Archive for the ‘Designing’ Category

Typography Basics for Documents and Web Sites

August 23, 2011

As we move forward with adding web-based communication methods to traditional print-based ones, it becomes clear that modifications to existing standards for print are needed. This is particularly true of typography since conditions for the web are quite different than for print.

Typography today is the result of Johann Gutenberg’s use of movable type in the mid- 1400s. He was the first European to use individual letters, numbers, and spaces to assemble into words, sentences, and pages that could be disassembled and used again. Movable type, combined with Gutenberg’s invention of oil-based ink and modification of agricultural presses for printing, became the basis for printing for centuries.

The process of manufacturing movable type in metal was continually improved and eventually fostered a true art form – the creation of alphabets, numerals, and characters in a single size, weight, and style (called a font) with distinctive characteristics, artistically rendered and mathematically balanced. Movable type progressed from crafting fonts individually to cutting matrices and casting the fonts with hot metal to compositing machines with molten lead vats that created whole lines of type on-the-fly (hot type). Eventually typecasting yielded to computerization – first as phototypesetting and later as desktop publishing.

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Good Graphic Design… The Secret Ingredient in Visual Communication

January 7, 2011

Communicating via visual means is central to the selling process. Imagine trying to explain your product or service without having the assistance of a brochure, a display ad, or a web site. Think how difficult it would be to differentiate your product from others on the shelf without attractive packaging. All buying decisions include some amount of emotion – how would you quickly evoke emotion without the assistance of images?

Visual communication is a process that uses investigation, analysis, and planning to identify a communication requirement as a first step in designing something meant to be seen rather than heard or felt. Visual communication is a broad discipline that uses graphic design, drawing, illustration, typography, and color to convey a thought, to inform, to educate, or to persuade a target audience.

You may have heard us use the term graphic design when discussing a marketing or sales-related printed piece, creating or refreshing a logo, or updating a web site. What we mean by this is all the techniques, from composition to page layout, that are needed to prepare for the final step – printing, taking a web site live, branding, etc.

Picture This… Using Images in Documents

May 28, 2010

Imagine a page of text describing a product offered for sale. Now imagine that same page with images of the product added. Even in your imagination there’s a difference – the image adds interest to the page and improves its appearance.

That’s the power of images, whether they are photographs, clip art, illustrations, charts, graphs, or symbols. To attract attention and improve reader comprehension, nothing beats an image.

An image has maximum effectiveness when it satisfies these four criteria: the image is worthy of being printed; it is of good quality; it is relevant to the text; and it is consistent with the design and layout of the document. In this issue of Printips we will focus on what makes a good quality digital image for print.

Simple Changes Make the Common Uncommon

May 21, 2010

How many common printing items – newsletters, post cards, brochures, note pads, note cards, thank you notes – do you routinely use for communicating with customers and prospects? How long has it been since you looked at those items with a fresh eye?

If you were to lay everything out on a table, would the company name, logo, and contact information be consistently displayed on each item? Do fonts change from item to item? Is the company’s web site on each piece? These consistencies are the elements of brand identity and are important no matter what your company size or location or how many items you routinely print.

But while it is important to maintain consistency and predictability for your brand identity, it can be refreshing to move away from conformity in the size and shape of common printing items. In this issue of Printips we’ll offer a few simple changes that will make common printing items eye-catching and unique.

Layout Basics… a Design Clinic

May 17, 2010

We often use Printips to share information about graphic design. Our purpose for this is simple: the more you know about good graphic design, the better you’ll be able to analyze your organization’s sales and marketing materials for effectiveness.

There is a significant correlation between the success – or failure – of marketing material and how well the information in it is presented and organized. So pull out a flyer or advertisement or product information sheet and follow along as we review the basics of page layout.

There are four basic elements that are the building blocks of page design:
• The headline establishes the purpose of the page;
• The copy provides the facts, features and benefits;
• A visual element like a photograph or graphic illustrates the copy;
• The signature contains the company’s name, logo, and contact information.

