This month I want to remind you (and myself) not to let anyone tell you there are lots of hard and fast rules about design.
There may be general consensus opinions among various groups about such ideas as the proper use of white space and the ideal expressions of balance, unity, proximity, and such, but they are only opinions.
To me, design is a tangible expression of how the designer sees a subject. What makes many designs so interesting and enticing is that the designer successfully shows us something from their unique angle. If you undertake a design thinking about how to conform to someone else's rules and principles you, in essence, are designing it using their opinion, not yours -- it can easily taint all you do.
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Meet illustrator Dan Page
I wish illustration was as easy as Dan Page makes it look. In his body of work you'll find visual metaphors, symbols, and puns - all of which are executed within the constraints of his lucid, diagrammatic style.
Example 1... Here
Example 2... Here
Example 3... Here
Page's website... Here
Meet a type expert's expert
If there's such a thing as a type expert's expert, Paul Shaw is it. Shaw has researched and written about the history of graphic design - with a focus on typography, lettering and calligraphy - for thirty-plus years.
To get you started, here are a couple of his articles from the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) website and links to his book and website.
The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway... Here
Lettering Grows in Brooklyn... Here
About Paul Shore's book, Helvetica and the New York City Subway System... Here
Shaws website... Here
Sales strategy for graphic designers
At the risk of stating the obvious, I want to use this post as a reminder to you (and me) about our real job is as graphic designers - we are salespeople.
Ugh - SALESpeople - sounds crass doesn't it? It shouldn't. The goal of what we do is a sale isn't it? And that's certainly an honorable outcome don't you think? We are, after all, directly responsible for helping our client's sell their products, services, and ideas which, in addition to putting food on our own tables, builds businesses and creates jobs for others.
What got me thinking about the similarities between the graphic designer and the salesperson is a message from a sales expert I know who invited me to read a few articles he recently contributed to a magazine. Patrick Morin is an expert in the act of selling person-to-person, but his articles reminded me how much of what he talks about also applies to the sales approach I create for my client's print materials and websites.
For example, his article about a cold-call message sparked an idea for making a similar pitch in print. I thought of ways to use some of the same selling points, similarly personalize the message, and craft my call to action in much the same way he did person-to-person.
Two simple questions: When was the last time you sat in on one of your client's sales appointments, listened to their phone calls, or talked to their sales team? And, how can you translate the approaches they have been successful using person-to-person to your work in print and online?
Here's one of Patrick Morin's articles about selling: The best cold call ever... Here
Want more? Here are Inc. Magazine's 10 Greatest Salespeople of All Time (including my favorite: Dale Carnegie). Imagine the many selling techniques and approaches that could be translated... Here
Here's Patrick Morin on Linkedin (tell him I sent you)... Here
Learn from a photographer who is a master of composition and a bit of a magician
Okay, before you look at these images by photographer Carl Kleiner, imagine if a retailer asked you to make THIS interesting and exciting. How would you do it?
Carl Kleiner shows how there is a seemingly unlimited number of ways to do a thing. He has mastered a way of composing and diagraming his subjects using shape, color, and composition.
Example 1... Here
Example 2... Here
Example 3... Here
That last one is from a 140 page coffee-table baking book published by Forsman & Bodenfors for IKEA titled Homemade Is Best... Here
Kleiner's website... Here
Check out Chuck's Adobe InDesign Ideabook:
315 template files in 19 different categories -- Everything from brochures, newsletters, and direct mail to packaging, calendars, and books (one CD works with both Mac and PC). Use two or three files and you'll pay for the entire book and disc...
More from the Ideabook.com Design Store
Tintbook CMYK Process Color Selector: A palette of 25,000 CMYK process colors in print... Here
Color Harmony Guide: From French designer Dominique Trapp... Here
Communicating With Color: Based on Leatrice Eiseman's seminars on the psychology of color... Here
Graphic Design, Referenced: A Visual Guide to Graphic Design: One of my favorite design books... Here
Brief posts from Chuck's Twitter and Facebook pages...
Don't let anyone tell you there are lots of hard and fast rules about design... Here
An interesting new coupon solution from Constant Contact -- a challenge to Groupon? Here
I like this spot. It assumes the viewer can figure out what's going on, pretty rare anymore. (Not to be confused with the many ads that are incomprehensible because of poor concepts and execution.)
Skittles: Pinata... Here
Any thoughts on the FontFont.com makeover? I'm sorry, I'm just not seeing what the excitement is about... Here
Unscrupulous SEO "experts" continue to try to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. When you manipulate the search engines to pages that don't reflect what is clearly the reader's true interest you hurt the reader, your client, and the search engine. The only one it serves is, surprise, you. SEO is fine if you've got a legitimate product that you want to be competitive. But, I'm begging you, don't manipulate folks to merely generate clicks. The web is becoming more and more difficult to search.
10 Lessons from inside Apple via Guy Kawasaki... Here
Okay proofreaders: How many "F"s in this sentence?
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS.
There's no trick to it. The answer is on my Facebook page... Here
Drastically reduce the amount of time you spend typing or copying and pasting: Get a text expander... Here
Click to try this new typefaces on MyFonts.com...
How to create "sensory-stimulating, emotionally engaging print materials"
I point you to Structural Graphics because I think they are "jolt thinkers". Jolt thinking is the opposite of formula thinking. It challenges you to examine your mission, strategy, and execution of a project. How? By answering three basic questions. What is the purpose? Why is it done the way it's done? And how can I do it most effectively?
Structural Graphics defines its staff as, "Experts at providing sensory-stimulating, emotionally engaging print materials". They dream up and produce all types of paper structures for use as everything from countertop displays and promotional packaging to presentation aids and brochure-substitutes. Looking at their track record and client list, it appears they are a leader in the field.
You might use them as a source, but more than that, next time you sit staring at a blank sheet of paper, these examples might get you thinking less about two-dimensions and more about potential.
A catalog of design ideas (exclusive)... Here
A listing of product ideas by category... Here
Once a week they publish a solution of the week via YouTube... Here
Structural Graphics' YouTube channel... Here
More about "jolt thinking"... Here
Watch how a master of Adobe Illustrator designs and produces a poster -- step-by-step and line-by-line
Tutorials are useful but watching a professional illustrator use the tools to produce a real project, front-to-back, is infinitely more valuable.
Dan Kuhlken and Nathan Goldman of DKNG Studios have been kind enough to reveal their process for creating a series of eight posters (to date) using Adobe Illustrator.
Watch closely and you see how difficult "simple" is.
Example 1: Portlandia "Mixology" poster... Here
Portlandia poster process... Here
Example 2: Phish (Blossom Music Center) poster... Here
The Phish poster process... Here
Example 3: The Black Keys poster... Here
The Black Keys poster process... Here
The DNKG website... Here
How to use simple shapes and solid colors to grab attention
Here's a bold, interesting use of color and silhouettes from the folks at Turner Classic Movies - TCM.com.
The site was used to promote the summer movie lineup... Here
One component of the site is a set of trading cards... Here
The illustrator is Michael Schwab. We took a look at his work back in 2006... Here
There seems to always be something interesting and technically advanced going on at Turner Classic Movies... Here
Another site that exhibits some of the same dynamics... Here