to admit someone else is better than you, but networking with people of higher skill levels will push you to work harder and learn more.

Take lots of photos
Pictures of building designs, textures, shapes of shadows on walls, etc. Basically anything that interests me from a design stand point.

Create fake projects
Whenever I find myself with free time I create fake projects. Create a fake brand for a company. Design a logo, stationary, brochure, website. It’s good to do this once in awhile because it keeps design fun and let’s your creativity run wild without limitations. It’s often easy to get caught in a rut when clients start dictating and your work no longer becomes “yours”.

Redo your old designs
I know what it feels like to look at your early days of design and think “Oh my! What was I thinking?! I need to get rid of that immediately”, but it is important to keep that work. It will help you see if you’re moving forward and improving your skills. Instead of throwing away or deleting old projects, try reworking them.

Take classes
Many local colleges allow you to register for classes without enrolling full-time. It will not only teach you some new things technically, but also put you back in a classroom of your peers.

Learn something new
Whenever I am in a creative slump I try something new or do something completely unrelated to design. Getting your mind off things and into something new, usually has a funny way of working itself back around.

Grab a sketchbook
Helps you work through ideas quickly and without limitations of design software. Has made a HUGE difference in my designs.

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ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 12:  The  'Swoosh' logo...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Logo design is rapidly becoming an underrated process. We live in a very entrepreneurial age and it seems that everyone you meet is starting his or her own business. All of these business owners know they need a logo and very few of them can afford one.

Enter the quick fix. All one has to do is run a Google Search and become overrun with options for logo design services. Fifty bucks for a logo! Twenty-four hour turn around time! It’s a smorgasbord of symbols. How’s a new business to go wrong among such abundance?

It’s easy to assume that we’re looking at a buyer’s market here and that one logo design company is as good as the next. It doesn’t help that many new business owners (and many established business owners, for that matter) just don’t fully understand the design process. It’s all just pretty pictures, right? Well, yes and no.

We buy paintings for their aesthetic value, but graphic design has so much more work to do than just look good. Graphic design is about communication. It’s about conveying a message to your clients. And this communication all begins with your company’s logo. A logo just isn’t something you slap on your business card and call it good. Used properly, your logo is the very heart of your company’s identity. This one little graphic carries the weight of your brand and connects you and your products to your customers. It’s a big job and, frankly, some quick $50.00 piece of clip art just isn’t up to the task. This is something these quick-fix logo design shops will never understand.

Some companies approach the development of their logo with the same mindset they take in looking for a long-distance service. It’s a necessary evil, so might as well find the cheapest option available and get it over with quick. It really doesn’t help that many of these quick designs are substandard and wholly ineffective. This only reinforces the notion that logos aren’t really deserving of all the hype. Logos wind up losing their value through misuse or poor design.

On the other end of the scale are businesses that see a highly successful brand, such as Nike, and want that for their business. They become jaded when their logo doesn’t generate the same instant recognition as Nike’s swoosh, little realizing all of the millions of dollars Nike has spent to make sure you recognize their logo.

Caught in the middle is the design agency that suffers from either a lack of expectation or over-inflated expectations. So let’s clear one thing up about the process: No ad agency in the world can promise to design the equivalent of a Nike Swoosh for your business. If one does make this claim to you, put on your Nikes and run. Fast. The best we can do is work to come up with a design that reflects the personality of your business, a design that is a solid foundation around which to build your brand. This isn’t a process that can be done overnight. It isn’t a process that can be done dirt-cheap. And this isn’t a process that should be tackled by anyone less than a professional.

When it comes to the marketing of your business, your logo is the most important investment you will make. Properly conceived and executed, it will serve as the anchor that makes everything from your business cards to your advertisements coherent, consistent, easier and, most importantly, effective. A good logo design and its effective use isn’t going to be cheap, but it doesn’t have to break your bank, either. Many companies will still insist on going the quick fix route. I don’t begrudge them. I only wish them the best of luck and offer the best piece of advice I know in such a situation: You get what you pay for.

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