Design Elements & Design Principles

While studying design there are several concepts stuck in your brain for the duration of your courses.   However, you might forget about those basic concepts once you leave school.   A good idea is to have a little sticky note, or even desktop background reminding you of these basic design concepts on a daily basis.   After all, you have to keep them in mind and put them in practice every time you create a design.   It is also a good idea to look at other designs and attempt to describe them using a design vocabulary and the basic concepts of design elements and design principles.

Design Elements
Line.   A line is the path of a moving point from A to B.
Shape.   A shape is the delineated area created by lines, color, texture, or tone.
Color.   Color is a description of light energy as reflected from a surface.
Texture.   Texture is the tactile aspect of a surface, even when its only a visual simulation of the actual texture.
Value.   The relationship of lighter and darker areas of a composition.
Space.   The figure/ground relationship or positive and negative spaces are the interactions of shapes and backgrounds.

Design Principles
Balance.   A sense of equilibrium or stability achieved by evenly distributing weight.
Unity.   Visual elements in a design look like they belong together, as their interrelation forms a greater whole.
Emphasis.   Involves arranging visual elements in order of importance by making some elements more dominant.
Rhythm.   Repetition, variation and patterns that guide the viewers eye through the design composition.
Scale.   Size of visual elements as seen in relation to other visual elements.

Here is a little Wallpaper I created to remind us all of the design principles and design elements.  Feel free to download 🙂

Design Elements & Design Principles Wallpaper

Design Elements & Design Principles Wallpaper

My Favorite Infographics

Keeping with the theme of infographics, here I have compiled a list of SOME of my favorite infographics that I have come across with in the past few years.  I hope you enjoy them. (Click on them to open in a new window)

Class of 2011: What if social media were a high school?

Class of 2011: What if social media were a high school?

How Would You Like Your Graphic Design?

How Would You Like Your Graphic Design?

The Apple Tree

The Apple Tree

The Evolution of the Geek

The Evolution of the Geek

Sitting Is Killing You

Sitting Is Killing You

I also found this pretty cool free online tool to create a wallpaper infographic about yourself.  Try it out here:

http://www.ionz.com.br/index.html

*Make sure to change the language to English, though, because it is in Portuguese.

For more infographics visit these cool sites:

http://www.coolinfographics.com/

http://www.infographicking.com/

What font is this?

What Font Is This?

What Font Is This?

Don’t know? No problem! Continuing with the “There’s an App for that” theme, here’s another great app for graphic designers.   It is appropriately called “What The Font?” and it is a great free and easy way to find the name of a particular font.   The guys from MyFonts.com are geniuses! I wish this app were around when I was just starting as a Graphic Designer, but I’m glad it’s here now.

I initially had found it by browsing for design apps for my iPhone, but as it turns out they have a website.   So if you don’t have an iPhone or another Smartphone, you can still use this awesome app online at What The Font.

What The Font

What The Font

What you do is grab an image (online) or take a photo of the font you want to know the name of, upload it, determine the characters, and BAM! They tell you what font it is.

Ok, ok… sometimes it doesn’t work quite as easy, but then you just leave a request for the font and someone eventually helps you find the name for it (you need to sign in for this, but hey! it’s FREE!).

The great thing about this is that the more people upload images and the more fonts are recognized, the easier it will be for others to recognize fonts through the automatic process.   It is a great tool and community to use and be a part of if you are a graphic designer, or if you simply want to know the name of a particular font.

Here is a little video on how to find the name of a font. You can download the first image on this post and try it out yourself! (No Audio)

 

How to Find the Name of a FONT, Using What The Font from My Font

Kuler Colors

Nowadays we can do just about anything thanks to technology.   The new answer to all of life’s intriguing questions is: “There’s an App for that”.   For all of us in the creative fields, this is good news and bad news.   This means that we will be forever learning throughout our careers.   A new Adobe Creative Suite, a new Smartphone that needs user interfaces designed, a new app, you name it.   However, this is great for us, because these updates, upgrades and apps can also make our job easier.

One of these cool tools we can benefit from is the Adobe Kuler color tool.   It is a FREE, yes, FREE online application that lets you create, share and explore different color themes.   This is great for us designers that sometimes have “color block”, and we can’t decide on a color scheme for a project.

