Taking on a design challenge can be both exciting and daunting; aesthetic options can feel overwhelming and endless, but the following guidelines will help you gain a firm grasp on how to create a well-designed and effective graphic.
Tip#1: Use a grid
Before you start designing, lay down a grid on your page. You will have to consider your use of the grid, how much information you have, generally what you want your layout to look like, and how many sections you want, but a grid will simplify your design process and can be customized in any way you choose. It allows you to line up text, place information into organized sections, and fit everything on your page, from headers to photos, into standardized boxes. Using a grid gives you a strong, clean, linear layout, and removes the guesswork from arranging the different elements on your page.
“Grids allow you to line up text, place information into organized sections, and fit everything on your page.” – Genevieve Ongaro
Tip #2: Employ a hierarchy
Although not always immediately noticeable, hierarchy is what gives any design structure. In terms of design, hierarchy refers to the way that information is organized on the page in terms of information groupings, headings, subheadings, pull-quotes, or any other design or textual element you may be using. Ask yourself what you want your readers to focus on first; if it’s one main heading, this element needs to be the largest on your page, while everything else should descend in scale according to its importance. A good hierarchy is achieved mainly by the size of your text, but other text attributes, like bolding or italics, can be used as well.
“Ask yourself what you want your readers to focus on first; this element needs to be the largest on your page, while everything else should descend in scale according to its importance.”
Tip #3: Consider your typography
Typography refers to the text on your page, including the use of different typefaces and fonts. A typeface is a particular designed set of characters or family of fonts such as Times New Roman or Helvetica, whereas a font is a variation (condensed, bold, italic, etc.) within a typeface. Limit yourself to using 2 typefaces, and work with the fonts within these so that your design is cohesive and easy to read. Usually, choosing a serif typeface paired with a sans-serif is a good way to go and allows for some nice variation, but sometimes a more “decorative” typeface can be used for titles or headings. If you decide to work with something like this, it is best to choose a simple sans serif as the accompanying typeface.
Tip #4: Choose a cohesive colour scheme
Choose a colour scheme that works and stick with it. A simple colour scheme often creates more impact than when many different hues are used, and makes your design much more enjoyable to look at rather than overwhelming. Check out Adobe Kuler for an easy to use tool to help you come up with an interesting and cohesive colour scheme.
Tip #5: Keep line lengths short and sweet
This one is simple but essential; when dealing with paragraphs or large amounts of text, keep your line length within 50-70 characters. This improves readability and allows for a greater ease of use for your audience so that the eye is neither jumping around or getting fatigued.
“Keeping line lengths within 50-70 characters improves readability and utility.”
Got a real design dilemma? Leave your comment below or reach out to Genevieve Ongaro directly. Genevieve is a graphic designer and printmaker living Ardrossan, Alberta.