The How-to of Becoming a Modern Design Superstar
Have you ever had a client tell you to “Make it POP!” or “It doesn’t have the WOW factor I’m looking for” or “I just don’t know what it is… but make it POP!” to the point where you turn Pantone 711 c because you just can’t figure it out? Well, this may be a good time to read further, get helpful design tips to follow, and avoid the downward spiral of creative doom. When it comes to design, it is absolutely necessary to understand colors, fonts and images and how to use them. Okay, that may sound very cliché but are you up to par with current design trends or are you still recycling black, white and red as a color palette in your projects? Now that is cliché. With that said, welcome to the design rehabilitation 101! This mini guide will help whip your pixels into shape and make a statement with your clients.
No matter what your level of expertise, experienced or beginner, you will almost certainly be faced with the nightmare of artist blocks. The best way to avoid this is to refrain from overly complicating your projects. Keep your direction simple. Here are my top five tricks in maintaining a great design concept:
1) Less is more
Do NOT over-kill your design with opaque watermarks and harsh gradients! Not only have these become outdated but they also most likely only look great on your computer screen. Instead, try to focus on a singular image and build your project around it to create a focal interest for your viewers.
In terms of selecting your image, think abstract not conventional. It is important to be able to use a relevant image to create a bridge to your text. Even though this may sound obvious, a lot of people forget this no-brainer and confuse their audiences. However, because you may become an incredible creative genius after reading this article, you may not want to use images at all. Instead, you may want to phase your design as a typographic masterpiece and only use text, shapes and lines to get your message across (insert flashing light bulb here). Modern design has now evolved into a lot of abstract, in-your-face compositions to create maximum exposure and viewer interest. This trend is now evident more than ever in major corporate marketing and advertising campaigns across the world [See figures 1-3].
Figure 1: Telus Mobility Print Ad
Figure 2: Apple Inc. Ipod Ad
Figure 3: 51st Grammy Awards Ad
2) White space rocks everyone’s socks!
To keep things current, contemporary and fresh, use solid white space to gain that POP factor when you couple it with a solo image. This approach will satisfy your client’s craving for the new age ‘WOW’ factor and of course, make you look like a digital superstar. Here’s an example of how to use white space if you are looking to project that new age abstract vibe in your ads [See figure 4].
Figure 4: Coca-Cola Ad
3) Say NO to typeface bandwagons!
Okay, to start with, lets really try to step away from the Copperplate bandwagon because when you pair that with your black, white and red you are really just bringing a vampire horror movie to life. Some other typeface bandwagons you may want to avoid are generic grunge, handwritten script and cartoon fonts, unless it appropriately applies to your design. Even then, use them to a minimum. I know this will appall many of you, or worse, you will roll your eyes and look away. So if you really must use them, then for the love of Pantone 711 c, use them only for headlines in your work! However, I still suggest that you keep it simple and instead use typefaces like ITC Avantgarde, Futura, Helvetica, Myriad Pro, Baskerville, Tahoma, Century Gothic and Cambria to modernize your design. These fonts are also ideal for body texts because they have great font families, are versatile, readable and clear. In addition, depending on the font you have selected, use the ‘Glyphs’ option under the Tools menu in Adobe Illustrator to see what alternatives are available to change up your font and add more character to your text [See figure 5].
Figure 5: Glyphs screenshot
Font selection has the ability to impact the mood of your design. For that reason, it may be a good idea to customize your font by converting it to outlines, manipulating your text, waving your magic wand and Voila! An instant customized font. You can achieve this in Adobe Illustrator, following these steps:
Step 1: Select text – right click – ‘Create Outlines’ from the drop down menu (This will now convert your text to a vector graphic).
Step 2: Select text – right click – ungroup
Step 3: Go to the Toolbar on the left – select the ‘Direct Selection Tool’
Step 4: Highlight text and pull anchors to manipulate
Quick Tip: To avoid your printers, clients and employers hating you for sending them files that have missing text (which happens with downloaded fonts), convert all your text to ‘Outlines’ in Adobe Illustrator before forwarding off your working files. I am also guilty of this crime at times and I know you have done it at least once. If you haven’t, well you’re just an all-star (Insert thumbs-up here)!
4) Get ‘Kuler’ than cool!
There are many great tools out there that you can use to decide on a great color palette. So please retire the black, white and red color bust and let it rest in peace. In fact, Adobe has created a great program that can solve all your color selection issues. Does Kuler (http://www.kuler.adobe.com) sound familiar? It’s only the greatest online color system tool you can use to search through thousands of hues, tints, saturations and shades. All you need to do is create a free profile on Kuler. From here, you can gain access to an incredible assortment of the latest color schemes and themes for you to create and preview. Once you are finished, the program allows you to download their custom swatches and import them into Adobe Illustrator for instant use. WARNING: This could make you a Kuler addict. I hold no responsibility from what could come out of this so use at your own discretion [See figure 6].
Figure 6: Adobe Kuler
Quick tip: Always remember, if you are using two or more colors in your design and it’s lacking that extra oomph, use the color grey to bridge with the other colors. It is an ideal shade that compliments practically all colors beautifully and will add that extra kick to your project.
5) Positioning your artwork
Last and certainly not least, let’s talk about placing your artwork and text correctly. It is always difficult to find the perfect spot for your art and at times I too struggle with this. I sometimes find that perfectly centering your work is not always the most effective thing to do. Don’t be afraid to right or left align images and text boxes. If you do, make sure your design is balanced and makes hierarchical sense. For example, if your headline is right aligned, then right align your text body. However, if your fine print is center aligned then you can override this rule and use your discretion. Depending on your message, you may also consider what I call, a ‘floating image/text box.’ For instance, you may want to place your object at a random spot on the page to make a bold statement. It’s okay to think outside the box and that’s what makes a great designer; when you’ve fooled everyone to think placing text above the page, upside down with holes in it coupled with an image watermarked with your face looks ultra cool. Okay don’t do that. You are the designer and it never hurts to exercise your creative intuition as long as you don’t end up creating a circus of pixels on a page, kapeesh? [See figure 7].
Figure 7: Dawson Creek Energy Conference Ad
Quick tip: My biggest pet peeve as a creative professional is to see a page layout with the text and images not aligned within the margins. The only time you can break this rule is if it’s a deliberate approach towards creating your design otherwise, it’s a design boo-boo!
Now that you have received design therapy, I hope you can walk away feeling confident in giving your work that modern face lift by trying some of these tools and tips to WOW your clients and avoid getting Pantone 711 c’d. If you have any questions you would like answered, or you would like to share some of your tips then let’s connect on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/RomaiciaNaser) or follow me on Twitter (@RomaiciaNaser). To view my online portfolio, check out my Facebook Page for Kukoon Media Inc. (www.facebook.com/kukoonmedia).