In short it is the creative construction of imagery and text in order to convey a message. This can be applied to anything that is produced in a visual format for communication.
Behind the scenes!
Although it can be very minimalist in style Graphic Design is born from structure. The structure originally comes from the ‘point sizing’ and ‘leading’ system used on the metal presses to produce News Papers. So before computers and digital printers each letter and space between letters and the lines themselves were created from little ‘metal tabs’ that held each individual letter (much like the little metal letter tabs on the stems of a type writer). These ‘metal tabs’ were put together by hand and held together in clamps in blocks of type and then inked up and printed from.
So today, when we refer to ‘point size’ and ‘leading’ we are referring to the sizing derived from the size of the ‘metal tabs’ that the letters were on and the bits of lead that created the spaces between the lines of text.
Now this structure was converted into digital form for use on computer but before that Graphic designers would draw up a grid across their page to which they would design within.
The creative skill of Graphic Design is making a piece – whatever it’s for – look pleasing to the eye whilst carrying out a functional job ie; conveying a message.
How to apply it to your promotional piece
There are some basic tips that can help you honor the structural grid that lies in the background of any design, and this is what will help your promotional piece stand out from the crowd as a professionally considered and respectable business communication.
Top Tip 1
Decide how many columns you are going to work to in your grid. This could be 1, 2, 3, 4 or more columns depending on the complexity of what you need to put on there. If you take a look at magazines you can usually work out what grid system they have worked to across a double page spread. For example in a basic data sheet, you could break a page into 5 columns and have text across 2 columns with a column of space down the left or right in which you can put an image or two.
Top Tip 2
Alignment. Left aligned, right aligned, centered or justified it’s easy to get carried away with using all four in one document. If you can, try to avoid this. Most text heavy documents work better left aligned as that is the way our minds read, and there is nothing wrong with that. But try to keep consistency throughout. If you decide that you would like to center align your flyer then just make sure you have no ‘widows’ or ‘orphans’ – these are odd words that are left on their own,
just like this
Top Tip 3
There are many fonts out there and once you have chosen the font that is right for your brand you should stick to it. You might have a ‘header font’ that is a little more interesting than the ‘body copy font’ but once you have set those styles keep them consistent across all your communications. It is also common to have a ‘screen’ font for your brand. This caters for things like websites and power point presentations because not everyone has all the fonts you have and only have a core few on their system. Because software like power point and web browsers will use whatever font is available locally when it’s viewed on another machine it is safer to stick with fonts like Arial, Helvetica or Verdana. These are standard fonts on most machines and you know that your piece will render accurately as you have designed it to.
Top Tip 4
‘Bastardising fonts’! This is something that used to infuriate one of my Uni Tutors. Word and other software packages will enable you to Bold, italicize and underline fonts till it looks like someone threw up on the page! This is not good. It makes your design piece look messy and amateurish. It’s also unnecessary in many cases. Maybe one word or two needs to be highlighted for importance but that can be more pleasing to the eye and effective if it’s in another colour (no – it’s not always good to have a multicolour page either!) Choose one ‘accent’ colour that fits with your brand and use that consistently too.
Top Tip 5
Clip Art. Oh yes we’ve all done it. The little symbols and a man throwing papers into the air in frustration. They do have their place, but be under no illusion that they are giving you a professional appearance. Photography can be a good replacement and there are many cheap stock sites out there. One of my favorites is ‘www.istockphoto.com’. On this site you can buy pay as you go credits and if you are only using the images at a small size they are not expensive.
There are many things you can consider when creating your promotional piece but overall the main thing to remember is consistency in your style and quality.