Adobe Kuler

Adobe Kuler

The website is very simple to use.   You first go to http://kuler.adobe.com/, and simply begin exploring color options.   You can search a color theme by keyword, you can look at the newest, most popular, highest rated, or randomly.   You can create an account and upload your color themes.   You can make changes to a theme, select one color from the theme, select a rule like analogous, monochromatic, triad, complementary, compound, shades or even custom to find other colors for the one you have selected.   You can look at the RGB, CMYK, LAB or even HEX values for a particular color.   You can even create your own new theme using your own photos as a reference.

Adobe Kuler

Adobe Kuler

You can benefit from this great tool if you are a graphic designer, illustrator, photographer, fashion designer, interior designer, makeup artist, stylist, scrapbooker, cake decorator, painter, or any other person who at some point in their life has to pick a color combination for whatever reason.

Adobe Kuler

Adobe Kuler

Geeky Friday

Speaking of positive/negative marketing ideas…

The Buckle Up Key Holder

The Buckle Up Key Holder

The Buckle Up Key Holder

Because subliminal messages work!

Branding and Re-Branding

As Graphic Designers, we should constantly be aware of our surroundings, paying attention to design styles, trends and branding.   Branding can be defined as the process a company uses to build awareness about their products and organization, as well as to extend customer loyalty.   The branding process involves several steps to ensure successful branding of the company and its products.   The steps involved include conducting research, clarifying strategy, designing identity, creating touchpoints and managing assets.   Many companies have modified their branding strategy in the last step in order to change their branding, diversify their branding or limit their branding.

A good example of a company that has managed its assets in order to change and diversify its branding is Federal Express.   Founded in 1993 as Federal express, the company later changed its name to FedEx Corporation.   Later, the company acquired different logistics and shipping companies to provide a wider list of services.   The company now has several different company services such as FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, FedEx Custom Critical and FedEx Trade Networks.   Each logotype for each service is the same; the difference is that the word “Ex” is color coded to each service.   For example, FedEx Corporation is grey, FedEx Express is orange, FedEx Ground is green, FedEx Freight is red, FedEx Custom Critical is blue, and FedEx Trade Networks is yellow.

Fedex truck

Image by Crystian Cruz via Flickr

The choice to diversify and expand the company branding was ultimately beneficial.   Because of their diversification and expansion, FedEx could now provide different types of services to their loyal customers under the same recognizable branding.   The identity risks of expanding the company’s branding to a number of different services is that the customer could be confused when identifying the company, a particular service or the parent company.   The visual branding considerations that a company must keep in mind when expanding its brand identity is, like in FedEx’s case, to not alter the original branding so much that the customers are unable to recognize the parent company.   Looking at FedEx’s decisions to expand and the branding that they chose, I think it was a good idea and it was executed perfectly and it ultimately was a success for the company.

1,000 Visits

Thank you! Today, October 19th, 2011, I have reached 1,000 Visits on this blog.   I am honored!   I wished I could thank visitors personally, but I have no way of knowing who they are.   Either way, as a special thank you for visiting my blog I have decided to write this post and leave an open thread for any special Design, Photo, Apple or even Geeky Request or Questions.   So go ahead, ask and you shall receive!

Thanks again!

What is the Design Brief? And Why Do I Need It?

As we embark on a new project for a new client, there are certain steps we must follow, before we even begin to create any designs for the project.   We can’t just simply jump on the computer and begin creating anything that we can think of for the project.   We must first complete those specific steps.   This is when the design brief comes in.

The Design Brief and its Importance

A design brief is the first step of a design project.   The brief is a thorough document that provides an overview of the entire project.   This document informs the client, as well as the designer and everyone else involved, about the steps to be completed before, during and after the development and production of the project.   The design brief is very important and should be revisited before, during and after the project is completed.   The design brief will also serve as a reference document to guarantee that the finished product fulfilled the design’s objectives, it will reach the specific target audience, and it is following the predetermined path.

