Quick and Easy Web Design Tips

A guest post by Michael Turner, a Graphic Arts and Design graduate

graphics tablet web designer

Web design has become a very competitive business in recent years. You may have great, unique content on your website, but if the look and feel is of a poor standard, visitors won’t want to stay and look around. The design of a website should first and full most complement the purpose as well as the particular niche it is in, and it should ensure reading and browsing is as easy and hopefully intuitive experience for any visitor.

Structure

The content on any website must be structured and organised. Content should be planned out and divided into logical sections by making them visible and easily discoverable. When content needs to be broken up, break it up into different pages. If content is sparse on a particular topic, try to add it with content that complements it in a logical way. Blank space in some cases can look out of place, and it can give the impression that the content is not important. This does however depends on what the site is about. For example, an art or design site may for aesthetic reasons use negative space.

Optimisation

Optimising a website makes it load quicker and more efficiently for visitors as well as improving the overall design. Imagery of any kind needs to be sized and optimised appropriately. Stretched images that are too large, for example, will look awkward and probably pixelate too. Use a gallery view or thumbnails if larger images are needed, so that they don’t eat up too much room on the page. This will also help towards a faster loading website. Remember to take in to consideration that your site will be used on a number of different devices including laptop and desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets, all with varying sized screens. All have different resolutions, and the website must be readable and optimised for them all.

Break Up your Text

Websites with walls of text are hard to read and off-putting to visitors. Breaking up the text and content with images, paragraphs, lists or subheadings lets visitors quickly scan content to see if it is relevant to their interests. If so, they will be encouraged to read the rest.

Readability and Usability

All websites should have content that is easy to find so visitors can intuitively find the information they need. Users should be able to scan pages and know what information is where, and navigation on the website must be easy with the use of appropriate menus and buttons. Navigation should always be consistent throughout a website and a site search function or site map can make it much easier for visitors.

Similarly, websites should be clear. Avoid overusing distracting animations and graphics, using garish or contrasting colour schemes and using vivid colours for the fonts. Busy backgrounds often make a website harder to read. If the overall design of a site strains the visitor’s eyes or makes it difficult to look at, they won’t want to read it and will move on in most cases.

Create A Brand

Branding a site can actually make it more appealing and in some cases attractive, and it can tie in with the design of the rest of the site. An appropriate, well-designed logo can make the website more recognisable and hopefully memorable, and it can also determine the whole colour scheme for the design. Make sure the colours used reflect the sector and possibly even the values of the site.

Keep it Simple

Your websites functions and features need to be appropriate and simple. They don’t need a huge amount of Web 2.0 features just for the sake of it. Embedded media and other plug-ins can be used effectively too, but overusing them can make it look a little over crowed. This is most true for social media widgets, which should only be used if the social media sites have a dedicated user base that is active.

Six Tips for Freelance Designers

designer on mac

A guest post by graphic designer Luke Clum

Working in freelance design often involves keeping up with several projects at once and effectively managing diverse demands on your time. But there are a number of steps you can take to help keep your professional life in order.

1. Build An Inspiration Bank

There are times when you find yourself awash with ideas and others when inspiration runs dry. Have a store of creative sources up your sleeve that you can turn to in these times of draught. Premium Pixels is an extensive catalogue of some of the best and new web designs, while Inspire Me Now provides a comprehensive look at innovative image creation and use online.

2. Keep Up With Technology

Not only is this important for your design work, it can also help you manage your time. Downloading the right time-saving apps — particularly cloud apps that will connect your desktop, laptop, iPad and phone — is an excellent way to keep track of your work on the move, from the latest website wireframes to invoices and accounts. The popular document saving and sharing app, Dropbox, can be used to store information across a number of devices as well as between you, your colleagues and clients, while iBlueSky will help you get your ideas in order when beginning a new project.

