Logo Design Process
Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.
“It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”
So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.
“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”
“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.
“B-b-but, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”
To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”
Great logos are deceivingly simple. As the above story illustrates, the simple often takes the most training achieve. To get to very essence takes years of experience and a select eye.
So how do you go about design a logo? First I assume you have the foundation in design principals which include: typography (understanding the different classes of type and having a sensitivity to letterforms, counterforms, kerning, leading), color, symbolism, and knowledge of the design programs.
Examples of Logos by Design Intense
My logo design process:
- Research — Research includes general reading on the industry itself, sometimes on its history, and on its competitors plus visual research on other logos and symbols for the industry. Google image search is one of the easiest ways to do this.
- Visual Brainstorming — To create the logo design concepts you need to tap into your creativity. First I jot down words associated with the logo then using a sketchbook I sketch several ideas.
- Simmer — Like a good soup, you need to let the ideas simmer so after a brainstorming session, I usually put the sketchbook away and do something else for a while. The process stays active in my mind however and I find myself looking at everything around me “framed” by the concept
- Review — Once I have several concepts worth exploring further I think review type and graphical source material
- Develop — The concepts are then fleshed out into more developed ideas in the computer. I usually develop 5-7 different concepts.
- Reflect — Before showing the designs to the client I give myself another break from the process to reflect. Then I look at the designs fresh, make any necessary adjustments and present them to the client.
- Adapt — Based on client feedback a design direction is established and the concept is adapted to the suggestions.
- Polish — Final step is to polish the design, perfect that curve, kern that letter and any other tweaks.
Logo Design Example
When I designed the logo for my business I followed the process. The sketch on the left is one of the ones I choose as a final competitor. I knew I wanted a customized type-based logo using different fonts and the combination would contrast raw creativity with controlled design. I scanned the sketch into the computer and redrew it. I found a typeface that worked well for the word “intense” but the word design was a customized extended font with the “d” and the “e” forming a ligature. I like the middle design but after reflection I felt something was missing. The ligature was unique and well integrated but the rest of the letters were regular type separated by spaces. I needed to tighten the design concept. So, after several reworks, I created further ligatures between the “e” and the “s” and the “g” and the “n” and that united the design.
- Simplify, simplify, simplify — if it doesn’t add value, get rid of it
- If it needs an explanation, it doesn’t work — a good logo should impact and communicate without a long explanation. Yes there can be a deeper level to the design but the logo should work without any explanation
- Integrate wherever possible — avoid the type of logos where there is a symbol separated from type and there is no relationship between them.
- Consider how it will be used
- Consider how it will “fit” amongst its peers
- Consider how it will stand the test of time
- Make it super small — does it still work?
- Adapt it to a dark background
- Make it scalable
Want to be inspired? Check out this sites:
And for laughs as to where one can go wrong: http://www.artistmike.com/Bad-Logos/BadLogos.html
The Design of Christmas
This post I decided to tackle a controversial subject: the Design of Christmas and the symbolism that is associated with this holiday as it has evolved over time. Christmas excellent example of how symbols can take on different meaning depending on how they are used and the designs they support.
Christmas as we know it today began as annual Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. It is traditionally celebrated on December 25th. In the United States, with its multicultural mix, Christmas has broadened in meaning with the celebration of Santa Claus which is non-denominational. In my family, for example, Christmas has always been a special time even though we are not religious.
But what few people realized is that the origins of Christmas and its symbolism are not Christian at all, virtually all traditional representations of Christmas began as part of Pagan rituals.
Historical debate has been raging for a long time over the exact date of the birth of Jesus Christ, with estimates ranging from sometime in September to much later in February. But the most important date in the festive season for Pagans is the winter solstice which always takes place around December 21. Called Yule, it is one of the traditional Celtic fire festivals and marks the return of the light after the longest night of the year.According to Pagans, the early Christian church adopted December 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus because they saw that everyone was already having a good time and decided to take advantage of it.
This all started back in 800 AD — Christmas Day itself was a relatively minor holiday, although its prominence gradually increased after Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas Day in 800 AD. Northern Europe was the last part to Christianize, and its pagan celebrations had a major influence on …Christmas Day itself was a relatively minor holiday, although its prominence gradually increased after Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas Day in 800 AD. Northern Europe was the last part to Christianize, and its pagan celebrations had a major influence on Christmas. Scandinavians still call Christmas Jul (Yule), originally the name of a twelve-day pre-Christian winter festival. Logs were lit to honor Thor, the god of thunder, hence the “Yule log.”
