Monday, February 25, 2008

Basics of Design - Color

Everyone loves color! But we need to be careful as to what colors we use and when we use them. Here are some more rules of thumb to think about:
• Know that hue is the actual shade or color itself.
• Remember that saturation is the relative brilliance or vibrancy of a color. The more saturated a color, the less black it contains.
• Use warm colors to suggest warmth (e.g., red and orange are the colors of fire). Cool colors suggest coolness (e.g., blue and green are the colors of water).
• Remember that warm colors appear larger than cool colors.
• Know that warm colors seem to move toward the viewer and appear closer; cool colors seem to recede from a viewer and fall back.
• Use highly saturated or high-intensity colors (a pure hue with no other colors mixed in) or busily detailed areas to draw attention and therefore give the appearance of carrying more weight than less saturated, low-intensity or visually simpler areas.
• Use hues that are lighter at maximum saturation (e.g., yellows and oranges) to appear larger than those that are darker at maximum saturation (e.g., blues and purples).
• Create a monochromatic color scheme that uses only one hue and its values for a unifying and harmonious effect.
• Remember that value is the relationship of light to dark.
• Consider that black and white are thought of as neutrals because they do not change color.
• Know that the primary colors are red, yellow and blue. When mixing pigments, primary colors make up all other colors.
• Remember that in printing, process colors: yellow, cyan (bright blue), magenta (blue red), and black make up all other colors.
• Know that on computer or television screens, red, green, and blue make up all other colors.

Spot Color
• Consider that spot color results from adding a specific second color to the single color normally used (black is the traditional single color).
• Use spot color to direct the reader's eye to special sections or important information for fast identification.
• Screen one, or both, of your colors, and achieve the effect of printing in multiple colors. Screening is the process by which you use a percentage (or lower value) of a full color, creating a lighter shade of the original. You can also add black to the color to make it darker.
• Add a single color to black-and-white photographs (creating a duotone) to bring depth and richness to the document. Look for examples of different duotones in design books.
• Substitute a different color for black in a two-color job as an effective way to increase the appeal and richness of the document.
•Be smart, a well designed piece with two-colors and screens (tints of the two colors) will always be less expensive and probably better looking than a piece designed with mediocre four-color images.
• Know that if you are designing a four-color piece, it will probably require a five, six, or more run through the press. You will probably want a spot color (a special non-process color other than Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black), a varnish (protective coating), and among other things a double hit (a second printing of a background color).

• Use color to emphasize type or graphics, even if it is a subtle use of color. Avoid colors that are too similar to black (e.g., dark brown, dark blue).
• Show separation between design elements, inject color into the layout. Color also helps the reader segregate different types of information making it easier to read and find specific content.
• Remember that most colors carry emotional and psychological implications.
Red = hot, passionate, and urgent
Blue = cool, melancholy, and quality
Green = nature, health, cheerfulness, liveliness, and friendliness
Purple = royalty and intelligence
Yellow = warm, cowardice, and caution
• Use values that are close together to give the design a calm appearance.
• Use values of pure hues as well as those of tints and shades to create movement.
• Use value contrasts to show texture and as an effective means of directing viewer attention in a composition.
• Use a pair of high-intensity complementary colors, placed side by side to vibrate and draw attention to the element.
• Not all color schemes, based on complementary colors are loud and demanding -- if the hues are of low-intensity the contrast is not too harsh. Intensity can only be altered by mixing a color with its complement, which has the effect of visually neutralizing the color. Changing the values of the hues, adding black or white, will soften the effect.
• If you select a color from a color swatch book and ask 1,000 printers to reproduce that color, you'll get 1,000 different colors.
• The color of the paper affects the color of the ink.

I hope these are useful in your adventures with color!

This will wrap up my basics of design section and I will jump into some more marketing topics after our Professional Development Conference which will be held in Tulsa next week! Keep an eye out for some blogging from the conference as I may sneak away and post some of what is going on from the conference!


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Basics of Design - Typography

Wikipedia defines Typography as the art and techniques of type design, modifying type glyphs, and arranging type. Type glyphs (characters) are created and modified using a variety of illustration techniques. The arrangement of type is the selection of typefaces, point size, line length, leading (line spacing) and letter spacing.

Typography may seem like the boring stuff but it can make all the difference in your piece being appealing and read or being passed over for something else. Here are some general tips to think about when dealing with the Typography.

You can speed up reading by using an optimum column width of 39 to 52 characters. This will allow the reader's eyes to rest when they need to and move on to the next line allowing them to feel comfortable as well as speed up their reading. Do not use smaller than a 9 point type for your body copy and do not go larger than 14 points. Smaller than this will be hard to read and larger will make the larger amount of text uncomfortable to read. When using more than one type face, make sure they are very different (e.g., Kuenstler (fancy script) and Helvetica (sans-serif).). Avoid using more than two different type families in one project. Safely use one typeface with two different styles (e.g., use a light or regular weight with a bold or extra bold weighted font). Try to skip a weight (e.g., light and bold vs. light and medium). When you can't skip a weight increase the size of the heavier font. You should never use all caps for body copy and never use all caps with highly decorative typefaces.

Hyphenation, Orphans, and Widows
Here are some tips to use when the copy just does not seem to want to play fairly. You should avoid hyphenating more than two consecutive lines, and don't leave orphans! (a word or short line at the top of a column or page). Avoid widows! (a single word on a line by itself at the end of a paragraph with no one to love) and never hyphenate a widow.