3. Nurture Your Client-Designer Relationships

Spending adequate time getting to know your clients, learning more about their business or campaign and attending to their particular needs, is sure to save you time in the long run. Not only will you have a clearer understanding of the design services you’re being hired to provide, you will also get the chance to make your own demands heard, regarding the terms of your employment, invoicing and payment.

4. Get Your Invoicing In Order

One of the biggest difficulties for freelancers is being paid on time but there are a number of simple and effective ways to get round this:
• Make it clear from the start how and when you would like to be paid.
• Draw up invoices that communicate this in writing, stating in plain English the terms of payment.
• Invoice efficiently. This means sending the invoice as soon as the job is completed, sending it directly to the person who will pay you, and having a follow-up strategy in place should clients fail to adhere to your requirements. Check out this freelance invoicing guide for more tips on how to invoice more efficiently.

5. Create A Positive Work Environment

One of the great perks of freelancing is being able to work wherever you like but this can become a drawback if your home space becomes your work space or vice versa. Find yourself a place that you can dedicate to work — somewhere with plenty of light and space for a mood board — and stick to it.

6. Set Your Hours

As established above, freelancing allows utmost professional flexibility but this can come at a price to your social and/or family life. Be strict with yourself regarding working hours. Give yourself adequate time to rest and play. Even if you don’t stick to the same hours each day, be clear when you sit down to work when it is that you’re going to come up for air.

Luke Clum Luke Clum is a graphic designer from Seattle who specializes in print and web development. He loves coffee, hiking and alpine climbing in the mountains. Follow him on Twitter @lukeclum

A Graphic Designer’s Journey to Songwriting

A guest post by Anitra Jay

Anitra Jay Designer and SongwriterMy road to music started with graphic design. I was a PR major all set to make the world a better place when I first took my graphic design 101 class.  It was there I learned the essentials of Quark Xpress and Photoshop.  At that time Quark Xpress was the beez-knees. Ever since then, I was hooked on graphic design.  The thing that really drew me in about graphic design was seeing my creations being used in the real world. I designed newsletters, ads, brochures, logos, business cards, and so on. To think that my designs were being distributed around the country to people I didn’t even know just blew my mind.  Upon college graduation, I launched my own business as a freelance graphic designer.

I worked for universities, printers, entrepreneurs, and even a publishing company. It was so incredible yet nerve wrecking being my own boss. But being able to create and see people use the things I created powered me forward.

That was nearly 10 years ago. I’ve since evolved making strides within a new field of creation. Today, I’m a singer/songwriter. But the graphic design side of me didn’t go quietly into the night.  It reigns triumphant guiding my career to new levels.  Everything I knew about graphic design, I apply to songwriting and even my career.

Anitra Jay

There’s a simple creation process that exists whether you’re designing a logo or writing a song.  It all boils down to these three steps:

Brainstorming, Putting it all together, and Review/Critique

In the brainstorming phase, we want to know what feelings will this piece portray? What thoughts do we want to evoke? What is the complete story? We sketch and outline some initial ideas.

Putting ideas together

In the next phase we put those ideas together into one cohesive flow. We begin to tell the story. We’re looking to develop patterns, close in on a specific theme, and try to create something that’s both appealing and that makes sense to a particular audience.

Review what we have so far

The next step is to review what we have so far and perfect it to make it even better. We might switch out certain elements.  We might rearrange certain parts.  We might even scratch it all and start fresh with a new idea.  In this phase we review and critique until we arrive at our final masterpiece. Something we are very proud of.  Something we may one day share with the world.

That is what I do as a graphic designer and that is what I do everyday as a singer/songwriter.

Anitra Jay business cardsAnitra Jay, is a professional singer/songwriter based in Charlotte, NC USA and was surrounded by Jazz, Blues, and R&B as a child with Gospel at the helm of her influence. She began writing her own songs at an early age and soon after taught herself to play guitar. Inspired by a range of artists from Bill Withers to Erykah Badu, her music is a down-to-earth blend of soul and poetry. She combines soul-catching melodies with real life experiences that leave you inspired. For a free music download, check out her website at http://www.anitrajay.com or visit her on Facebook @ listn.to/anitrajaymusic.

