Blogging from the design SkillSwap | December 8, 2003

Tonight's SkillSwap event is entitled "Everything you wanted to know about graphic design but were afraid to ask" and will be presented by Lloyd Raworth.

I'll be blogging live from this event so please bare with the sloppy spelling and grammar.

William Morris is the farther of Graphic Design. It stems from the printed word. Books were flat and text heavy. To make them look nicer, people would try and jazz up books with gaudy type effects. However Morris felt that type was beautiful in it's own right. He created a number of type faces and would use space to create simple yet beautiful books. At the time Art Nouveau, photography and Japanese art was starting to influence the way people looked at the world. Also the Industrial revolution had a huge effect, encouraging people from around the world to examine the state of the world.

A group called the Bauhaus created alphabets that only had lowercase letters. At the time, Gothic text was the norm, but many new typefaces were created. During the Nazi years, many of these people emigrated to the US. They were involved in everything from architecture to product design like the coke bottle.

In the 50's advertising was very crude. However in the 60's people started using psychology and science to hone adverts. This grew in the 70 and 80 and people started using demographics. However these days demographics have started breaking down as the market fragments. Now it's more difficult to segment people.

These days instead of targeting a specific consumer group, they try to create an aspiration that works across groups. Advertising has got very sophisticated and work across many media.

Many designers hanker after the position of lawyers or doctors. The difficulty is to get them to write a brief is sufficiently tight enough to get the job done, but loose enough to offer the designer some creative solutions.

Designs need to have their own identity and their own brand. When designing something you need to work out the individual identity of the product or service. Unless the client is a professional and are used to working with professionals they often don't know how to handle design processes and have difficulty expressing the identity of their projects.

To aid comprehension, layout needs to help peoples eyes flow over the information without interruption. Often it's only tiny details causing problems, but often it's small details that matter. With layout you'll have a story. Images and text.

Whitespace isn't just a gap. It's space that's being used in a meaningful way, not just the absence of space because of an absence of content. Part of the designers job is to decide what's important and what's less important and structuring the information. Every-time the reader has to stop and work out what's going on, it causes them problems. By laying out the material in a different way you can make the material much easier to understand. The stuff that's important needs to be made to look important, and the stuff that's less important needs to be made less important. Good design helps present information with the minimum of effort. For instance, people use pull quotes etc. as a means to help information jump out so people have an idea what the topic is without having to read all the text.

Market research can be used creatively. It can be used to help you make creative decisions about your audience. However it's often used to put boundaries on a project and this can often bind the creativity of the designer.

Visual benchmarking involves grabbing images, textures, shapes etc. from a variety of sources and asking the clients to choose which ones best sum up their product/service. It can help the designer get a better understanding of the client. Once these are set you can use it as a mood board to give the designer inspiration.

Lloyd is setting a quick exercise. He's going to pretend to be the client and get the attendees to ask him questions about his business then go off and create a press ad or banner ad.

Lloyd talks a little about methods to stimulate creativity. Many people use brainstorming but often more structured methods are needed. Edward De-Bono came up with the idea of using quotas. For instance, setting a limit of 4 ideas help you focus on the job at hand. When you're being creative you shouldn't be analytical and critical at the same time. Giving people roles to take on in the creative process can help people break out of their day to day roles. De-Bone used a method called 6 hats where each person would take on a different role in the creative process to help stimulate creativity.

There has been lot's of philosophical discussion and theory about colour. Colour needs to be used sensibly. What colour is used where and why. For instance if you want to attract attention, used a bright colour. If you want to separate things you can used different colours, whereas if you want to associate disparate things with each other, use the same colour. Whatever your doing, colour should be used deliberately for a reason, and not left up to chance.

And on that note, it's time to wrap up and head for a drink at the Grand Central.

Posted at December 8, 2003 6:13 PM


Zelnox said on December 8, 2003 7:29 PM

>Often it’s only tiny details causing problems, but >oftern it’s small details that matter.

Now, I get it (I think I do). It was intentional all along. <(_);;;;

Andy Budd said on December 9, 2003 8:40 AM

No, just my poor spelling.

Antoine Caillet said on December 10, 2003 5:37 AM

There are some predecessors of William Morris in graphic design. For exemple in the post-Gutengerg period: Nicolas Jenson, Albrecht Dürer or Fournier le jeune. And before Gutenberg too : a lot of forgotten calligraphers and illuminators from Orient, Asia and Europe.