Thursday, March 27, 2014

Getting Real About Graphic Design


I have grown up watching computers evolve. I didn’t know it, but I was also watching design evolve, especially within my own expertise. I remember coming home one day to a surprise, someone covering my eyes when I walked into my room. Before seeing anything, I smelled something new. I’m not sure how to describe the smell, it was just new and it smelled wonderful and had a steady hum. My grandparents had gotten me a computer. It was glorious. I drew a cat with the mouse in a very unsteady way and thus began my love of graphic design. I highly doubt I knew it at the time. I imagined creating things on the computer for people as a business, played at it, created my own things. I tried other mediums of art in high school-mostly painting, a little drawing although I learned my drawing skills were not that great. My beloved high school art teacher suggested graphic design after I made a piece for a book cover. I’m not even sure how I landed on the decision to study graphic design as an art major, but I am sure he had a lot to do with it. 
I’m not going to lie, learning the rules of design was not easy. Since art itself is such a subjective discipline, criticism was sometimes hard to take from those with obviously different aesthetics than my own. I’m pretty sure this was true for every art major at some point as a student. I was told that we were not artists yet, we were students of a craft and that was very true. I feel like now I am a designer. I would never say artist because I think that is a completely different level of discipline and medium, at least for a true artist. 
What I did learn then and still stick by now, is that I get very frustrated when someone who has not gone through the refining fire of learning design, defending your own design and honing your skills thinks that they know how to do it. I understand if you have a good eye for color, line, texture, dimension, layout, etc., but when you try to do it yourself without being able to defend it to someone with correct terms, I cannot take you seriously. So, if you have a project-even if it is something simple like your own letterhead for a resume please consider hiring a designer. Work with them. They know a wealth of information that you don’t. Sure, you can get your twelve-year-old niece to whip up something in Microsoft Word for you but that is not how it’s done. This may seem harsh, but from someone who sees a lot of bad design out there, don’t add to the mess. Design students will gladly design stuff for you to plump up their portfolios. I’m sure they would do it for very cheap if not for free. Use those people! They know what they are doing, I promise. If you are looking for stationary or invitations, research places like minted.com that supports the designer. Those designers have worked hard to get to that site so that you can buy their product. Vistaprint, Walgreens or Target can certainly provide you with beautiful products…but I want to encourage you to support a designer because those people are the backbone of having a dream and working to achieve it.
Ok, off my soap box now. I know this is a long post, but it’s clearly dear to my heart. If you have made it this far, thank you for reading. I’m not trying to sell you my services with this post, I’m trying to help you realize some very basic things if you feel like you have what it takes to do some designs yourself. 

Do not use Microsoft word. Word is a word processing program, not a design program. I know they have Word art and allow you to make your heading look like a My Little Pony threw up graffiti and that you can drop a photo in there and call it a day. Just don’t do it. Type your document there and download a free trial of Adobe Illustrator or InDesign. Photoshop is an entirely different animal that is best not to be tackled without at least an introductory class of some sort and lots of practice. The entire Adobe Creative Suite is like that, but Photoshop especially is the monster. A really amazing monster.

Never ever under any circumstances unless your life is in danger use the following fonts: Brush Script, Papyrus, Comic Sans. Or really anything that already came with your program. There are wonderful free font sites out there. I use dafont.com all the time to find a multitude of beautifully created fonts. 

Once you find a font site to use, use my typography rule: Script+Serif=Classy & Elegant
Handwritten+Sans Serif=Modern & Relaxed
I typically use the first “equation” for my wedding invitations, the second for my posts on here. Script fonts are cursive-esque fonts that look like calligraphy; Serif fonts are those with a projection that finishes off a stroke in a typeface, like Times New Roman; Handwritten are simply fonts that look handwritten; Sans Serif means “without serif” and is a flatter typeface like Ariel. Typically two fonts break up design monotony and add some visual balance. Don’t go over four or you look like you have had way too much coffee and sugar and haven’t brushed your hair in days. 

Simplify. Don’t throw a bunch of different things at one piece. Pick a focus and “decorate” around it. If you use multiple images for say, a collage of engagement pictures, pick a close up, a detail (even closer close up), a far-off shot. Think of how they display together. 

Know CMYK vs. RGB. Has your TV ever lost its signal and shows you that jumbled moving mass of fuzzy black and white dots? A general annoying sound usually accompanies it. If you have ever looked closely at that, you can see red, green and blue speckled in there as well. Screens use RGB colors (RedGreenBlue), so if you are designing for a blog, you need to make sure you are set on RGB so it displays correctly. If you are creating something to be printed, CMYK is your color set. C=Cyan, M=Magenta, Y=Yellow, K=Process Black. If you have ever changed out your printer’s color cartridge, you probably know that those are the inks inside. RGB=screen, CMYK=print.

A web designer is different from a graphic designer. Don’t call me a web designer. That implies I know HTML code and I don’t. It’s another language, another beast I have tried to conquer but cannot wrap my mind around. I feel like a web designer gets the best of both sides of the brain-the analytical, linear left side and the creative right side. Only my right side works…I don’t do math as a result. A web designer most likely knows how to design something and then make it function as a website. I can make something look good, but I can’t make it function. Some people are both and that is awesome. I respect them a ton.

If you ever need design for anything, I am always open to new projects! Contact me at fancifulink@gmail.com
-Laurie


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