Graphic Design Newsletter
March 15, 2005

N E W S L E T T E R . M E N U







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Dot Com LogoTypes - Are you in need of Logo Inspiration? Dot Com LogoTypes is your answer for an extra creative juice burst. This site is an online exhibit of logotypes, logos and trademarks from all over the world.

A Digital Dreamer - A lot of great articles here that I think would be useful for many of you. Learn how to become a graphic designer and more. Get the information you need by reading various graphic design career articles. Find a school or job, post your portfolio and participate in the forums. Also check out other career options in video game design, animation, photography and more.

NY Public Library - I thought that many of you would find the following site pretty cool. The New York Public Library encompasses a specialized reference collection of over 15,000 volumes on the history of prints and printmakers; artist clipping files; and a collection of close to 200,000 original prints. Also check out Ad Classix and Design Archive Online.

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Article One
- by Dali Bahat

Whether you're giving a critical sales presentation to a client, producing visuals for a meeting, event, trade show or seminar, or unveiling the new company logo before an audience of shareholders, top-notch graphics will help ensure that you, your products, and your message receive the attention they deserve.

Yet when you decide to do the graphics in-house to reduce turnaround time or cut expenses, those logos, photos, charts, graphs, pictures, timelines, illustrations, etc. can be a source of frustration, embarrassment, stress and perhaps lost business. Following ten simple tips to surefire do-it-yourself graphic design, however, will help maximize your visual punch, minimize your mistakes, and give you the professional-look your graphics deserve. Not to mention, cut down on the headaches.

1 -Take a deep breath

Especially if you have a key presentation looming that needs charts, graphs, and visuals and all you have are loose papers and a migraine, first take a deep breath. Put on a fresh pot of coffee. Clear your workspace. Handle those last minute telephone calls. In short, you are going to need to focus your attention on your design project, so prepare yourself. You're about to solve your graphic design problem in classic, do-it-yourself fashion.

2 - Outline your project

Make a simple list of the presentation graphics you think you'll need. Don't get into details at this point. For example, you might list: opening-- photo of young couple with product and company logo; midpoint-- new market pie chart and bar graph of financial growth; close-- photo of new satisfied customer using product. You just want to create a rough outline that can help steer you through the project.

3 - Define what you're trying to say

To keep your audience visually interested you must keep things simple and avoid clutter that will confuse your focus.

Communicate one concept at a time with your graphics. Your message can contain various parts, but your communication as a whole must concentrate on the key concept you want to get across. To shoot for more is to court disaster. At all costs, avoid making everything important, as that's the surest way to create visual anarchy. When you attempt to give great importance to more than one message (or visual item), you introduce confusion and succeed only in dispersing the viewer¹s attention instead of directing it where you want it.

4 - Keep it simple

Visually, simple is better than complex, especially when images will only be seen a short time. Avoid the complex since it obscures your message rather than clarifies it. Use pictures, illustrations, graphs, etc. to punch up an important point, and to make complex ideas simple. However, avoid literally mimicking what's said in the text. The graphics must enhance and play on variations of the text to make it more interesting - but never stray from the spirit of the message. At their best, graphics add humor, emotion, reality, believability, and playfulness to help bring about understanding and agreement in viewers.

Keep text simple and readable, without overdoing emphasis. Use changes of size, style, color, and position, including bullets, symbols and other devices to highlight and organize your text in moderation. To avoid distracting the reader, limit the number of fonts to two or three in no more than three or four readable sizes. Keep the background simple, and use contrast to ensure legibility. Contrast is the noticeable difference between things, and can be as simple as bolding or underlining text in some cases. But don't fill every bit of "empty" space, as well-chosen space can serve to "frame" graphic elements you may want to emphasize.

5 - Lay out your type, graphics, and photos

Look at how the elements blend together. Lay out the type, graphics, photos, etc. in rough format similar to how they will be presented. If you know how, use computer formatting on programs such as MS Word or Excel to experiment with layout. Or you may want to lay out the physical materials on a desk or conference table. Similarly, you may want to tape or pin them to a wall or cubicle to see how vertical display affects their visual impact.

Now, here's where a little strategic thinking can set your graphic design work apart from the norm:

Visually group graphics to show similarity and build interest. Try to visually group objects using similarities of theme, color, direction, position, alignment, etc. Show what goes with what, so your viewers will draw the proper conclusions. For example, a picture of worn-out old shoes could depict a potential client's current database management system (DBS), and brand new track cleats could depict your DBS product. Of course, things that belong together must have characteristics in common, and must be similar enough to be perceived as a group or set.

Also, make visual order part of your message. For example, decide WHEN the viewer should notice your logo: Before reading the copy? After reading the headline? Should the viewer note your company name before or after the product you're selling? These strategic distinctions can boost or detract both from your credibility and ability to persuade.