To make the elements work effectively, they must be organized to consider hierarchy—the ranking of elements on the page by importance – and reader eye flow, a description of how the reader’s eye moves around on the page.

Graphic Design for Print and Web

May 16, 2010

First we thought the PC was a calculator. Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII — and we thought it was a typewriter. Then we discovered graphics, and we thought it was a television. With the World Wide Web, we’ve realized it’s a brochure.
— Douglas Noel Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

As digital technology evolved from graphic design to page layout to web design, graphic artists adapted software tools and design principles to work in the new discipline. Initially, many designers with roots in graphic design for print migrated to the less controllable and more fluid design environment of the World Wide Web while retaining skills in design for print.

Today the situation is different. A graphic designer may train only for web design and have no experience with print. And even though design for print and design for web both must consider how to display text and graphics, how to use color and typography, and how to guide the reader around the page, the two design environments are very different. To be successful, today’s graphic designer must either understand the requirements for design in each, or limit their activities to web or print.

In this issue of Printips we’ll discuss three primary differences between the two environments and explain why what works in one may not work in the other.

Color Us CMYK

May 11, 2010

Color influences us in many ways. It affects our thought process, guides our emotional response, and can even provoke a physical reaction. We use color-based phrases to describe emotion (seeing red, feeling blue or being green with envy) or attribute characteristics (cowardly yellow, black hearted, red blooded). Lack of color is associated with deprivation, while vibrant color connotes richness and vitality.

Color results from energy waves grouped in a color spectrum, and the visible spectrum is the part of the total spectrum that can be seen by the human eye. In Opticks, Sir Isaac Newton provided an early explanation of the visible spectrum and organized a color wheel or color circle to show the relationship between the colors in the visible spectrum (violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, red). A rainbow is a familiar representation of the visible spectrum.

Design That Communicates

May 10, 2010

Whether your task is to design a sales brochure, a display ad, or a newsletter, the purpose is the same: to communicate a message to an audience and to produce a desired response. Put simply, you want to say something to someone so that the person takes a specific action. What this means is that the design you develop is not just about appearance – it is also about the performance of the target audience. Thus good design is measured equally by form and function.

In The Desktop Publisher’s Idea Book, Chuck Green describes five steps that form the basis of good design:

Set the goal
Compose the message
Choose the medium
Select a design
Illustrate the message

If You Want it Read, Make it Legible

May 8, 2010

It has been more than 20 years since Paul Brainerd, the founder of Aldus Corporation, coined the term desktop publishing to distinguish his software program PageMaker from professional typesetting. Over that time period, typesetting has migrated from the world of commercial printing and publishing to homes and offices. The quality of type produced by today’s inexpensive and readily available software programs is very different from the primitive appearance of type generated by early desktop publishing programs.

One result of typesetting’s migration to the desktop is the need for a wide variety of people – from art directors to graphic designers, as well as marketing professionals and administrative executives – to learn something about typography. A simple definition of typography is the layout of text on a printed page, but in a broader sense, it is a form of visual communication that effectively increases reader understanding.

In traditional typography, good text composition (page layout) –the arrangement of fonts on the page, the alignment of text, and the manipulation of text, white space, and graphics – improves visual appearance so the reader doesn’t notice the composition. Instead, the reader’s entire attention is focused on the message the text intends to convey.

Using Graphic Elements

April 28, 2010

You are likely familiar with the proverb “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Those seven words succinctly convey how powerfully a graphic image enhances our understanding of a concept or idea. Interestingly, the modern use of the proverb is attributed to an article by Fred R. Barnard in an advertising trade journal called Printer’s Ink. In his 1921 article, Barnard promoted the use of images to augment advertisements on streetcars. What was true in 1921 remains true today – graphic images enliven the appearance, impact and reader comprehension of a printed piece.

However, to get the greatest benefit, the images must be of sufficient quality to blend in with the design. Think of the last time you saw a color photograph in a newspaper that was very blurry – the result of the image being out of register. Did you notice the content of the photograph, or just the fact that it was out of register?