In addition to the Yule Log, many other common Christmas symbols have Pagan or otherwise non-Christian origins:
The Christmas Tree
The earliest Christmas trees actually originated in Egypt and symbolized the triumph of life over death. The first traditional Christmas tree came from Germany. The trees were meant to symbolize the people’s hope for the coming spring and a good harvest. They also believed the trees warded off witches and evil spirits. The Christmas tree was not automatically accepted as a symbol in the Christian Christmas as it was thought to be a pagan symbol.
Many Pagan cultures used to cut boughs of evergreen trees in December, move them into the home or temple, and decorate them. This was to recognize the winter solstice — the time of the year that had the shortest daylight hours, and longest night of the year. This occurs annually sometime between DEC-20 to 23. As the days were gradually getting shorter; many feared that the sun would eventually disappear forever, and everyone would freeze. But, even though deciduous trees, bushes, and crops died or hibernated for the winter, the evergreen trees remained green. They seemed to have magical powers that enabled them to withstand the rigors of winter.
- Not having evergreen trees, the ancient Egyptians considered the palm tree to symbolize resurrection. They decorated their homes with its branches during the winter solstice.
- The first decorating of an evergreen tree began with the heathen Greeks and their worship of their god Adonia, who allegedly was brought back to life by the serpent Aessulapius after having been slain.
- The ancient Pagan Romans decorated their “trees with bits of metal and replicas of their god, Bacchus [a fertility god]. They also placed 12 candles on the tree in honor of their sun god” 2 Their mid-winter festival of Saturnalia started on DEC-17 and often lasted until a few days after the Solstice.
- In Northern Europe, the ancient Germanic people tied fruit and attached candles to evergreen tree branches, in honor of their god Woden. Trees were viewed as symbolizing eternal life. This is the deity after which Wednesday was named. The trees joined holly, mistletoe, the wassail bowl and the Yule log as symbols of the season.
Santa Claus is another symbol of Christmas that is a bit muddled in its history. Some people believe he is yet another attempt to change Pagan god’s into Christian acceptable alternatives, others believe Santa was a real person named Saint Nicholas born in the 4th century. Saint Nicholas would spread good will amongst men. He was a generous man that was said to be devoted to children in particular. The legend of the man spread throughout Europe and in Holland his name was transformed into Sinterklass.
According to the Pagans Santa Claus is actually a combination of the Roman god Neptune of the sea and Nickar the Teutonic God of the Harvest. He also pulls several attributes from other pagan gods. In the Christian faith it’s believed Santa was a bishop who later became a saint for his good deeds. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of the sea and children. He is said to have used his fortune to give gifts to poor children on Christmas.
The Christmas stocking is said to have originated in a nobleman’s home who after the death of his wife squandered his fortune making it impossible for his three daughters to marry. Saint Nick, previously mentioned above felt pity on the girls and threw bags of coins down their chimney. Their stockings which had been hung there to dry by the fire caught the gifts. Stockings are still hung today to hold gifts from Santa Claus. They have no real symbolism.
Christmas Wreaths and/or Holly and Mistletoe
- The wreath is a pagan symbol of eternity. The circular shape of the Christmas wreath represents life’s never ending circle and the interconnection of all things. The pagans believed the wreaths would protect them from evil spirits and bring good luck.
- Traditionally holly and mistletoe was also hung in homes at Christmas and was believed to have healing properties to the inhabitants. However the Christian church banned this pagan tradition and began claiming the Christmas wreath of holly represented the never ending love of Christ.
- Mistletoe snuck back into the scene regardless of the ban at [[New Year’s]] rather than Christmas due to the mysterious Christmas superstition arising that it was bad luck during Christmas. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from the Scandinavian goddess of love Frigga, whose plant is mistletoe.
Christmas presents being given began in ancient Rome during the winter solstice. Gifts were placed in evergreen trees to honor the sun god as well as bring the receiver luck and prosperity. Later gift giving was ascribed to the bringing of gifts at the birth of Jesus by the three kings.
More Christmas Symbols and Their Meanings
Christmas symbols, such as candles, bells, evergreens and mistletoe, are an integral part of our celebration of the holidays. However, many people don’t know the significance of these symbols or how they evolved.
- The first known use of bells at Christmas was in the Fourth Century AD. It is said that Bishop Paulinus of Nola, in Campania, Italy, first rang the bells to celebrate Christmas. The Latin word for bell, Campanula, comes from these words.