Parts of a Design Brief

Design briefs can vary when it comes to content.   The design brief template or parts should be tailored to each individual type of project and client.   However, there are a couple of important sections that must always be present.   A design brief should be thorough, clean and organized so that all the parties involved have a clear understanding of the entire project.   Most design briefs usually include a cover/title page; a table of contents page; an executive summary or corporate profile of the client’s company; an overview of the current situation of the company; information about the target audience; the overall objective of the project; description of the components or deliverables; a timeline for the project’s completion; the budget allotted for the project; personnel requirements; and payment schedule.

Importance of Research

Conducting research about the target market and current competitors of a specific project is crucial.   In order to tailor a design and effectively communicate the message to the target audience and to persuade the consumer that the product is better than the competition, we must first understand who is going to read the message (target audience) and what are the competitors saying about their products.   If we launched an advertising campaign for an educational product for elementary school students and we used a scary monster as the image of the product and we had the same message as one of our competitors, we would be ignoring the target audience and the current messages by competitors.   In order for the campaign to be successful, extensive research should be conducted about the target audience and competitors.

Important Steps

I believe that the most important steps in a design brief are the project objectives, target audience and competitors.   The same goes for the creation of a new product.   In order to successfully create a product or a design package for a product, we must first know what is the message we are trying to convey, who is this message aimed at, and what are other companies saying about their similar products.   When we research and understand these three steps then we can tailor the message to the right audience.

Here is a downloadable example of a Design Brief prepared as an assignment for an Advanced Graphic Design I class, as a mock proposal for an existing company that specializes in educational software and gaming systems for elementary school children.

Design Brief Sample

More Tips on Creating a Portfolio and Presenting It

Professionals whose occupation involves creative designs such as artists, photographers, graphic designers, fashion designers and interior designers, should have their personal portfolio.   A good portfolio presents quality not quantity.   As time passes, designers should also update their portfolios, and some pieces should be re-vamped as needed.   A portfolio can determine your employment or lack of, because some companies do not even schedule an interview without first looking at portfolio submissions.   Your portfolio is then, the first impression.   Therefore, as creative professionals, we must learn what makes a good portfolio.

Not only does a designer’s portfolio should speak for itself, but it should also represent the designer’s style in the design of the actual portfolio.   This is also true for the designer’s resume, letterhead, business card, and even the envelope.   If you are unable to create a successful visual identity for yourself, then how could you do so for a client?   This is also true for your entire appearance during an interview, the way you present yourself, and most importantly, the way you present your portfolio.   A prospect client or employer will begin to evaluate you from the moment you first make contact, whether it is in person, by e-mail, by phone, or with a cover letter.

Design Conventions of A Portfolio Presentation

What to consider:

Labels.   Each piece should provide sufficient information about itself.   A title, a description, and the software you used to accomplish the piece.   Reference, if necessary, of elements used in the piece that you did not create yourself.   You do not want to take credit or something you did not do.  However, as a rule, is best to have pieces that you created entirely by yourself, than pieces you created by collaborating with other designers, or pieces that use stock images or illustrations.

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Tailoring and Interchangeability.   As a designer, you will probably go to several interviews before you find your first job.   Having a portfolio that lets you easily change one piece for another is key to tailor each portfolio presentation to the job you are applying for.   For example, if you apply for a company looking for an in-house graphic designer to create all their advertising graphics, you could switch a logo design for an ad.   Or if you are applying for a company that specializes in designing logos for companies, you can add a couple more logo designs and take out some photography editing examples.   If you were applying for a photography job at a studio, more family, children and baby shots as well as headshots would be good.   If you were applying for a job as a stock photographer, photos of objects, landscapes, animals and business subjects would be best.

Various Formats.   You never know what kind of time does your prospect employer devote to looking through countless applications and portfolios.   Why not make it easier for them by providing a link to your website with your portfolio on it, or a CD/DVD presentation.   You could always bring your classic portfolio with you if you happen to get an interview, or leave behind a CD/DVD copy or a business card with a link for them to be able to view your portfolio again at their convenience.

Prepare to Present/Explain.   If you have a great portfolio, but you don’t know how to talk about each piece and explain it, then you might as well have no portfolio at all.   Be prepared and practice to talk about each piece and answer any questions that may come up.

Follow up.   Don’t just drop of your resume and portfolio and expect it to do all the work for you.   Make sure you keep in touch and even if you don’t get the job, show appreciation for the opportunity and make sure you are kept on their records for future reference.