6 - Add emphasis with a little color and contrast

The graphics of your piece must be easily seen and attract more attention than anything around it. If not, your audience's attention will go elsewhere: to a competitor's ad, booth, flyer, banner, etc. To improve the odds of getting your audience's attention, use color and contrast in moderation to create interest. Remember to use emphasis sparingly, like spice in cooking, because a little goes a long ways but too much simply overpowers.

That said, attention does gravitate toward the area of greatest contrast. (That's why print is usually black-on-white, which makes the letters stand out for easier viewing, instead of say, black-on-brown). For example, in a visual ad or billboard, a single sentence on an otherwise empty page demands attention. You can't help but read it. Other examples of good, eye-catching contrast: a white spotlight in a dark theater; a 3-D object jutting out of a flat wall; a moving object among motionless ones (or a stationary object among moving ones); and a bright, colorful poster over a dull, monochrome background. Similarly, at a trade show you'd want your signage to run horizontally if you're competitors' signs run vertically. In each case, your audience is visually attracted toward what stands out or offers contrast.

Here are a few types of useful contrast to consider using in your graphics: large/small, light/dark, flat/3-D, high/low, short/long, strong/weak, smooth/course, one/many, full/empty, warm/cool (colors), before/after, complex/simple, straight/winding, round/angular, continuous/interrupted, horizontal/vertical/diagonal, etc.

For a series of visuals, use contrasting sequences to build interest as well. Contrasting sequences such as before/after, young/old, or gradations of color can guide and build the viewer's interest by suggesting degrees of importance, recognizable patterns, or consequences. When establishing what the viewer should notice first, second, third, etc., control the order in which he perceives the various items, using a scale of contrasts from most different to most similar. The greater the contrast, the more importance a visual item is given.

7 - Get a fresh perspective

After focusing on your graphics project, it helps to get a fresh perspective. Ideally, you should ask someone with art or design experience a few questions. How do these graphics strike you? Do they support the message? What would you change? The less they know about your presentation, company, or product the more helpful their opinion, as it will more closely approximate your audience's reaction. But really, anyone's opinion helps to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in your designs, so don't be afraid to ask. And don't be afraid to accept criticism. If no one is available, take a break from your project if at all possible, so you can approach your graphic project with fresher, less biased eyes.

8 - Put on the finishing touches

Then adjust your graphics project according to the objective feedback you received. Here's where you may brighten or lighten colors, change font sizes, or rearrange graphics for better overall layout.

Also, round out your pictures and graphics with carefully chosen words. From caption to headline and story, words are a critical part of the message you're visually communicating, so they must be chosen and arranged carefully for the whole to work. Include only what's important, so as not to dilute your carefully crafted message.

Along these lines, speak your viewers' language in a way that addresses their problems and answers their needs. For example, if your picture shows a healthy Mr. Jones tussling with grandkids after successful bypass surgery, mention how your new medical product reduced recovery time to three weeks from the normal three months.

9 - Take one last look

No matter how careful you are there's always last minute mistakes to catch: misspelled words, misaligned margins, or graphics that still need to be rearranged to lessen distracting "white" or trapped space. Use spell and grammar checkers, then print out sample copies to test overall visual effect until you're satisfied with the results.

10 - Print out and mount your final presentation

Since all your previous work counts for naught if the final graphic product isn't displayed and mounted properly, it's critical to prevent the wrinkling, bubbling, warping, and peeling that can sink an otherwise impeccable graphic presentation. To this end, I have long used and recommended Pres-On products. Well known amongst professional graphic artists and photographers, Pres-On has a broad line of do-it-yourself, self-stick mounting board products for just about every application. I've mounted everything from extremely large oversize prints like architectural renderings and giant logos, to small decorative items, and consistently Pres-On mounting products makes it very easy to do and gives me professional results.

Their newest mounting product Score & Snap, is made of a thin, surprisingly strong, plastic material that's coated with self-stick mounting adhesive. It was designed to mount logos, photos, charts, signs and other graphics quickly and easily, with the capability to correct mistakes, but with subsequent permanent positioning. Once a graphic is mounted, the protective plastic can be easily scored with an X-Acto knife, then snapped off into the desired shape. Because of the consistency of the plastic material, its versatility in positioning graphics, and its clean edges, it makes it easy to produce a spectacular looking finished product that won't come undone at the worst possible moment.

With a firm grip on your graphics project, you can now look forward to the presentation deadline without knots in your stomach. Who knows, with the knockout graphics you cranked out, on a shoestring budget to boot, you could be in line for a promotion. As a parting tip, ask for a raise, as you've just added polished graphic presentation to your list of job skills. Just keep your Graphic Design Rescue Tips handy because the next project might not be so easy.

