Graphic Design — Some general pointers
Some tricks, some pointers and some common sense.
Being a designer myself, I would like to take this wonderful opportunity of being able to write down my thoughts on Medium by addressing some general things when working with graphic design. It’s easy for any designer to get stuck, or to be overly stressed by the pressure of having a deadline and high expectations, like inevitably moving towards a waterfall grasping for a branch to hold on to. Sometimes you just need to take a breath, break it down and stick to the basics. Don’t forget it if you ever find yourself getting stuck. Having these guidelines in mind will help you a lot with your work process, and being able to more easily make a high quality design that will show results. I know it sure does for me in my work. So, here we go.
1. Stick to the basics. Always have the basic shapes in mind. You can find inspiration all around: in nature, art, buildings, patterns etc; but always keep those basic shapes ready in the back of your head. Many times it’s enough just using those in the design projects and it‘s a simple way to start out getting some flow going. Some simple shapes other than the basic ones that people relate to are for example stars, arrows and organic things from the nature like leaves, flowers, water, clouds and mountains. Experiment using simple versions of those in your design.
2. Think about using contrast in colors and shapes so that they stand out and are clear and easily interpreted. There are some certain combinations of colors and elements that people find easier to grasp. They just work for everyone. For example: bright colors on dark backgrounds, neatly ordered patterns and shapes, a white and grey theme with a strong contrast color, or the opposite like a dark purple background with bright grey shapes. Our eyes tend to be fixed on bright red or yellow colors first hand so that can be used as an advantage. More often than not a product has red or yellow handles and buttons to show the user which parts can be interacted with. Also safety products like a fire extinguisher; because you need to quickly see it and grab it, or an emergency stop which can have a combo of both yellow and red. If you don’t wanna use either then bright orange is a good replacement. Use those colors nicely to catch the attention of the eyes.
3. Follow the clients design theme. If you’re hired to make one product, for example a website or a brochure for a company, it might be a good idea to follow their overall theme; colors, shapes and fonts, assuming that they already have that. Otherwise you could have in mind some kind of quick branding for them that they can build on based on your product. Who knows, they might actually hire you again for a complete graphic overhaul for a new company profile.
4. Emphasize what’s important, don’t make it unnecessarily complex. Make careful changes if you’re gonna make something completely new for your client, like a new logo for example. Most people don’t like too radical ideas. Just something nice and clean. You can of course get more creative and wild, just make sure you discuss it properly with your client and explain your ideas as well as understanding what they want, what they like and what they need the design for. It has to fit the intended purpose. As long as it does that you might be able to get away with it.
5. Use different fonts for different purposes, but make sure they’re easy to read. Large, clear fonts are preferred, and make sure it has enough contrast against the background. Use Sans for headlines and Serifs for longer texts. Make sure that the text has a logical placement on your design. If the text is referring to a picture it should be clear that it does so. Don’t make the text too small or too large. The reader or user shouldn’t be drowned in text nor should it be too sparse so the information isn’t clear.
6. Draw attention to the right areas. Usually in the west, we read from the upper left to the lower right. Use that to your advantage, and don’t confuse the reader/viewer with the layout. Make sure it’s logical and understandable and are on track. One guideline to follow is the so called rule of thirds, where an image is divided up in thirds on each axis in order to make it balanced.
7. Show your design from multiple angles. Try using different images, colors and figures to help explain things and make the layout less boring and more unique. Just remember points 2 and 3.
8. Make it original. Never copy any design straight off. It’s ok to use some inspiration to a certain extent, but make sure the design you’re handing over is an original one. Don’t get stuck in any legal trouble. Make the design from scratch and do it consciously so you don’t accidentally step on anyone.
Bonus: For some extra added inspiration check out Aaron Draplin’s design flow, how he is using basic shapes to make a logo design from scratch:
Hopefully these pointers will help you get started with your project flow and let you get back to the basics so you have a platform to start out from and won’t forget anything important along the way. Good luck!
About the author: Marcus Segerros is a Designer, Engineer, Freelance Writer, Content Creator and Business owner with a double BS and University Diploma Degree in Design and Tech. Travelling as often as he can, he has visited a numerous number of places and shares all kinds of tips in his articles from his experiences.