Justification is always a popular topic...right? Well don't use a short line width with justified text. Use justified text to be more formal (the left and right margins are parallel) and it is also good for flyers to give your text a nice shape. This is a visual appeal thing so if you do not like how the justified text looks then go with traditional left justified if it works best with your design. Be careful when using justified text. Ensure the column width, the size of the type, and the number of characters per line don't leave big gaps between words or push the words together making the line hard to read. Left justified ragged right is more personal (left margin aligns and the right margin ends at different places depending on the characters/words in the line).
Adjust centered and right-aligned type, use soft returns (keeps lines within the same paragraph) to force line breaks when necessary to make the line lengths noticeably different. Take care when shaping the text around a graphic. With text wrap, justified text gives a better over-all look, but be careful of big gaps between words. Text wrap requires extra work to make it look good including editing the copy.

Proofing is one of the most important parts of any design because you need to make sure the content is accurate...both for content and for grammar. Always have someone who did not write the copy, edit the copy and always proof your copy for misspelled words. Remember sometimes spellchecker is wrong! Maybe you used the wrong version of a word such as there instead of their. Always have another person proof for typos and inconsistencies in style. It's very easy to overlook your own mistakes - just like in life. Don't forget that one misspelled word can undermine the credibility of the entire piece.

Text on Background
Be careful when reversing type, white or light color, out of a background. Ensure that the type is big and bold enough, minimum point size should be 14 points and the type style should be bold. Avoid delicate serif fonts. Avoid ornate patterns. Avoid four-color photographs if the material is going to be printed. Make sure you have enough visual separation between the type and the background. When reversing copy the minimum gray value should be 40%.

Use color and type carefully. Contrast, separation, and vibration are all important issues that effect readability. When using colors on top of other colors you need to make sure that the colors are complimentary and do not fight one another. Avoid using colors on a red background as you may get a sense of vibration around the text making it difficult to read. Basically follow the rule of having people proof it and take their critique and make the necessary changes.

Next up will be tips on using Color!


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Basics of Design - Layout

Well I am back with some basics of layout to help you design better promotional materials. I am not going to waste any time today so let's jump in!

Using Borders
Borders can be a great addition to a design and you should use them to frame and draw attention to a specific piece of information. You can allow the edges of text columns and artwork to create and illusion of borders as well. This is a softer, less direct way of achieving the same effect.

Directional Flow
This is probably the most important thing to think about when designing a piece. You need to create a directional flow for the eye as a way of guiding the viewer through the piece. This can be created by the way text moves through the piece and the way images are placed. Use the conventional "Z" pattern of reading (western cultures) for the strategic placement of important information. Start in the upper left corner, work across to the right and then back to the left again, going top to bottom. This is the way our eyes are trained to read so don't fight it, use it! Also remember not to place pictures with people looking off the edge of a page. Make sure their eyes and body are facing the direction of most of the piece. We will naturally follow the eyes of the subject and if they are looking off the edge then readers will not pay attention to you text.

Draw the reader's attention to important elements by contrasting size (scale), color, and page position. Make sure the elements have a function that supports the content. Use large, bold display type and/or graphics for the creation of focus. Use elements with visual weight, intensity, or color for focus. Do not get carried away here. It is good to use these elements in moderation. Create a piece with one or two focal points or you risk the piece being too busy and the reader will not know which element demands more focus.

We all love fun and crazy fonts but they may not be the best way to get your message across. Rules of thumb for using fonts: 1) DO NOT USE MORE THAN 2 FONTS! It is tempting to use a new font for each headline but this will make your piece look scattered and will not tie it together. When I say don't use more than two fonts this does not mean that you can't mix styles of these fonts such as bold and italics. It is also a good rule to not use multiple fonts in the same family such as using two serif fonts together. They will not compliment one another. You can however mix families such as using a serif and a san serif font together or using a serif and a script together.
2) THE OBJECT IS FOR PEOPLE TO READ IT! While some fonts look cool and are very pretty they may not be able to be read from a distance. Be sure to use fonts that are easy to read and are pleasing to the eye.
3) FONT SIZE DOES MATTER! You do need to have a larger font size for the headlines and you even need a larger size for subheadlines but do not get carried away with the number of font sizes used. As a rule you do not want your body copy to be smaller than 10 points and I would recommend on flyers you not go smaller than 12. From there it really depends on the font you select but I would make subheadings from 18-24 and headlines 36-48 again depending on the font you select.

Some tips to remember...Don't let bad design hurt great content. Don't be afraid of keeping it simple. Designs do not have to be complex and over powering to reach people, often it is the simple and clean design that stands out more. Be prepared to make revisions. Most designs are not perfect after the first try so be prepared to scale it down or up depending on the feedback you get. Get feedback! We all know what we are trying to accomplish when designing something but that doesn't necessarily translate to other readers so show people and take their critique, it will help in the long run. Be consistent. Use consistent colors and fonts to pull the piece together. Only include layout elements and copy that support the message.
Remember, the design is intended to help clarify and support the content. Use graphic devices such as white space, rules, images, and layout to help the reader understand the content. White space is a good thing. Do not think that you have to fill every inch of the page to get your message across. You can use white space as a means of directing the eye as well as a way to highlight information by leaving white space around the element.

Follow these general rules and you will improve your designs and also the impact they have on their readers!
Next I will share some basics of typography with you.