Update.   Technology is always changing and innovations keep coming up.   Maybe 10 years ago you couldn’t add a drop-shadow to your text, but now you can.   Update your portfolio with new pieces and re-vamp the ones you created a long time ago.   Keeping your portfolio fresh can show that you are up-to-date with the newest trends and technology.
The actual design of your portfolio.   Some designers get carried away by “designing” their portfolios.   They add background, animations, bells and whistles, things you really don’t need.   Remember to keep it simple and don’t let the actual design of your portfolio overshadow each piece inside your portfolio.

Work Selection and Sequence:

Quality vs. Quantity.   It is not about how many pieces you have; it is about the quality of each piece.   A portfolio should have between 20 to 40 pieces at the most.   An employer could get lost in all the pieces, and they probably do not even have the time to view them all.   You have to select pieces that are strong.   Don’t select pieces that you are not confident about.

Strong Start/Finish.   Several websites and individuals recommend that your strongest pieces are located at the beginning and at the end of your portfolio.   This way, when a possible employer opens up your portfolio, they are immediately impressed, and when they get to the end, they will remember you.

Location, location, location.   The order in which you “locate” your pieces is crucial.   Each piece should follow the other with some kind of connection, whether it is chronological, by theme or any other connection.   This will make it easier to transition from one piece to another and make it easier for you to be able to talk about them in person and explain the relation.

Websites  to visit:

http://www.howdesign.com/article/PortfolioPresentation/

http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/portfolio-presenting

http://www.designertoday.com/Articles/3940/Portfolio.Making.Your.Best.Presentation.aspx

http://www.youthedesigner.com/2008/06/30/12-steps-to-a-super-graphic-design-portfolio/

http://veen.com/jeff/archives/000935.html

http://layersmagazine.com/the-dos-and-don%E2%80%99ts-of-portfolio-presentation.html

http://biznik.com/articles/ten-or-11-tips-for-presenting-your-portfolio

Tips on Creating an Online Portfolio

A graphic designer or photographer fresh out of college will probably have to attend several interviews before landing a first job.  Interviewing and presenting a portfolio face-to-face can be nerve wrecking and stressful because it is difficult to talk about one’s own work, but if you attend an interview and take your portfolio with you, you can make sure that your portfolio is reviewed by the potential employer.  Having an e-portfolio, on the other hand, does not ensure that potential clients and employers will magically come across your portfolio and hire you.  Advertising and marketing your e-portfolio is a very important task that should not be left aside.  If you want your e-portfolio to land you a great job or a few freelance jobs, then you must advertise and market your e-portfolio. Lets look at some ideas to successfully advertise and market e-portfolios.

Fresh Site

In order to create and keep a site fresh, the design must remain simple, and easy to read and to navigate.  According to Steve Krug (I recommend his book), the first law of web usability, or the ease of using and navigating a website is to not make your audience think (2006).  This means that a well designed website should be obvious, self-evident, and self-explanatory.  This way the readers and viewers of the website don’t have to feel like they are solving a riddle just to check out your portfolio.  Chances are that if the viewer of a website has to make more than three clicks to get where they want to get, they will not continue to view the website and most likely they will move on.  Clogging website with a lot of text, animations and images will make a site look busy instead of fresh.  Therefore instead of adding something to keep the site fresh, the key is to keep it simple, neat and organized.

Interactivity

When visitors enter a website there are several different ways they could interact with the website.  In a good e-portfolio website there should be a good amount of interactivity with the reader.  The e-portfolio should be designed in a way in which the viewer may chose to play a slideshow of all the pieces in the portfolio, and also skip images and go back and re-visit images that caught their attention.  Therefore, a good interactive portfolio would have play buttons, pause buttons, stop buttons, forward and backward buttons, as well as a thumbnail for each piece in the portfolio.  This way the user may navigate the portfolio in any order he or she wishes making the experience of viewing the portfolio almost the same as viewing a traditional printed portfolio.