- Candles are used in many countries at Christmas to symbolize faith. Burning candles in the windows on Christmas Eve to welcome the Christ Child is an old Irish custom. In Norway, burning candles were said to radiate blessings.
- The custom of decorating a Christmas tree comes from Germany, where legend has it that Martin Luther cut a fir tree and brought it inside his house. Then he decorated it with lighted candles, to represent the stars
- The poinsettia has only been used as a Christmas symbol since 1836, when Joel Poinsett, Minister to Mexico, brought one to his South Carolina home. Mistletoe is used as a decoration, and of course a person standing under it can expect to be kissed. This custom may have grown from an old legend that if a girl doesn’t receive a kiss under the mistletoe, she won’t marry in the next year. The holly that decorates our homes was first used in early France and England. A sprig hanging above the door indicated a house in which Christ abided.
- Hanging stockings can be traced to Saint Nicholas, a bishop in Asia Minor in the Fourth Century. In a legend, he tossed gold down the chimney of a house where the three daughters were about to be sold into slavery because their poor father could not afford a dowry for them. The gold fell into their stockings, which were hung by the fire to dry.
- Holly: Holly was also used in Northern Europe to drive away evil spirits. It would be brought into their homes to brighten the mood and to refresh the air.
- Mistletoe: Mistletoe was used by Druid priests before the birth of Christ in winter celebrations. The plant had no roots, yet it remained green through the winter. The Celtics also believed that mistletoe had healing powers and used it as an antidote for infertility and to ward off evil spirits. They also believed that it was a symbol of peace. The Scandinavians believed the plant was associated with the goddess of love. They believed that those who kissed under the mistletoe would have a promise of luck an happiness in the new year.
- Christmas Cards: Christmas cards originated in England and were created by boys practicing their writing skills. They would make cards for their parents with Christmas greetings. The first real Christmas card is credited to Sir Henry Cole in 1843. He was the director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. He commissioned an artist named John Calcott to draw an illustration that would be used on the card. The card had three panels. The center panel had a family enjoying Christmas festivities and the message said, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.” The cards were sent because he was too busy to send individualized messages to his friends.
- Xmas: Many people believe that the term “Xmas” is disrespectful. However, the Greek word fro Christ is Xristos. The letter “X” was used as a religious symbol in Greece. Europeans have used Xmas as an abbreviation for Christmas since the 16th century.
So this year as you celebrate, no matter your faith or creed, think of how the symbolism that surrounds this special time has a history of meaning and through the use and design of these symbols, their meaning has been adapted.
Intro to the Web
The Web: a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet.
As a web designer, I couldn’t overlook the subject of the web but I have been reticent to write about it because there are so many blogs and sites out there already. However, since my experience with the web dates back to the days when a 14.4 modem was the fastest you could get, I may have some insights worth sharing.
What does the Web mean to you?
- A network
- An information source
- A way to connect with others
- A form of advertising and promotion
- What else?
One thing that is certain is that the Web is in a state of constant evolution.
Design for the Web
If you want to design for the Web then learn the medium. The biggest mistakes Web designers make is designing for the wrong medium. A Web site is not:
- A TV commercial — no long “intros”, no one will wait
- A brochure — keep text to a minimum, consider readability, make the home page clear as to what the site is about
- A video game — use sound with extreme reserve and limit movement on the page
- A billboard — use the space wisely, don’t fill with a large image and force everyone to scroll.
If you watch TV commercials from the 1950’s you will clearly see that advertiser were still unfamiliar with the medium of television. Most of the commercials were just like radio ads with a picture. This commercial for Cheerios is a classic example. The commercial doesn’t take advantage of the medium to use movement, sound and effects. As advertisers understood television more, the commercials became more sophisticated. The same is true with the Web. Early websites were either like online brochures or library indcxes/
Some things to consider in Web design:
- Compatibility — test on the browsers your client’s customers will be using, not just what you use
- Navigation — this should be clear and easy to use and in the same location on all interior pages
- Usability — this includes navigation but also if the site downloads fast, easy to understand, doesn’t require plugins or new technology just to see key content
- Conservative Use of Technology — always balance the integration of technology with the value it will bring to the site. Don’t just add it because it’s cool or fun
- Adapt not Invent — whenever possible, it’s better to customize a 3rd party technology versus create something new — why? because it will be more compatible to your customer, easier to maintain, cheaper to implement
An important thing to remember as a Web designer is that a Web site, unlike a TV commercial, doesn’t just “play”, a customer has to find it and whether it is through a search engine or typing in the URL, by the time the customer gets to the site, they have “worked” to get there. Therefore, you should “reward” them by having a home page that loads fast, with navigation that is clear so they know where to go next, and enough information so the customer realizes they have reached the right place.