10 Dynamic Drug Package Designs

A guest post by Brian Morris who writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog.

Medicine is one of those unique product industries in which brand and packaging are critical to success. Since so many discount brands are available that have the exact same ingredients, the following drug companies promote their products with dynamic designs to motivate customers to buy from them.

1. Help Remedies by ChappsMalina

Instead of going for wild graphics or busy designs, Help Remedies chooses to stick with the basics. When you want relief, you don’t want to have to guess about what you need or read through long descriptions on the medicine box. The simplicity works for Help, and their packaging is super easy to read and understand.

drug packaging design 1

2. Immuno-Viva by Zeus Jones

Immuno-Viva packages their vitamins in a style similar to Help Remedies, although they take it in a slightly different direction. It’s also no-frills, but it adds a sense of higher style with the dark bottle and contrasting bright colors.

drug packaging design 2

3. ATS Acne Gel by MaximoPharma

When it comes to something basic such as acne cream and gel, it’s hard to get excited about it.  But this design for ATS is fun and friendly, specifically aimed at the preteen and teen market.

drug packaging design 3

4. Multaq by Robbie Workman

This design for Multaq dresses up otherwise ubiquitous and boring blister packs in different types of packaging.  The use of folds, flaps, and slide-outs creates a more exciting and eye-catching look.

drug packaging design 5

5. Remedi by Amanda Wood

This packaging for Remedi was a student-produced design, and it incorporates an attention-commanding red cross logo emblazoned on all the elements.  It’s a simple design that focuses on patient information in the labeling.

drug packaging design 4

6. MediCan by Amcor

Amcor’s MediCan is a functional container that features an easy-to-use pull-top covering. It can be formed into many different shapes and sizes, and it blocks out light and moisture in a compact package.

drug packaging design 6

7. Target Prescription Bottle by Deborah Adler

Target does more than just make cool designs for the home or office, they also came up with a fantastically functional design for their pharmacy drug bottles that stand upside down on their caps. The labels are easy to read and can be color-coded for family members.

drug packaging design 7

8. GreenDo by Andis Niedre

An organic, natural feel dominates the look of this offering from GreenDo.  The design presents comforting and soothing reassurance that the ingredients are natural and good for you.

drug packaging design 8

9. Medicine-On-Time

While this isn’t a design in the traditional sense, the idea allows a pharmacist to put together a daily medicine kit, which is convenient and safe for older patients.

drug packaging design 9

10. Food Science of Vermont by Place Creative

Food Science of Vermont decided to use colorful photos of fruit to convey the idea that their supplements are all-natural and healthy.  The bright colors of the fruit are set against simple graphics and a clean, white background.

drug packaging design 10

Author’s Bio: Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint and Facebook.

Design Possibilities of E-Publishing

A guest post by Nick Lewis writing on behalf of www.rhapsodymedia.co.uk

E-publishing – for mobile, e-readers, tablets and desktop – opens up enormous potential for creative design. Although most e-books and iPad publications are little more than the digital source for the paper version, as e-publishing matures we are likely to see far more advantage taken of the possibilities of digital publishing.

ipad

Here are just a few examples of what e-publishing makes possible.

Illustrations

The most obvious example is more comprehensive use of illustrations. With the financial constraints imposed by printing removed – thicker paper, more inks – the scope for full colour illustrations is much greater.

More than that, the displays available thanks to the devices like the iPad mean that these illustrations can be more beautifully rendered than they ever would have been in an affordable paperback.

Animation

Although illustration may be more cost effective in digital publishing, the real potential goes beyond that.

Animation has already made an appearance in groundbreaking e-books, most notably ‘Operation Ajax’, a “motion comics” telling of the CIA’s involvement in the 1950s Iranian revolution. The addition of animation to comic books has the potential to add new depths to the genre.

