Other Designs II: Environmental Graphics

Graphic Designers who wish to be true successful professionals, must be aware and knowledgeable in all matters of graphics and designs including different types of designs.  Environmental graphics are one of the many types of designs a graphic illustrator can create.  Environmental Graphics are designs that include architectural elements in order to better inform and create a spatial organization of a specific area or place.   Environmental graphic design is actually a profession in which designers create such graphics concerned with wayfinding, or the idea of using graphical icons in order to navigate an environment, such as maps and signs.

Thinking back to the beginning of civilizations, when roads where being created and buildings being constructed, back when the need for environmental graphics became clear, it is no different from nowadays.  With the advancement of society and technology, new needs will rise and new needs for graphics will rise as well.  The need to label the environment around us to better navigate it will always be there.

In my opinion, the future will bring change to the environmental graphics and their designers, but they will still be needed.  For example, cartographers used to create maps for individuals to be able to commute from one place to another.  Nowadays, technology has created interactive maps that are installed within our cars that literally “tell us” how to get from one place to another.  However, there is still someone who needs to design the digital maps and user interfaces of these navigation systems.

I also believe environmental graphics will not be obsolete, they will always have use, because people will always need to know how to get from point A to point B, whether it is from the parking lot to the emergency room in a hospital, or from Miami to New York.  The way we search for and retrieve the information may change from a physical map to a navigation system, cell phone or computer.  We might even have digital transparent air-screens pop up in front of us magically by just thinking of them, but there will always be a need for the actual design of the information, the user interface and the information itself.

One of my favorite things is actually creating maps.   I am sharing two different maps here, one of a fictitious mall and another of a building.

Fictitious Mall Map

Fictitious Mall Map

Floor Map

Building Floor Map

From Illustrator to InDesign

When using page layout applications like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress, designers are usually creating art for printing, for the web, or for mobile devices.  Depending on the final output of the design, the designer will choose a different file color mode, such as RGB or CMYK, different file dimensions, and different file weigh.  Therefore, the designers must usually create all parts of the artwork in other applications like Photoshop and Illustrator, with the final output in mind.

When it comes to Adobe Illustrator, there are two different options for creating files.  The designer may choose to “Save” the artwork, or “Export” the artwork.  When saving the artwork, the designer may choose from several file formats like .ai, .pdf and .eps.  When exporting the artwork, the designer may choose from other file formats like .tiff.  However, one thing must always be kept in mind, the designer should always save an original copy of the artwork in an editable format will all editable layers and text, which would be the original Adobe Illustrator format, .ai.

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Now, when it comes to saving Adobe Illustrator files to later use inside InDesign page layouts, we can use PDF, TIFF or EPS files.  Therefore, a second copy of the original file must be saved for the sole purpose of importing to InDesign.  Once the page layout is completed and it is time to import artwork created in Adobe Illustrator, we can select the “place” option in InDesign.  In theory, all 4 file types, AI, PDF, TIFF and EPS can be placed using the “place” option within InDesign.  However, we might encounter some problems with each file.

The Adobe Illustrator file may not place correctly if the “Create PDF Compatible File” option was not selected when saving the original Illustrator File.  The PDF file will be placed correctly, but there will not be a transparency effect for the background of the object placeholder.  The TIFF file may place correctly, but like the PDF file, the background will not be transparent, and the quality of the image will be determined by the specifications made when saving the TIFF file.

EPS files are virtually accepted by every page layout, word-processing and vector applications.  When saving EPS files from Adobe Illustrator, there are far more options available to the designer, than when saving any other file type.  An important option is saving a transparent background, which would import perfectly to InDesign.  Another important option is the “Embed Fonts” option, which will ensure that the correct font will appear when printing an imported EPS file into InDesign.  Although, the designer could always save a copy of the original Adobe Illustrator file, with all the text outlined, but it would not go well if all you had was this outlined file for last minute text changes.  Another great option is the “Include Linked Files” option, which will ensure any placed and linked files within the Adobe Illustrator original file will not be missing once imported into InDesign, which is possible, because EPS files may contain both vector and bitmap graphics.  With all of these options, it is clear that the best file format to use in this case would be the EPS file format.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of export and save options for a reason, and that is because one file format may work best for one particular type of project, and another format may work best for another type of project.  This is why there is not and should not be one particular standard file format.


Spot Colors and Process Colors

I have already discussed the different color modes and their uses.   For example, we now know to use CMYK color mode for print publication and RGB color mode for on-screen publications.   However, there are a few other terms we as designers and photographers should be familiar with.   We should know the definitions and differences between spot colors and process colors.

Spot Color Vs. Process Color

Spot Color can be defined as a method for printing in which each color will be printed in one printing plate by using its own matched color of ink.   Process color is a different printing method in which a color is printed using only four separate printing plates that each uses four specific colors (CMYK).   The spot color printing method is usually followed when the design uses only one or three different colors.   For example, when a company wishes to match their logo’s exact colors in a publication.

Designers and Colors

As knowledgeable graphic designers we must understand and apply our knowledge of color printing processes into our designs.   For starters, designers have to choose only one method (spot color or process color) for their artwork’s file.   In order to create spot colors and process colors in any design software you can simply add a new swatch to your color palette.   You can do this by choosing a Pantone color from the PANTONE Solid Coated swatch window.   You will be able to switch between spot and process colors in the Swatch Options window.   And you will also be able to know when the color chosen is a process color or a spot color, because the swatch will have either a black dot on the bottom right corner triangle (in Illustrator), or a grey square with a grey dot on it (InDesign).

Primary Process Colors

The primary process colors in print are CMYK.   Each plate or ink cartridge will contain one of the four inks.   C stands for the Cyan color ink.   M stands for the Magenta color ink.   Y stands for the Yellow color ink.   K stands for the black color ink.   Each process color has a measurement of how much Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and/or blank does it require to make that exact color.

Benefits and Drawbacks

One of the drawbacks of using the spot color printing method is that each different ink color is somewhat expensive to produce.   Therefore, most spot color printing jobs will only have one, two or three colors.   Using more than three spot colors would result in a very expensive bill for the printing job.   When printed colored text using the spot color method, the printer will not have that much trouble, because there will be one specific ink to be printed on the paper, once, to create the text.   However, when printing colored text using the process color method, the printer may have trouble with registration.   Because the printer has to go over the same spot to create the text with each one of the inks, the text could have a slightly blurred effect if the printer is not precise, particularly if the typeface is very delicate and has fine serifs.

How to Create Spot Colors and Process Colors in Illustrator Video Tutorial

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