Monthly Archives: January 2012

When first we practice to deceive

Tangled webs. Complex web sites. Animations, movies, downloads. What about you? What do you need your web site to do? Notice I said need—not want. You can get a designer to orchestrate a very complex site for you. The web can do incredible things. But do you need it? Do you need some big dog and pony show before your customer can get to the grit of your site? Less is more. How do you know what you need? Like a logo ask yourself some questions.

  1. Do you want to sell things?
  2. Do you want people to share their information? Newsletter sign up? To contact?
  3. Are you giving something away for free? Free downloads?
  4. Are you conducting web seminars? Providing demo clips of products, presentations?
  5. What are your goals for the web site? In other words, what do you want your customers to take away?

If you’re selling things, then you do want a comprehensive web site. Get thee to a designer stat.
If you are gathering information, guard it carefully and don’t send unwanted information.
If you’re giving away free stuff are you going to keep offering up new material? If not, don’t do it. You want return visits, the quickest way to lose people is to offer the same old thing. Same answer for #4.
If you want to let them know who you are and how to reach and the services you provide, that’s pretty straight forward. A static site will serve that purpose.
Next: Do it yourself?


The shape of things to come

Can your branding be based on shape? Does your newsletter cover fall into basic shapes? Think about a newspaper. Mast head, headline, columns. Those are all shapes. Shapes do not need to be square or rectangle. There are circles and triangles, crosses (t shapes), rings it goes on and on. What can you add shape to? Email, newsletters, memos, bulletins, tell your designer to play with shape. But always, always maintain readability.

By division we come together

Page division that is. Leaving the wonderful world of grids to visit the idea of page division. Page division still fits into the use of grids, it’s just about making the elements larger and groups. I don’t expect you to quit your day job and become a book designer, but if you hire a designer for your book … Again, the idea here is to give you tools to get your message and vision out to the world. To have the tools and ability to understand design and have a voice and an valuable opinion when it comes to creating your message. Designers like working with people who are engaged and understand even the basics of design. So no, I don’t expect you to quit your day job but I do expect you to be open to and suggest ways to use design to make yourself or company unique. You might even get to make your division unique and still stay within a corporate branding. Enough of that, back to page division. If you have a spread, two pages facing each other like an open book the typical layout is to have each page it own self contained unit. I used a grid in that manner last week. Play with that concept, try 2/3, 1/3, left to right. Or ¼, ½ , ¼ , top to bottom. Can you run type up the side? On a diagonal. Play with thumbnail sketches. Apply these ideas to presentations. Always of course with the emphasis on readability.

Grin and Grid it

Grids. So useful, so hardly ever used. Even I don’t use grids as much as I could. Although, after I design something and go back and overlay a grid or the Golden Section my design tends to fall into classic composition guidelines. Still, perhaps my new year’s resolution can be to use grids more often. One of the easiest grids to employ is the symmetrical grid. It’s a classic layout created/resurrected by Jan Tschichold. Mr. Tschichold was a German typographer (type designer) and book designer. He escaped the Nazis and live in Switzerland. Mr. Tschichold popularized the classic grid used in medieval manuscripts, the 2:3 proportion. See diagrams below:

Divide the page height in to ninths or twelfths (12th=less white space)
The top margin is one division, 1/9 (1/12)
The outer margin is the defined by the text block placement. See illustration text block intersections
The inner margin is one half of the outer margin
The height of the body or text block is equal to the page width

I know you can’t wait to tape two pages together and draw up your grid to determine your page and margins. For those of you who cannot wait, here are the measurements:
Nine division                                                               Twelve division
Top margin—1.22 in                                                 Top margin—.4375 in
Bottom margin—2.44 in                                         Bottom margin—.875
Left margin—1.86 in                                                 Left margin—1.42 in
Right margin—.907 in                                             Right margin—.69 in

Going, going, grid

I have a previous entry about grids but this post includes more direct information on using a grid to aid design. A link to the previous entry is at the bottom of this post.

Remember in math class when you learned graphing? That was my favorite part. I got graphs. I love plugging in the data and seeing the line graph, or pie chart created. Ugly, hideous things though they were. In science class we charted by hand, with graph paper. With my first piece of graph paper a love affair began. How I love graph paper, I have notebooks, those composition books, made with graph paper. I flirted with graph paper with purple lines and yellow lines. Throughout high school all my work was turned in on graph paper. It was more expensive that regular notebook paper but my Mother indulged me. What does this have to do with a grid? Lots. Using a grid to layout a page is invaluable to good design. Columns, photos, pull quotes when laid out on a grid create and evenness and readability. It creates a format, a consistent design. That consistent design relates to your branding, it becomes your style. Mine is right here. I consistently have an illustration in the upper left corner of each post. It morphed over time from being related to the post and always copyright free clipart to being unrelated to the post and an original illustration. Below is a simple grid. There is also a pdf that can be downloaded. As you can see on the second grid I laid out my blog post. Left upper corner picture and the text to the right and below. This is such a good way to think about your page, be it a newsletter, PowerPoint presentation, or even a resume. It helps keep images proportionate to the text. You can tell if text is over whelming the page and needs to be broken up. You can experiment with some bolder designs. You can use this grid or make your own.

  1. Download the pdf, Place the pdf on a PowerPoint page sized to 8 1/2 by 11. Use the drawing tool to draw colored boxes to experiment with layout.
  2. Print the pdf and lay another piece of paper over it and draw your boxes or hold both pieces against a window to see through the top piece of paper.
  3. Make your own boxes. Cut one inch off the top and side of a sheet of colored paper (8 1/2 by 11). Fold into quarters, cut apart. Fold each fourth into quarters and cut those apart. You now have 16 rectangles. Lay them out on a white sheet of paper keeping a 1/2 border all around (you won’t be using all the pieces).