To be a good Web design you need to understand many different technologies. The key word here is “understand”. You don’t need to be an expert but you do need to know what they are, when to use them and why. Just like you should know how to open your hood and check your oil, a Web designer should know at minimum a general understanding of:
- Image Compression
- Content Management Systems (CMS)
That quote is excellent in terms of Web design because even after designing Web sites for over 13 years, there is so much that I don’t know how to do. But, I do know what questions to ask and where to find the answers and that is the most important. With the constant flux of the Web, new technologies being introduced every day, trying to know it all will mean you are know a little about everything but nothing of real importance. However, if you learn the basics and follow the evolution, you can always find the answers for what you lack.
- Web Monkey — tutorials from Basic to Advance on Web design and programming. This is how I learned.
- Design Tips
What to look for in a Web site
So you want a web site for your business? These days it’s almost impossible to operate without some form of online presence. Here are some things to consider:
- Updateable — these days it’s so easy to update your site without technical knowledge — make sure your design provides this option at a reasonable price. One great option for CMS is WordPress
- Functional — the site should do all the things you want it to
- Attractive — the site should represent your business visually in an attractive way
- Clear — the site should clearly communicate what it is about
- Expandable — there should be room to grow
- Does the Firm have marketing, creative and technical expertise? Successful websites are more than just fancy programming or pretty pictures, all three areas need to work together so the end result is both profitable and useful to your customers.
- Are they a partner or just a vendor? A professional website is a significant marketing tool so it is important the Firm is invested in the project’s success. Many firms are just factories, building site after sitr without considering each client as unique, thereby not dedicatingthe necessary effort and creativity to the project.
- Do they listen as much as they talk? — If the Firm doesn’t seem genuinely interested in your business, do you want to entrust your marketing investment to them? Do they speak to you in layman’s terms or do they like to use “geekspeak” to impress?
- Do they have a process to ensure the success of all projects? With no industry certification or standards, anyone can call themselvesa web designer, however, a distinction of a professional firm is a clearly defined process — a result of their years of experience.
- While it may be tempting to simply ‘get quotes’ and go with the lowest price, there is a huge variation in the level of talent, expertise and customer support offered among designers. It’s much cheaper in the long run to choose a firm to do the project right the first time.
- Does their portfolio contain a variety of styles and functionality or does everything look the same, like a ‘template’ was used? A cookie cutter website may cost less, but it is unlikely to succeed from a marketing standpoint if it isn’t customized for your customer base.
- Is the Firm established with a physical office and multiple ways to contact them? If you can’t easily reach them as a prospective client, imagine what it will be like after the project is over.
- Don’t get ‘locked in’ — a popular sales technique is to offer a low price to design your site then charge a hefty ongoing payment to keep it online. If the client wants to change firms after the project is complete, they have to start over.
- Any professional firm with a good reputation should be willing to provide you with client references. Contact at least two or three and ask them what it was like to work with the Firm.
- Are you impressed by the firm’s marketing materials and website? If it is unique, eye-catching and creative, they probably have the creativity and expertise to help your business.
** Source: Website Buyers Guide
Symbolism in Design
1. The practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships.
An understanding of symbolism is a critical part of graphic design. Designers use symbols in both obvious and subtle ways to communicate something about the design. Symbolism is a profound, complex subject so in this post I will present an overview of what I consider to be the most important for designers to be aware of in terms of symbolism.
Symbols exist everywhere and we ‘read’ them without even realizing it. For example, we all know the red octagon symbol for “stop” and respond to it even if the words are not there. If we used the stop symbol and put the words “go” on it instead, the majority would stop anyway and the rest would be confused. Why? because the symbol is more powerful than the words.
Another common symbol for “stop” is the circle with the line through it. The meaning is slightly different than the octagon but in both symbols the color red is used because in signage red has become symbolic with: stop, warning, danger, error, prohibited — red is the first color the eye perceives and therefore the best choice for these uses.
