So you are driving down the road and there is the same poster on every lamppost, cleverly placed at driver head height. Nice pic of a patio/pool, says HOME EXPO, says CTIC, then some copy below that you just cannot make out. Sounds interesting, but you give up trying to read it after you nearly run a red light and crash into the car stopped there. Welcome to graphic design.
What Is Graphic Design?
Graphic design is the art of creating the perfect logo, packaging design, page layout and so on. But if you are trying to tell or sell something to people, graphic design is the poster or banner or leaflet you make for this purpose. It is part of a spectrum of possibilities and there is no one perfect solution to what will work for you. Whether you are making your own poster or paying a professional graphic designer, you will still have to decide when it is right for your needs, and then go to print. There are four basic elements to consider.
Where Is It Going?
Let’s consider the streetlamp poster above. There will be two or four holes in the art to accommodate the cable ties, and there will be a band of plastic running across part of the front of the poster. Your design must be so that the holes and the piece of cable tie do not obscure something important, like your visuals and especially your text. Speak to your printer about where these will be.
A normal in-store poster needs consideration as well. Too big and people won’t allow it in their store, too small and customers won’t see it. Leaflets must grab the attention immediately. A folded leaflet has its own issues on how the fold affects the visuals and text.
On a pole poster, your visuals should be bright to attract attention, but large and simple enough so drivers can see what it is. Rather than a whole lounge, just use a nice chair in front of a fireplace. But keeping it simple applies to most marketing visuals. People are bombarded with information all the time, and the brain sensors anything that threatens the senses.
Think of how you are going to use the pic when you take or source it. Most marketing materials are in portrait, but a tall picture will not work on a wide banner. You should also consider how the pic will sit on your poster or leaflet or door hanger. Will it be half pic and half text? Or will you use a full-page pic with text running over it? Think of what is above and below the main features of your pic.
Cropping a picture is often as important as the picture itself. And people read left to right, so keep both aspects in mind. If need be, flip the image mentioned above so the back of the chair is on the right and the fire more centre/right. Crop the chair so you can see it is a chair, but do not leave half a flowerpot behind it.
The basic rule is to use as little text as you can to still get the desired result from your audience/customers. Our businesses are important to us and we want to tell the world all about ours. But the world only wants to know the basics, like what, where, when, how and why. These elements can be shuffled in order of importance. You can leave out the when, for example, if there is no time limit, and the where is not important if it is a sign in front of your shop.
Fonts are tricky and your first task is legibility. Sans serif fonts are generally easier to read, while serif fonts are often friendlier. Avoid difficult to read fonts like script or those gothic flourishes. If you are selling rusks in the park market or homemade children’s toys, you can use Comic Sans, but not if you are a financial advisor.
The Bottom line
These are the three basic elements you have to get right, but you still have to make them work together. If you decide to use a graphic designer, make sure their design works. If you want to do it yourself, ask your printer for samples of similar items, choose the one you like and replicate it to match your message.