Standing Out

Usually, people tend to think that in order to stand out one should include as much text, animation and images as possible.  However, this would most likely make a website very difficult to read and navigate through.  A great way to stand out would be to think about three characteristics that describe you as a designer, for example: Straightforward, Reliable, and Inspired.  Then, your e-portfolio and website should attempt to express those characteristics and remain within the same theme of your resume, logo and promotional piece.  For example, since one of the characteristics is straightforward, then the website should not have mystery passageways to get to the point, but all the main points and information should be clearly and legibly displayed.

Attracting Visitors

Once the fresh, interactive and attention-grabbing website is in place, the next step would be to attract traffic to the website.  The first step would be to include your domain name, like http://www.johndoe.com on your e-mail signature, your letterhead, business cards and even your resume. You should also include it both as text and as a link in your promotional materials, like a web banner.  Nowadays, there are a wide variety of free ways to promote your web on the Internet.  You can create a newsletter and advertise your newly launched web to all your contacts and ask for them to forward the information to their contacts.   Just be sure not to spam your friends’ inboxes.   You can create a professional account for your business on many social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google Plus, and MySpace.  You may even create ads that circulate on those social networking sites promoting your business.  When you design websites for other companies you can place your name and website as the web designer of that page at the very bottom, with their permission of course.  In conclusion, there are plenty of ways to advertise one’s website on the web.

Good Examples

Search for other designers or photographers’ portfolios online and see what they are doing.   Lissete Rodriguez’ portfolio retrieved from Dexigner.com (http://www.zetdesigns.com/) stood out from the rest because it was fresh and simple.  She included interactivity on her web portfolio by adding rollover animations and a slideshow of her pieces.  However, even though her web included slideshows and animations, it did not distract the viewer from her work.

Lissete Rodriguez's Online Portfolio

Lissete Rodriguez's Online Portfolio

Joe Nyaggah’s portfolio retrieved from Graphicdesignblog.com (http://danjoedesign.com/) was also very minimalistic and simple in its design, which kept the site fresh. He included some rollover effects for interactivity, however, it was lacking on that function.  Perhaps his portfolio should have been presented in a slideshow manner with buttons for easier navigation.

Joe Nyaggah’s Online Portfolio

Joe Nyaggah’s Online Portfolio

Free Online Web Portfolios

There are some relatively new websites out there that have a designer network and free (for the most part) online portfolios.   These are a great way to start if you don’t really know anything about web design and development, because mostly all you have to do is upload your images and input your information.   So if you use Facebook, you can use these:

http://prosite.com/

http://www.pixpa.com/

http://carbonmade.com/

http://www.behance.net/

http://cargocollective.com/

http://www.squarespace.com/

http://www.thecreativefinder.com/

References

Krug, S. (2006). Don’t make me think! A common sense approach to web usability (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Working with Clients

If you have already worked as a Graphic Designer, either as a freelancer or within a company, you already know the difficulties you may face with certain clients.   Like in any other career field, you have a client, and a product or service you provide.   Sometimes what the client expects or thinks about that product or service, is not actually what the company or freelancer offers.   The most important step is to know everything about a project from the very beginning.   Also, having constant communication with the client will help with the success of the final product, service or design.

Final Say

As graphic designers a client generally approaches us with a design problem, and we are required to find a solution.   The client is the person who ultimately has the final say on what the product should look like and how it should work, based on their own knowledge of the target audience they are trying to convey a message to.   As a graphic designer, you should approach the situation as if you where part of that target audience.   The reason is so that you can advise your client on what is the best way to reach their target audience in terms of a good design.

For example, if a client comes to you and asks for a flyer to advertise their online business like an online only shoe retailer, you may suggest that an e-mail advertisement would be best to reach their target audience (clients already using the internet, and on their client database).   However, your suggestion may be ignored and the client could still decide to go with the printed flyer.   Your job as a designer is to design the flyer and that’s it.   If they did not agree with your suggestion, then you should provide what they are requesting from you.