Symbolism of Color (source adapted)
Color in World Culture
Color means many different things to different people and cultures. Color also represents feelings, people, countries, cultures, and color symbolism. Color can be personal to each individual but as designers, we consider the how color is generally represented in the particular culture we are targeting. In the western world, for example, the color red symbolizes many things: depending on context. In addition to the meanings as listed above, red is frequently used to symbolize anger, aggression or intense passion. Some car insurance companies even charge more for red cars because studies show that the owners of red cars are more aggressive drivers and take more risks.
Symbolism of Color: Using Color for Meaning
The color black represents the lack of, emptiness, night, death and even the negative or evil. The color black is used in funerals because a funeral is the mourning of loss or lack of a person and the emptiness one feels after they are gone.
The color white symbolizes purity, life and new beginnings like the break of dawn. This is why you see the color white in weddings and angels are dressed in white gowns.
However, color symbolizes different things in different parts of the world.
Color Symbolism in the Western world:
- Traffic lights: Red means stop, yellow means caution, and green means go. Yellow signs also warn drivers of upcoming curves, pedestrian crossings, and a animal crossings.
- Patriotism: Most, if not all countries have a flag. The colors of each flag are usually seen as patriotic. Red, white, and blue symbolizes patriotism in the U.S.A. as well as many other countries
- Holidays: Red and green are favorite Christmas colors. Colors of Autumn such as orange, brown, yellow and red are associated with Thanksgiving with black and orange associated with Halloween. Pastel colors are used for Easter.
- Emotions: Blue is seen as conservative. Red is power and aggression. Brighter color such as yellow and orange represent warmth not only with emotions but also with temperature. Cool colors are blue, green, black or any color with a dark shade.
- Ecology: Green is the major color symbolizing ecology. The new phrase for people or companies who find ways to cut back on electricity, fuel, or things that damage the environment is “going green.”
Color Symbolism in the Eastern World:
- Marriage: White and pink are favorite just as in the western world.
- Green: Eternity, family, harmony, health, peace, posterity
- Happiness: Red
- Helpful: Gray
- Wealth: Blue, gold and purple
- White: Children, helpful people, marriage,
- mourning, peace, purity, travel
- Gold: Strength, wealth
- Evil or sadness- Just like in the western world- black
Color is only a part of symbolism of course, the other part is shape/form. Some common shapes and their symbolism in western culture are:
- circle — feminine (womb), encompassing, whole, nurturing
- square — order, balance, structure, building block
- vertical shapes — phallic, masculine, upward motion, rocket
- horizontal shapes — rest, distance, traveling
There are many many more to consider of course. Here are some resources I can recommend to explore the meanngs of different symbols:
- Symbolism of Color in Paintings
- Dictionary of Symbolism
- Religious Symbol Dictionary
- Symbolism in Visual Images
- Symbolism Terms
- Animal Totems & Symbolism
One of the most controversial symbols in modern history is the swastika. The Swastika has been a symbol of peace for millions of Hindus, Buddhists and also Raelians since it is their symbol of infinity in time, their symbol of eternity. But when Hitler adopted the swastika as his symbol for the Nazi party, he changed the meaning worldwide to be associated with hate, atrocities and oppression.
So through the use of a symbol in a design and then promoting it, the meaning of a symbol can be created or changed. That is the power of advertising.
A crossed red ribbon was adopted as the symbol for anyone supporting AIDS research and now is recognized worldwide. The crossed ribbon is a powerful symbol that represents supporting a cause. Other examples are: yellow ribbon for troops in a war, a pink ribbon for breast cancer.
Symbolism can also play a subconscious role in design. If you look at the FedEx, logo for example, at first glance it seems very simple, just type in two different colors. But look closer at the white space, or counter-form, between the E and the X. It is an arrow pointing to the right. Since we read from left to right, pointing right signifies moving forward and an arrow is speed. Then add the color symbolism of orange which can mean caution. The underlying message is that FedEx will deliver your packages quickly and carefully.
I welcome any other examples anyone would like to share. There are many.
An awareness of the symbolism associated with what you are designing is not only valuable but necessary. Designing without an understanding of symbolism is like having blindfold on, unaware of how your design may be perceived.
There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum. — Arthur C. Clarke
Each generation wants new symbols, new people, new names. They want to divorce themselves from their predecessors. — Jim Morrison
Get Creative — Unplug the Computer!
Where does creativity come from and what does “creative process” mean? These are questions I have been asked frequently and in this post I will share my perspective.
For people who do not consider themselves creative (for in my opinion, everyone is creative in some way but not everyone is connected to their creative side), creativity is a mystery, magic. Like the wizard behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz, they assume that you just pull a few levers and ‘poof’, out pops a brilliant creative thought.
