Category Archives: Resources

Back to the Basics

From a practical standpoint, revisiting the elements and principles of design can also offer inspiration when faced with an empty piece of paper.

Refresh your understanding of point, line, plane, shape, form. In fact, you might even enjoy a story created around these characters. Flatland by Edwin Abbott is available as a free download because it is in the public domain.

Taking the element discussion further, consider color, value, texture, and of course, image and type.

The principles of design describe the effects and relationships that are created by the elements interacting with each other. You should be able to evaluate and discuss your designs using these terms.

  • balance
  • contrast
  • tension
  • harmony
  • variety
  • proportion
  • direction
  • movement
  • rhythm
  • emphasis
  • unity
  • repetition

If you need a more formal refresher, take a look at Ellen Lupton’s book and companion website, Graphic Design: The New Basics.

And read about the Gestalt Principles of Perception starting here. A very good writeup by Andy Rutledge.


Creativity On Demand

In class on Wednesday, September 1, we talked about creativity. All professional fields can benefit from creativity. And especially in the design disciplines, you will need to be able to create on demand. Bosses and clients don’t want to hear that you’re not inspired today. You’ll be getting paid to create stuff, so as a designer it’s up to you to find your own inspiration, constantly.

Knowing which brain hemisphere is your dominant side can help encourage you to exercise the weaker one. We all have full brains but we’re wired a bit differently. If you missed it, take the brain test here.

General inspiration and creativity-enhancing exercises can be found in books. Check out, especially Creative Sparks and Caffeine for the Creative Mind.

Creativity Books

Creativity Books

We also watched a TED talk on creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert. TED offers many inspiring and educational talks in 20 minute presentations. Check out their full offering.

Good Reads, Good Resources

I know you’re working hard on your book insides. And on revised covers for the guest critique on Wednesday… But I wanted to share some resources for you to feed the beast. (That would be your brain.)

Some type textbooks nowadays have websites to support their mission as well as provide extra content:

The online journal, Thinking for a Living is chock-full of interesting articles, including one on Emil Ruder.

Ellen Lupton has numerous essays online.

And finally (for today), there’s a great eight-minute video on Hatch Show Print from the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibit.

Score and Die

On the heels of Monday’s die lecture, I wanted to share a couple of resources with you.

First, the eye candy: The Dieline is a website dedicated to the world’s best packaging design examples.

Next, the informative. But who says informative can’t be fun? features everything fold-related. I first learned of Trish Witkowski and her massive 2-volume book on folding when I convinced my previous employer it was a reference book we couldn’t do without. And now her fun style is evident throughout her website. Check out the “Education Series: Score and Die” video to see how it’s done. And check out the other videos at that link for folding examples, aptly titled “60-second Super-cool Fold of the Week.” Finally, learn really valuable info on folding, folding compensation, and other file setup tidbits by watching the video, “Education Series: Folding Basics.” I’m not kidding, watch it now!

Do you have any good online resources for finishing? Post them in the comments.

Special finishing can make a project really great, but it takes planning, preparation, and communication. Make sure you talk with your vendor up front. Be clear on who’s responsible for the final die file. (Usually I’ll prepare it and ask them to check it.) Pick the right stock for the job, and get dummies and ink draw downs. If you’re doing embossing, refer to a guide and specify number of levels, angle of bevel, emboss depth. It can also be a good idea to send the printer a PDF of the project early on so they can plan it appropriately (and price it accordingly).

Letterpress printed and die-cut coasters

Letterpress printed and die-cut coasters by Cranky Pressman. Design: Mikey Burton

Photo: There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image. AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike

Back from Break

Good critiques this week, folks, thanks. Don’t forget, visit the flickr group to give and get additional feedback.

Although there was a previous post on pairing typefaces, Hoefler & Frere-Jones just this week released an email newsletter addressing that topic. You can find it online. And speaking of email newsletters from type foundries, you should sign up for them—all you can find—because they frequently contain interesting and educational info on type.

Sign up:

Just a reminder that Wednesday’s lecture on intellectual property and copyright is summarized in a post from last semester, with links to more info.

Layout for the first fourth of your book is due Monday. Bring in printouts for peer critiques (I will circulate during class.) Manuscripts are due Wednesday, March 24.

Selecting and Pairing Typefaces

There are many resources on the web for how to select typefaces, and which typefaces go well together. To summarize some key points:

  • Read the text, understand the design goals, and pick appropriate typefaces.
  • Pick one or two families of type to do most of the “work” of your design (a serif and/or a sans serif).
  • Consider a third as accent type (a display or script face), if needed.
  • Pick robust families if needed, with extended character sets like old style figures, true small caps, fractions, extra ligatures, alternative characters, etc.
  • Do not mix two serif families, or two sans serif families, or two scripts, etc., as they are too close but not the same, and exude an uneasy feeling.
  • Use adjectives to describe what your type looks like, feels like, and make sure it matches up with the objectives of the project.
  • Evaluate your choices: does result/effect match intention/goal?

Two short web articles on choosing fonts are collected here.

Four web resources for pairing fonts are bookmarked here. (Thanks to John Orrand for a couple of these.)

These should help you as you finalize your brochure and complete your Flickr exercise #2. If you know of any other good resources, list them in the comments.

Bodoni and Futura

Bodoni and Futura were the approved Hecht's department store (now defunct) typefaces.

Outlines are In

I don’t want to sound condescending, but I am truly perplexed at how many of you did not turn in actual outlines for your Outline Assignment for your brochure. I would think you would have been making outlines since middle school or high school, at least! The benefits of an outline include organizing your thoughts and research in a cohesive, hierarchical way so that your resulting brochure text will make sense and have a logical flow. For “why and how,” see this useful resource from Purdue University.

Outlines should be summaries, quick facts, notes, lists. Although there is an outline form known as sentence outlines, when asked in class, I specifically said I wanted ABC—123. This is known as an alphanumeric outline, and easily found with a simple Google search: What is an outline?

The main sections are identified with Roman numerals, the next level is identified with uppercase letters, the next with Arabic numerals, next with lowercase letters, and next with lowercase Roman numerals. As shown below:

I.      Blah blah blahblah blah blahblahblah

A.      Blah blah blahblah blah blahblahblah

1.      Blah blah blahblah blah blahblahblah

a.      Blah blah blahblah blah blahblahblah

b.      Blah blah blahblah blah blahblahblah

c.      Blah blah blahblah blah blahblahblah

i.      Blah blah blahblah

ii.      Blah blah blahblah blah

iii.      Blah blah blahblah

2.      Blah blah blahblah blah blahblahblah

3.      Blah blah blahblah blah blahblahblah

B.      Blah blah blahblah blah blahblahblah

C.      Blah blah blahblah blah blahblahblah

II.      Blah blah blahblah blah blahblahblah

III.     Blah blah blahblah blah blahblahblah

Even if you make a sentence outline, writing actual paragraphs with transitions and conversational tone is a no-no. That would be your text, your manuscript.

Another thing that is not included in an outline is any kind of design direction or notation. The place for that is in the creative brief or in the actual comp. The outline is meant to help your writing and summarize the main points, not describe it. Please review these points for your book outlines, when it comes time, and/or take a look at other resources for outlines.