Freedoms

The freedoms you have, as a designer in the process, will depend on each project.   Some clients may have no idea what they want their design to look like, and they may tell you to come up with something on your own, and that you may choose colors and everything, so you have a lot of creative freedoms with those clients.   Some other clients know exactly what they want and what they want it to look like, and they would even do it themselves if they knew how to use the software, so you may have very limited freedoms with those types of clients.   Some clients know more or less what they want, but they need your design expertise to guide them when choosing design elements, typefaces and colors, so you have some limitations and some freedoms with those types of clients.   You are most definitely allowed to refuse providing services to certain clients, before beginning to work with them, if what they are trying to create is illegal, or against your beliefs, morals or religion.   But you must do so respectfully to their needs, or perhaps suggest a different designer that you know can help with their situation.

Steps to Follow

As a graphic designer, you must plan on taking several steps to assess the situation and the perceived tasks ahead to rectify the situation.   First and foremost, you should analyze each project individually to make sure that the project’s extent is within your technical capabilities.   Second, you should ensure that you have all the information from the client about the project.   Third, you should provide the client with the proper documentation about the project (design brief) and come to a written agreement about the course of action with the client, including the amount of “changes” allowed and charges that go along with those changes.   Finally, you should provide a summary after the work was completed to show the client how the design solution successfully solves the design problem.

Ethical Issues in the Graphic Design Business

During our careers, whether as graphic designers, web designers, fashion designers or any other career, we will most likely have to learn about ethics in the workplace.  Ethics do not only play a role in our normal day-to-day activities, such as attending a wedding, tipping our waiters and receiving guests in our home, ethics also are a part of our business life.  There are several ethical issues that can arise in the workplace, no matter the type of work.  Ethical issues are subjects or events that could create questions about what is right and what is wrong.  Even though there are many ethical issues that could rise in all types of jobs, there are also ethical issues that could rise in jobs that are only related to design.

Ethical Issues in Graphic Design

A Graphic Designer, especially a Freelance Graphic Designer, encounters numerous of different people and companies that they will probably do design work for.  However, the graphic designer may or may not agree with what that particular company or individual stands for or wishes to advertise.  This raises a question of right or wrong, an ethical issue, for the designer.  Graphic designers should know from early on in their career who would they not design for and who would they design for, keeping in mind that what a graphic designer creates is a message for an audience.   For example, would you create campaign posters for a politician who approves of abortion; would you create a logo for a rock band that believes in and follows the devil’s teachings; would you create a package design for a company that sells cigarette shaped candy to children; or would you create a website for a pornographic site.  The decision will always be up to the graphic designer and will most likely depend on his or her own morals and belief system.  Ultimately, if a designer does not agree with it, then he or she should not take on the work.

There are several other ethical issues that arise in fields such as advertising.  Since most graphic design products fall under this category, graphic designers would most likely have to face those same ethical issues faced by advertisers and advertising agencies.  For example, a graphic designer could be offered to produce an ad, but then he or she could find out that the information in the ad was a product of false advertising.  False advertising means to promote a feature or characteristic in a product that is in fact not true.  In this case, the designer would also have the choice to produce the ad or simply walk away.

Another big ethical issue that a graphic designer could encounter is the issue of copyright and piracy.  Copyright is the legal right that the creator of a design (or any other work) is granted.  The creator or designer owns the rights to the design.  Just like writers have ‘writer’s block’, graphic designers sometimes also have phases in which they are not particularly creative.  This could lead to using someone else’s work and ‘revamping’ it to seem as though you created the whole thing.  This is an illegal practice called piracy.  Graphic Designers should definitely avoid doing this unless they give full credit to the copyright owner, ask for their permission, or use copyright free images.

Design & Culture

Graphic Designers are usually taught about the technical aspects of the career, the software, the design elements, the design principles, and so forth.  However, graphic design is not only about the creativity and ability to create a ‘pretty’ design.  Graphic design is also about the audience for which the design was created.  Many students, and even teachers, forget the audience.  By doing so, several cultural issues may rise.

Culture is defined as the collection of customs, social behavior, and ideas of a specific group of individuals.  Therefore, what might seem as a successful design here in the United States might seem offensive or even harmful in other countries.  For example, a design that includes a hand giving the “thumbs up” may be appropriate for an American audience, but this sign is considered a rude gesture in some Asian and Islamic countries. A recent animated footage which includes the 2012 Olympics had to be removed from the organization’s website because it was causing epileptic seizures to viewers who suffered from epilepsy.  We must always be careful not to insult offend or harm the viewers of our designs.

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