Yes, innate talent does play a part in creative ability but it also plays a part in whether you are a good golfer, stockbroker or lawyer. My point is that creativity is no different — it’s not magic. Creativity, just like any other skill can be learned, nurtured, honed and refined.
So I’d like to impart some things I’ve learned about creativity that has been very valuable as a graphic designer, beginning with what I consider to be the most critical: a computer does not help you be creative.
Computers are great, don’t me wrong, but they are an instrument of a creative professional, NOT where one should look for creative ideas and inspiration. Just like a pencil or brush was the instrument of Leonardo Da Vinci creativity in the Renaissance, so is the computer merely an instrument for creative professionals today.
I would go even further to say that the computer not only doesn’t help you be creative, it can actually hinder truly creative thought. This may seem surprising to say in this digital age, especially from someone who uses a computer on a daily basis, but for me it is absolutely true.
“The horror of television, is that the information goes in, but we don’t react to it. It goes right into our memory pool and perhaps we react to it later but we don’t know what we’re reacting to. When you watch television you are training yourself not to react and so later on, you’re doing things without knowing why you’re doing them or where they came from.” — Jerry Mander, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television
When Jerry Mander wrote the above quote in the late 1970’s, he was referring to what he saw as the dangers of the digital medium, in this case: television. The computer is different than television, you are not just passively watching, but the effect of staring at a digital screen can be the same: deadening to the senses, numbing to the mind. What happens when one looks for creativity to come FROM the computer is that one is passive in the process, in other words, after playing with different buttons, filters, styles (which are so easy to do on a computer), you eventually arrive at something that ‘looks good’ but there no rationale for why. The end result has no strength, impact and looks like a thousand other ‘designs’ which were created as a result of pushing a button instead of from true creativity.
The key is that the “magic” part of creativity comes from free associating, tapping into randomness, combining things in an unexpected way. That’s hard to do when you have everything at your fingertips. Why think when you can just Google it? The computer allows are brains to be lazy and lazy brains are not creative.
When I need to come up with a creative concept, I do some brief research on the computer but then I get as far away as possible, in completely different environment, and with a pad and a pencil I observe everything around me and allow myself to write down whatever come into my mind. Below are some recommendations on how to connect with your creativity.
Tips Kickstart your Creativity
- Observe patterns and visual relationships — one of my favorite fiber artists is Kaffe Fassett who is a genius with color and is inspired by things he finds in every day life
- Look @ fine art, handicrafts and anything else you find beautiful or visually interesting
- Spend time in nature
- Talk with young children — their minds are open and they free-associate naturally
- Read poetry or philosophy
- Focus on shifting your perception
In one of my favorite books of all time, Camera Lucida, author Roland Barthes talks about what is the true “reality” of a photograph. I found the book very provocative because the a an unmanipulated photograph is considered by many to be a document of what is real. However, the question is, what is the definition of real? Barthes describes a photograph of his mother which to him, doesn’t communicate anything about what his mother represented to him. Whereas another photograph, of a woman who is not his mother communicates a quality about her that he identifies with. So which is the real photograph? This is an example of shifting perception.
Once you have shifted your perception / begun to think ‘out of the box’ / tapped into the creative magic, the ideas should start flowing. Like a brainstorming session, don’t eliminate anything in the beginning and once you have enough ideas, slowly edit down. When you have a few well developed concepts, then go to the computer to execute them. But, remember, the computer is just a tool, not a magic box, and great design will not just spew out of it — it needs to be fashioned with the same care as the Renaissance artists toiled over their masterpieces.
The computer is not be your source of inspiration, but it is a fabulous tool for producing the final form of your design. However, here are some things to keep in mind.
10 Rules for Designing with the Computer
- A computer is a tool not a designer — just like a brush doesn’t create the painting without the artist, don’t expect it to do the work for you
- Less is more — just because you can doesn’t mean you should
- Use with caution: gradients, bevels, drop shadows, animation
- Don’t make everything 3D — flat graphics are still good
- Practice with all the filters/bells & whistles once and then only use when really needed
- Strive for image through form and concept, with simple rendering, versus “wow” digital graphics
- Don’t start ‘designing’ on the computer without a clear concept and sketch
- Just because it’s looks cool doesn’t make it good design
- Design for the final medium — print, web, video — versus just the medium you are designing with
- Know your formats: TIFF, JPG, EPS, CMYK, RGB and design appropriately
Two moments I remember when I was completing my education in Maine College of Art, which impacted my creative process profoundly. I majored in Graphic Design and Photography:
When I was in my 3rd year as Photography major, I was so excited to take my first course in color photography. The first two years were only black and white photography. So the first assignment in the class was to “photograph colors you like.” I was so excited because color is one of my favorite subjects. So I went overboard and took tons of pictures and hung them all up with everyone else’s for review by the teacher. And he said… “Ok, now that you have gotten that out of your system, don’t do that again.” and when on to talk about how color should be used as another element in the communication of the image. Point taken!
