20 January 2010

Proximity and other Graphic Stuff

I don't know why I am still up.  Perhaps the Chicken Alfredo that Cliff talked me into getting at Olive Garden tonight has not settled in my stomach, especially after an intense ab workout at Zumba classes.  Ugh, either way I'm up and I can't help but think of the lesson I'll be attempting to go over with my students tomorrow.

Tomorrow we start discussing proximity and alignment. These are two of the design principles discussed by writer, Robin Williams.  Robin puts basic design principles into a memorable acrostic: "CRAP."  Yep, I said it, your designs need to look like CRAP!

Now, we have discussed design principles before at the beginning of the year based off the Digital Web Magazine, but I really like the way Robin Williams puts it, and the way she easily relates it to business through her examples with business cards, posters, ads, etc.  This is why we are going to discuss design principles according to Robin Williams--I want the students to relate this directly to business oriented design.  I want them to apply the principles to designing goods specifically for business.  I think it's important to know the difference between a good business card and one that totally stinks (typically one that sticks information in all four corners, which I'll post examples tomorrow.) I want the students to be able to design an ad or poster that makes it easy to read and really grabs the attention of the public.  I want my students to take something they can directly apply to the world of work once they leave my classroom.  (Afterall, that's the purpose of getting an education....right??)

So...in lieu of hoping to prepare these young minds with information to develop the skills to properly design promotional materials for the world of work, we'll begin to embark on this adventure while we finish up Fireworks by beginning on designing a business card.  After we design business cards (and hopefully print them out;) we'll move on to designing a promotional material such as a poster for their business and when we move on to flash, I want them to be able to design an interactive advertisement for the web in Flash. 

I know it sounds very strange but I really really love studying the principles of design and improving my design abilities and putting together things such as business cards and promotional items.  I'm not sure why, probably because it relates well with my organizational nature. 

However, here is some advise for you as you plan your graphic design adventures that my students should already know. (Because we've practically beaten this over and over in class.)

1. Don't use any more than 2-3 fonts on a design project. 
You don't want to clutter your project with a variety of fonts because then it will lack flow, and then the reader will stop reading, and the whole point of your project is so someone will read it.

2. Use decorative fonts sparingly.
Exactly as stated above. Use those decorative fonts sparingly!  Why?  Well Curlz is really cute and all but have you tried reading an entire paragraph written in it??  Your eyes get tired don't they?  So, my advise is to use the decorative font once---and not for a large body of text, more like a headline or sub headline and then the rest of the text should be in a clear, easy to read font such as "Times New Roman" or "Arial."

3. 1 Serif and 1 Sans Serif font please!
Here's my little vocabulary lesson for you: Serif means "feet" and Sans means "without" so, Sans Serif means "without feet."  A font with feet or "Serif" font example would be "Times New Roman."  A font without feet or "Sans Serif" font example would be "Arial."   Why is it important to use 1 and 1?  Well, if you use three different fonts that are Serif, then you won't be able to tell the difference between all of them as easily, and if you discern between the different fonts you will not be able to group important information together, which helps you better retain the information.

4. Dark fonts go with Light Backgrounds

Why you might ask??? Well, can you read lilac colored text very easily against a white background??  I cannot either.  That is why.  You don't want to strain your reader's eyes.  This is especially important with digital design because eyes already have to adjust to reading on a computer screen.

5. Light fonts go with Dark Backgrounds
Just like the reasoning for number 4, you want to see some contrast between your text and your background so the reader's eyes are not as easily strained.  Have you ever tried to read dark blue text on black background, (a choice that is a favorite among my students before they have come to grips with design reality.)  It's awful for your eyes!!!

Just using these simple guidelines in designing the promotional materials for your photography and the graphics you create such as holiday cards can make a difference in the appearance of your business.  It can take your promotional professionalism to a whole new level!  Try these guidelines out and see how your appearance might seem different.

Here are a couple of visual aids to help you keep in mind the next time you design a business card or promotional material for your business.

This business card is a BAD example of what your card should look like.  This card has no flow and pieces of information are randomly stuck in corners. You want your business card and promotional materials to have a definite flow, an order in which the reader will look over the card, and this has no order whatsoever.

This is a better example of what a business card should look like.  It uses the principles of proximity and alignment to create a card that has flow and defined order.  Proximity is the concept of grouping alike items together.  Notice how the name of the company and the representative's names are grouped together, and then all the contact information is grouped together further down the line.  Also notice, this card is lacking two very important pieces of contact information for this day and age.....an email address and a web address!  Those are almost more important than the phone number.  Especially if you are a photographer or graphic designer, a web site is a must! A web site is a way for you to display your work, it's your portfolio, so you most definitely want it available on your business card.

Also remember the rules about color, if you use too much, it will be too busy and distract from the core content of the card, your contact information and name.  It will take away from the flow.  So, decide on a color scheme, with about three colors and a fourth if it is used VERY sparingly---pref. that fourth color be a basic black or white.  There is really a strong statement you can make with only three colors on a card.

If you feel the need to suddenly re-design your business cards, consult this great blog entry at the Web Designer Depot which is titled; "100 (Really) Creative Business Cards."  These all make a statement and are sure to gain a spot in a wallet or purse whenever they are handed out.  They are all unique enough that people should feel like they are throwing away art if they dare toss it into the trash.

Also, while we are on the subject of typography, (the study of words, type, and letters,) here's another great blog entry from the Web Designer Depot regarding Typography Rules for every Designer---mostly aimed at Web pages, but also very applicable to designs in print as well. 

Well, I updated, added a few pictures, perhaps I'll add a few more examples throughout the weekend.
'Till Next Time!

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