The possibilities of animation aren’t just confined to comic books though – animated ‘illustrations’, advertisements and diagrams could all be valuable additions.

Operation Ajax on Ipad by Cognito Comics

Interactivity

Operation Ajax also offers up dossier files on all the main characters for the reader to peruse at their leisure. ‘Cathy’s Book’ goes further.

Although originally a print novel itself, the iOS app offers animated versions of sketchbook drawings and voicemail phone clues, crossing the audio/visual divide.

Cathy’s Book

Ruper Murdoch’s pet iPad newspaper ‘The Daily’ became eclipsed by certain events in the news, and was not generally well received. But by combining multimedia and print as well as an app’s sensibility to navigating a newspaper, it did show that there could be a place for digital only newspapers and magazines that go beyond publishing the same text online and linking to the odd video.

The Daily

Soundtracks

As a professional musician publishing novels on the side, Nick Cave was particularly well placed to introduce the soundtracked novel to the world.
The iPhone version of his last novel ‘The Death of Bunny Munro’ synced the audiobook reading of the book with the scrolling text, including full soundtrack by Cave and long-time collaborator Warren Ellis as well as sound design from British artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard.

The Death of Bunny Munro

Not every novelist is an acclaimed songwriter and composer, but the possibilities pointed to for multimedia e-books combining sound, animation and graphic design are certainly compelling, and demonstrate that e-publishing can be about far more than just crystal clear pdfs.

nickNick Lewis is a technology and design writer, writing on behalf of premedia specialists Rhapsody Media.
 
 

10 Awesome Twitter Backgrounds for Inspiration

This is a guest post from Blake from You Design It

Twitter is used as a sounding board for brands big and small. One aspect that can’t be overlooked on your Twitter profile is the background. The design and style can speak volumes, sometimes more than the tweets themselves. We’ve put together a list of ten different backgrounds on Twitter to inspire you to create a look that can say much more than 140 characters ever can.

Vectips

vectips twitter backgroundVectips is all about vector graphics. What better place to show off your vector chops than on your Twitter background. It can serve as a canvas for graphic designers to display their work while tweeting their latest announcements.

Go Media

go media twitter imageGo Media added a personal touch with a photograph of the members of their design and development team. This gives a face to their Twitter voice.

RollingStone

rolling stone twitter backgroundRolling Stone is an edgy, trendy magazine that is renowned for their magazine covers of the same vein. Turning their Twitter background into an art gallery of magazine covers is a great way to connect to their followers.

Black Sheep PR

black sheep twitter imageryBlack Sheep PR is a small firm with big ideas. They stand out from the crowd with an elegant but yet contemporary pattern for a background featuring their mantra “Rock Out with Your Flock Out”.

Nike Sports Wear

nike twitter designWhat could be more suitable for the Nike company as a Twitter background than a design that instantly puts the visitor in mind of a sneaker box? Simple and understated, Nike gets their message across without trying to overdo it.

SunDrop

Sun drop TwitterSunDrop wants you to know its taste is crisp and refreshing. The message is received loud and clear with this background. Makes you thirsty doesn’t it?

VH1

Twitter VH1VH1’s Twitter background is cool, fresh, and modern looking. They chose not to feature the logo in the background and it pays off.

H&M

HM Twitter background designH&M knows sex sells. So does pretty women in a bikini. Job well done H&M.

Reggie Bush

Reggie Bush Twitter BackgroundReggie Bush opted for the stylized image of himself. It portrays speed and athleticism. Precisely what he embodies.

Tory Burch

twitter tory burchThe Tory Burch brand is elegant and refined. The framed images in the background collectively emit the same feeling.

These Twitter backgrounds all vary both in subject and style. All are effectively done with relevance and message in mind. The consistency of brands across social channels are important in both content and design. Does your Twitter background say the same thing your tweets do?

blake designerAuthor Bio:
Blake designs and develops at You Design It where they print custom apparel and more.
You can follow him on Twitter @youdesignit.