- During the summer of 1992, I attended the Maine Summer Institute of Graphic Design which consisted of 3 workshops with 3 different international designers. In my workshop with Rudolph De Harak he banned the use of the computer in the project and I remember that I struggled with the execution of the design using manual cut and paste. Mr. De Harak came by my desk at one point and was appalled at the messy scraps of paper and the ink stains. He ordered me to scrub my desk before I could continue working (and I must add there was a time limit on the project). Another teacher said that he was being too harsh, that I would not have these problems if I was designing on the computer and he replied “She needs to learn good work habits. A serious designer treats their space with respect and care — a computer won’t change that.” Very true.
So use all the tools available to create with but don’t expect inspiration to be available at a push of button. Surround yourself with beauty, challenge yourself on a daily basis, and stay open.
— Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
— Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television
— Finnegans Wake
— Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography
— On Photography
— The Lens of Perception: A User’s Guide to Higher Consciousness
Introduction to Design
The word “design” signifies many meanings…
- an outline, sketch, or plan, as of the form and structure of a work of art
- organization or structure of formal elements in a work of art; composition.
- the combination of details or features of a picture, building, etc.; the pattern or motif of artistic work:
- to plan the form and structure of
- to plan and fashion artistically or skillfully
- to intend for a definite purpose
- to form or conceive in the mind; contrive; plan
So what IS design? It is a subject very dear to my heart, having dedicated my professional life to design, so in this entry I will present an introduction of what design means to me.
When we talk about the visual presentation of something in a two-dimensional space, we are talking about graphic design. Graphic design is a planned organization of elements that communicate something visually.
No, Watson, this was not done by accident, but by design. — Sherlock Holmes
Within graphic design there are several specialty areas such as: logo design, print design, web design, etc. Each of these areas have their own criteria, ie., elements, that need to be combined to create the final design.
In logo design these elements are always:
This is true if the logo is only constructed from type even if customized, ie., no graphic. With a symbol or graphical element, the designer needs to also consider:
In print design, ie., brochures, advertisements, etc., there are far more elements to consider and balance. They are:
When these elements are properly balanced, what you have is a good design which clearly communicates the ‘message’ or key objective. You should know what the product or service is and if it matters to you. If you don’t know what it is or understand how it applies to you then it is not an example of good design.
When these elements are not properly balanced and therefore the “message” is not clear, the design not only is bad, it can actually be detrimental to the product or service it represents. Bad design can impact daily life, not just in advertising. An easy example is to think about all the times you have been confused, frustrated or even gotten lost by poorly designed signage.
But perhaps the most famous example of how design can impact one’s daily life is the fiasco of the design of Florida’s 2000 presidential election ballot.
If you are a print designer or want to be, here are some good resources to guide you.
- Top Mistakes Graphic Designers Make
- 15 Signs You’re A Bad Graphic Designer
- The Difference Between Good & Bad Graphic Design
- Good logo designs
Everything is designed. Few things are designed well. — Brian Reed
With print design, the designer only has to focus on the design itself not the production of the design which is done at the print shop. Of course a professional designer should know how to prepare the design for pre-press but the actual mechanics of the production is done elsewhere. With web design, however, often the designer has to wear many more hats. Even if they are not the one actually coding the site, they still need to understand how their designs will be coded and be much more ‘hands on’ in the production. Therefore, web design can be the most challenging to a professional designer because you have limited control of certain elements and additional elements to consider. The elements that you have limited control over are:
- Typeface (unless it is a graphic)
- Specfications (different browsers, resolutions and operating systems)
And then you have to consider the additional elements of:
- Technology — what will the site be built with and what technology it will contain
- Time — how fast the site loads
- Navigation — how can you find what you need
- Usability — the site needs to be a tool not just a visual design
Here are some good resources for what is you need to consider for a good web design:
Design is where science and art break even. — Robin Mathew
Math is easy; design is hard. – Jeffrey Veen
So now you should have an idea of what design is and why it matters. Without design, everything would be random and without plan or purpose. Design channels creativity within the constraints of what it needs to communicate.
