Welcoming Good Design!

I see it all of the time. Someone gets a copy of photoshop and they start clipping heads of dogs onto superstars or create rinky-dink brochures chocked full of clipart and poorly laid out text. Then they have the audacity to call themselves designers. It makes my skin crawl and it makes me angry! Sure, I’m all for someone expressing their creativity and learning new technical skills, just don’t start advertising your services as good design.

I know what I’m saying may not be popular and if you feel differently, I’d love to hear your comments! I’m not making this statement to anger others or be overly critical. I’d just like to keep people aware of some basics and to encourage good design.

Below are a few rules I follow and would love for the world to follow as well.

  1. Just because someone might own a copy of Publisher doesn’t make him/her a designer. Desktop publishing is only a tool, and knowing how to use the program is important but knowing design principles is what really counts. It takes years of study to really understand color theory, basic design, and typography principles. THEN you get to learn how to use the tools and finally you learn about the printing press, screen printing, web design, etc. Talent, creativity, and education makes you a designer. Not your software!
  1. Good designers don’t steal images and music to use in their projects. Good designers take the time to create it themselves or pay money to other artists for their products. Copyright law is very convoluted and technical but it doesn’t take a genius to know the basics. Give credit where credit is due AND respect other artists by paying them their fair share. There is public domain imagery out there…and dare I say it?…clip art. If you can’t afford to hire a freelance illustrator or photographer, then turn to these options. Or best yet, just take the picture yourself.
  1. Learn the difference between vector vs. bitmap (raster) graphics. Bitmap graphics are built using pixels. For an example most photographs are bitmap images. They look good at a certain size but in order to make the image bigger, computers add more pixels to the image. Because the computer is just mimicking the relationship of pixels and making up the colors and gradients as it goes, images get fuzzy and look pixelated. That is why good designers make logos using vector graphics. Vector graphics are mathematical creations. Computers can correctly predict what the image looks like at any size. Logos should only be created as vector files. Popular file extensions for vector include ai (Adobe Illustrator) and .cdr (Corel Draw).
  1. Too much centered text. Really, centered layouts just scream out a big ol’ boring yawn. Using flush left or right usually gives structure to the page and creates more of a relationship between text and imagery. An exception here might be wedding invitations which are traditionally centered.
  1. Get ride of that nasty double spacing after sentences. Using double spaces after a period is a carryover from the days of typewriters. Now fonts are more proportionate and not monospaced. Double spaces are not needed. Instead they are somewhat distracting, creating unattractive gaps down a page.
  1. Learn about colors and which format to use for what purpose. Use CMYK for printing and RGB for computers. Use Pantone colors and CMYK formulas for press work and RGB values for web work. Remember things look differently on different monitors, so using formulas really helps.
  1. Most of all, good design speaks to its audience. Get out your crystal ball because designers need to be mind readers. They need to not only get into the client’s head to figure out what the client wants but also must predict what the target audience will be drawn to. Designers do this by communicating effectively and listen to others.

What graphic design tips can you share?