Design 101

Notes from the Design 101 workshop, including links to web-based resources.

  1. The point here is not to make graphic designers out of all of us. However, many of us will need to design different kinds of materials - flyers, postcards, handouts, newsletters and brochures - in-house, without relying on outside designers. Here are some pointers to help you in basic graphic design work.
  2. Planning is key!
    1. Before you even put mouse cursor to blank page on your screen, it's crucial to do a good bit of planning for any print materials, even the most simple.
    2. Content before design – design around your content, don’t create your content around your design or skimp on it.
    3. What is the purpose and most important message for the materials? What information do you want to communicate most? If the viewer takes only one or two things away from this, what should they be?
    4. What action are you trying to elicit? Do you want to share new knowledge? Get people to an event? Recruit new members? Engage or inform current members? Solicit donations? Attract funders?
  • Is your piece multi-purpose, with a few different goals? How can you design to meet all of them?
  • Does your piece provide the vehicle for these actions? (A link to click on to donate, the address or directions for an event, meeting times, etc)
  • Who is your audience? What demographics are you trying to appeal to? How will that impact your design, presentation, and choice of medium?
    • Your audience is often not you or the other people sitting around the table! This is not about what you like, it's about what will grab your intended audience.
  • What is the best medium for your piece? Flyer, postcard, brochure, poster, presentation, banner, etc...
  • Create a hierarchy of information
    1. Of everything you can say, what's the most important?
    2. Avoid the temptation to overcrowd your page(s)! What doesn't need to be said or included? Can you send people to your website or include an email address or phone number for more info? (always make sure to include this!)
    3. After you've created a hierarchy, fit in the most important elements (text and images) first, then see what you might have to leave out.
    4. Ways to highlight important info:
    • larger typefaces
    • color
    • boldface
    • positioning (top, left, centered)
    • boxes to offset info, especially details that are in smaller type but need to be prominent
  • Tips, tricks and pitfalls
    1. Not too big, not too small - choose typefaces in accordance to how the piece will be viewed (close up, from a distance)
    2. Avoid using too many different typefaces - choose the fewest number necessary, and for longer pieces, create a theme that utilizes a few different typefaces in a regular way
    3. Choose easily readable typefaces, even if they don't look quite as fun (especially for smaller text)
    4. Use images judiciously - can spice up a page, make it more interesting, draw attention to it and make the message more clear and appealing, but can also clutter a page and dilute a message
    5. Same with color - choose colors that complement each other, choose only a few to use throughout the piece, designate different colors for different elements.
    • Sometimes this can also impact printing costs, so less colors might mean lower printing costs.
  • White space is good. Don't squeeze more on a page just because there's extra space.
  • Design 102
    1. Look on the web!
  • Keep an eye out for designs you like and figure out what works and what doesn't.
    • Keep a folder somewhere for design inspirations; when you get a good postcard, brochure, or flyer, save a copy.
    • Also save your own organization's old stuff for reference and critique. What about your piece worked really well? What would you like to change or avoid for next time?
    Archive Category: 
    Graphics and Graphic Design