If you are interested in design, the inspiration for design is everywhere. When I am in the process of designing something new, the first thing I do is get away from the computer for a while and just spend some time looking. The processes I learned from my formal design education gives me valuable tools to create designs. With a traditional schooling in graphic design one learns:
- typography — classic typefaces and their nuances, kerning, letter-spacing, counterforms
- grids — how to use one to layout a design and when to break from the grid
- color — its power, subtlety, symbolism, creating a color palette
- how to simplify — this is one of the hardest things to learn
- how to edit — focus your ideas and select what works
- and the easiest of thing to learn — the computer programs used in design such as Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.
Most “designers” start with the computer programs, have fun with all the bells and whistle and think they know all they need. But as one of my personal heroes once said…
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. — Abraham Lincoln
I’ll end with a couple of fun links:
- Quotes on Design — the quotes I used in this article came from this site
- Design Police — see a bad design? Download this kit and you are ready…
Introduction to Color
As a young girl I used to watch with awe as my father squeezed his paints into his palette in preparation for a painting. For me, color is personal, exotic, beautiful, even sexy. I used to write down the names of colors like they were lovers — alizarin, cobalt, cadmium, titanium. I love color.
Color has been an integral part of my creativity and one of the first things I consider in any design. So what color exactly and why is it important?
Colors from pigment are base represented by the color wheel.
The color wheel has 12 segments that consist of primary, secondary and tertiary hues, or colors.
Primary colors are red, yellow and blue. They are considered pure colors because they are not a result of mixing any colors. they are also the strongest, most visually impactful colors to use. That is why almost all products (toys, books, etc.) use primary colors.
Secondary colors are orange, violet/purple, and green. They are created by mixing equal parts of the primary colors they fall in between.
Tertiary colors are more subtle colors that are achieved ?by mixing a primary and a secondary color.
When a secondary color is paired in a design with a primary color that it contains, such as orange with red or yellow, the result is a potent, harmonious combination where both colors enhance each other. These colors are called analogous colors and sit next to one another on the color wheel.
However, when a secondary color is paired in a design with a primary it does not contain (ie., that primary color was not mixed to create the secondary one) then the result is disharmonious, such as orange with blue. These colors are called complementary colors: orange/blue, violet/yellow, green/red and are diagonally opposite one another on the color wheel. Complementary colors should be paired with caution since the colors “fight”each other and if used in digital design they will visually vibrate, tiring the eyes.
A few more important color terms to know:
- Value: the lightness or darkness of a color, or the relative amount (percentage) of white or black in a hue.
- Luminosity, or Lightness: A measure of the amount of light reflected from a hue. Those hues with a high content of white have a higher luminance, or value.
- Tints: when you add white to any color the result is a lighter value of that color, or a tint
- Shades: when you add black or gray to any color the result is a darker value of that color, or a shade
- Saturation: The degree of purity of a hue.
- Intensity: The brightness or dullness of a hue. Intensity maybe lowered by adding white or black.
- A full glossary of color terms available here.
In future writings I will explore more specifically the use of color in different media: print, digital, etc; color symbolism in different culture; and ways to create a color palette for a design.
- Basic color schemes ?- Introduction to Color Theory
- Color Basics, Introduction to Color Theory
- Learn about color
CHROMA is blog about design, color and symbolism. The audience is both designers and clients. My intention is to balance both perspectives.
For many years I have educated studied and practiced design, created and taught classes, and educated clients. With CHROMA I wish to share my experience, options and ideas in the form of a weekly series.
A little about me… My background is in fine art. I grew up in NYC in a family of fine artists. My “playtime” was to paint or draw. At an early age I had a mentor who introduced me to fiber arts and taught me how to sew, knit, crochet, bead, and more. This combination of art and craft feeds into my professional work. I consider myself I a multi-media creative — not “multimedia” as in Quicktime or Flash but rather a creative person who works in various media. Professionally I design everything digitally: corporate identities and logos, brochures and advertisements, websites and e-marketing. But my creative outlet is not limited to digital media or professional projects, i integrate creativity in a variety of forms from fine art: creative writing, drawing, photography to handicrafts: sewing, knitting and beading. For me, all these creative expressions are interrelated and inspire each other. So without much ado, welcome to CHROMA, first article “Introduction to Color” will be available tomorrow, Oct 28th.