Call Dali Bahat at (818) 765-6635 or email at for more information about Master Design. For more information on Pres-On "Score & Snap", and other Pres-On Self-Stick adhesive mounting products contact Pres-On Corp. at 21 Factory Road, Addison, Illinois 60101; Phone (800) 323-1745; Fax (888) 543-9406;

Article Two

After a close examination of the Internet, I have had a hard time finding any useful information regarding putting together a portfolio. Consequently, I have decided to put together a series of articles related to creating not only a digital portfolio, but also a traditional portfolio as well. In the next few months, I will not only go over putting together your samples, but also I will relay to you how to photograph your art, make slides, digitize your art, make postcards, mailing your portfolio, placing your portfolio on CD, promoting your work and more. A portfolio is one of the single most important resources that a freelancer, especially a creative one, can have in his grasp, so please come back every week to see each issue.

Writers might call them "string books", artists might call them a "book", but in most cases, they are called "portfolios". In what kind of situations would you need to have a portfolio? If you are a creative professional, a portfolio is a MUST. However, portfolios are not only for creatives anymore. A portfolio is a collected sample of your work and there is no better way to showcase your talents. In this respect, I would say that a portfolio is for everyone in all lines of work, but especially for creatives and freelancers. A portfolio is a professional way to share projects that you are familiar with to a prospective employer. In the past, only artists and writers moved from job to job. Now, most of us only stay at a job a few years before moving on to a new position. A portfolio is a perfect way to showcase the multitude of projects you have worked on in your job experiences.

As I have said earlier, creatives must have a portfolio. After initial contact with an employer, he or she will probably insist on seeing samples of your work. Depending on the situation, the employer might want:

(1) Online Portfolio
(2) Drop-off Portfolio
(3) Portfolio Review
(4) Mailing Portfolio

All clients are different, so you should be ready for all scenarios when you are applying for a creative job. I will now summarize each scenario, and later on I will go into each option with much more detail.

(1) Online Portfolio

An online portfolio is a must these days, especially if you are preparing for an online job hunt. An online portfolio is very similar to a traditional portfolio, except with many perks. (For example, images can't get wet and damaged when they are stored in an online portfolio.)

The ease of viewing an online portfolio, in comparison to traditional methods, makes this a preferred method in most cases. Employers are always in a hurry these days, and waiting around for a mailed portfolio usually doesn't cut it anymore. So I suggest placing samples online somewhere, even if it is just through a free service.

In some cases, employers might search through potential candidates on freelance or portfolio sites. You should try to get yourself on as many online directories as you can. The more sites that you are listed on, the more likely that you will be found. At the end of this portfolio series, we will list sites that you should try to get listed on.

(2) Drop-off Portfolio

Yes, I am talking about dropping off your precious baby. Dropping off my portfolio has never been my favorite thing to do, but some companies insist on doing business this way. Additionally, some art directors will only look at books on certain days of the week and specific hours of the day. You might also have a scheduled hour that you need to pick up your portfolio.

If the art director is impressed with your portfolio, an interview might be arranged. Otherwise, you might have inserts within your portfolio with critiques of your work. Use the critiques as a learning experience. Most likely, the art director knows what he or she is talking about. You might even land a job with this company at a later time if you take advice from the hiring hand. Later on in this series I will go over with you how to set up your portfolio for drop-off.

(3) Portfolio Review

A portfolio review is essentially an interview where you present your portfolio. Unlike the "drop-off" scenario, here you will need to present not only your talents but your social skills. Make sure that you are confident of your talents and leave behind a good first impression. Take these suggestions with you:

- Rehearse First.
- Be on Time.
- Dress for the occasion.
- Shake interviewer's hand firmly with the opposite hand that you are holding your portfolio case.
- Don't sit until a chair is offered.
- Address interviewer formally.
- Look employer directly in eyes when speaking (not in a creepy way).
- Try to weed out the "ums".
- Bring all materials that are needed, such as your portfolio, extra resumes, references, business cards, pen, paper, etc.
- Pass out business cards at the end of the interview.
- Thank the interviewer.
- Stand out from other candidates and send a "Thank-you" card.

(4) Mailing Portfolio

"Ahh!! This is even worse than dropping off my portfolio!!" Don't worry, everything will be okay. You won't be mailing original artwork. Instead, you should duplicate original artwork. There are many ways to do this:

- Tearsheets
- Photostats
- C-prints
- Photocopies or Printing
- Transparencies
- Photography
- CD or Disk

I will go over all of the above later in this series.

Are you just starting out in the "real world"? Next week's topic :"How to Build Up Your Examples without Professional Experience". See you next week.

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