If you are anything like me, you love a good podcast, but the problem is there are few and far between on the topic of Graphic Design. Designer and blogger Rob Cubbon is trying to change all that, with a new podcast he has just started called none other than The Design and Marketing podcast.
“The Design and Marketing Podcast will be concentrating on how graphic and web designers and others can market their business to increase and vary their income streams.”
I was lucky enough to be one of Rob’s first interviewees on his new show and we talked about
A guest post by Michael Turner, a Graphic Arts and Design graduate
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.
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.
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.
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 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
My 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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I received an email a few days ago alerting me to an image search engine for free to use photos. It’s called Freepik and you can check it out at www.freepik.com. Obviously if you are going to use the images for commercial purposes you might want to do a quick upload to Google Image Search just to double check no-one has uploaded images someone else has rights to. There seems to be a good selecttion of images to choose from, so well worth a look especially for bloggers wanting free pics for posts.
Designer David Goldklang got in touch with me recently to show me some beautifully designed playing cards he had designed and I asked if he would be interested in sharing his story.
Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about yourself, where you are based and what you do?
David: I’m a graphic designer living in San Francisco, California. I’m currently working for Deanne Delbridge at Creative Focus. We offer creative consulting for photographers as well as design of branding, websites, portfolios, and other collateral. Additionally I work as a freelance designer for clients around the world, specializing mostly in branding and web design.
Tara: You have created a set of beautifully designed playing cards called Vända cards, please could you tell me what inspired you to create them and where the name came from?
David: Thanks, Tara!
My life seems to be filled with playing cards – I’ve always been very interested in cards, games, and puzzles and I’ve played quite a bit of poker. Also, my brother Jordan is a professional magician and typically has dozens of card decks sitting around. Designing a deck of cards is a fantastic project because it’s a perfect opportunity to really let your creativity free – there are so many different elements to design that have to work together and a basic structure to follow, but the possibilities are endless in terms of theme, style, and colors. So I suppose it was inevitable that I would eventually design a card deck.
The name Vända was Jordan’s idea. It’s a Swedish term meaning ‘turn/reverse/twist’ which is incredibly apt because it describes some of the ‘color change’ effects that are used by magicians as well as the deck’s complete rotational symmetry – a feature that is entirely unique to the Vända deck. It also inspired me to design an ambigrammatic (rotationally-symmetrical) logo.
Tara: What was your design process?
David: All of the design features included in the deck were first sketched on paper. It began several months ago with exploring different typographic concepts for the court cards. I went through a number of variations before deciding on ones that really worked well. I particularly like the design of the kings and those seem to be favorite cards for many people who have seen the deck. I also spent considerable time developing the center pips for the spades, clubs, and hearts. My goal was to develop unique symbols that were rotationally symmetrical and worked well alongside the traditional suit icons.
Tara: You have launched a Kickstarter project for the cards please could you tell me a bit about what you hope to achieve from the campaign?
David: The goal is to raise enough money to cover the cost of printing the decks properly. In addition to the actual printing costs, there’s the expense of artwork setup by the printer, proof copies, shipping, and project/transaction fees. The cards will be printed on Bee casino-quality stock by the US Playing Card Company and will look and feel exactly like those used in most casinos in Las Vegas and around other parts of the world. Getting the world’s best quality of cards isn’t cheap and that’s why I’m looking for support from the Kickstarter community.
Tara: Do you have plans to create more future designs?
Absolutely! I already have ideas for further editions of the Vända cards as well as other completely new design concepts. I’ve also been talking to some friends about designing themed playing card decks to help promote other businesses such as music groups. I really hope this project is successful because I would love the opportunity to produce more of my designs and share them with all the card enthusiasts out there.
Tara: Where can people find out more about you and Vända cards?
I just found out about a really interesting looking website called Art in a Box. It looks a great idea, whereby art lovers can subscribe and for a monthly fee of $50 get sent a piece of art from one of the sites registered artists. Obviously sometimes you might not like the art, so you are taking a punt, but it would be an interesting way of finding new artists work, plus get some original work on your walls for a decent price. It might sound like a bad deal for the artist, but I think it is really being used as a lead generator for them as they can also sell their work through the companies online shop at greater prices. Chances are if someone likes your work they might just buy another piece. Currently Art in a Box is only available in the US. Correction: Artbox is available in the US and Canada + other countries for an additional postage charge.
Artist Renee Johnson talks about her work
Art in a Box artist Martin Webb talks about his work
A Conversation with Art in a Box artist Kelsey Robinson
If any of you have been reading my blog for a little while you may know that I have been trying to get some of my character designs licensed, but as yet have had no luck 🙁 . So if any licensing agents are reading please get in touch.
I thought I would share with you some funny feet characters I created which I thought could make fun card and stationery designs. I had the strange idea for feet characters a couple of years ago, just rough in my sketch book, but couldn’t think what to do with them. Then I worked some of them up a little while ago in illustrator and photoshop. I have ideas for more but they are still scribbles.
Anyway here they are:
Pitter patter of baby feet character design
The Big Cheese (New Job)
MistleTOE kisses – Christmas greetings
So hard choosing what to wear
Let’s play footsie – valentine
Head over heels in love – wedding
Are you working on any character designs or have licensed your work? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
I am big believer in personal design projects and really like the premise behind this book. The book is filled with exercises aimed at getting your creative brain working. I know from personal experience how easy it is to get pigeon holed into a certain type if work, especially when you work full time, so this book might help you to break out of it.
It doesn’t matter how much time you have as the creative exercises are split into projects from 30 seconds (yes you read that correctly) to several hours.
So what sort of creative exercises can you expect?
Two minute project
Choose one of the provided squiggles (or make your own) and combine it with one of the supplied phrases (or make your own). Using the squiggle create a doodle which visually represents the phrase.
Multi hour project pg 216
Take a camera and go outside, find images that can make up an alphabet.
Adapt the creative projects to your own needs
I have adapted one of the exercises myself. In the book Noah tells you to make 2 separate lists and the combine items from each to stimulate new ideas. Instead I created a series of coloured cards with different characteristics which I can combine at random to try and generate new character design ideas.
Interviews with other Creatives
Amongst the creative exercises there are short articles where different creatives share their thoughts and strategies on staying creative.
Who should buy this book
Anyone who is feeling in a creative rut or anyone who wants a new creative project outside of work to get their creative juices flowing.