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Communication Skills as a Graphic Designer

One of the most important roles of a graphic designer is being an expert communicator, both within design and interpersonally with clients. First and foremost, as a visual communicator, designers must be able to turn general abstract concepts, data, and text into something easily accessible and comprehensible to an audience. The designer’s final product should be able to translate an idea into a condensed form, communicating via the clearest visual means possible. In addition, a designer must also be a skilled communicator with the client throughout the product’s development. When starting a project, the designer should be an active listener while the client discusses their vision. Once the idea has been laid out, the designer should then ask for clarification from the client if necessary. However, the communication doesn’t stop at the project planning stage; afterward, the designer must continue communicating with the client through design briefs, sharing drafts, and especially letting the client know if any rough patches arise in the project’s timeline. If a designer’s communication skills are weak, a design project cannot be completed. This issue can stem from the designer either not listening, not expressing their questions or their plan, or not being able to visually express ideas. With strong communication skills in all areas, a graphic designer can find success in their field.

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Graphic Design Principles: Hierarchy Tops the List

An untrained individual can get lucky and produce a beautiful design, but doing so repeatedly—and often on the tight deadlines that graphic designers confront—is best accomplished by relying on the key basic graphic design principles. Alignment, hierarchy, contrast, repetition, proximity, balance, color, and space provide the foundation upon which a graphic designer can experiment and build. There is a strong case to be made, however, that the most important of these principles is hierarchy. Hierarchy is, after all, the principle that helps users navigate a design quickly and highlights the most important elements of your message. When a graphic designer prioritizes hierarchy, they are essentially prioritizing content over artistic vision. Designers are forced to think about a client’s goals and message before the creative juices start flowing.

Hierarchy in design is all about getting attention and focusing the eye on what is most important. To do so, a designer needs to leverage predictable tendencies in how we process information, like understanding that most of us read from left to right and scan pages in an F- or a Z-shaped pattern. ( Designers can also manufacture interest using different font sizes, weights, or color, to draw the eye to key points to entice the viewer to take action.  

Click on this button. Focus on this image. The best designs use the principle of hierarchy to affect the viewer subconsciously, making the graphic designer equal parts artist and manipulator. The manipulative aspect of graphic design is a fact that should be embraced by design students because doing so will make their designs more effective, and graphic designers who do so will quickly come to realize that the principle of hierarchy is the most efficient tool in their design toolbox to achieve this goal.

Redesigning Where Spotify Abandoned Me

Even the industry leading companies can let best design practices fall through the cracks. One of the central pillars of establishing a clear brand identity is to ensure that your products are following a consistent style guide. I was shocked to find out that design leader Spotify had somehow overlooked a critical area of their product. I first noticed this problem when I logged into Spotify’s web application. Take a look for yourself:

How could the UI design leader Spotify overlook their web application login and leave it looking so dated and out of line with the rest of their products? The answer is found in Spotify’s usability data. 52% of users are listening on mobile devices, 45% are listening using the desktop client, and a mere 3% are using the web application. I was a 3 percenter. I used the web application and entered my login credentials every time. One day I decided to redesign this login page so it was more in line with Spotify’s branding. I loaded up Adobe Illustrator file and got to work. This exercise helped me sharpen my branding skills and design something with a real-world application. Next time you come across a product that think can be designed better, I would encourage you to attempt to design it better! This will make you a better designer.

My Redesign of Web Application Login

Refreshing Movie Advertisement Found in Vice

The only interaction I have with movie posters is when I hop online to check movie times on Fandango, and even then it’s no big affair. The little thumbnail posters are just a stream of photographed figures on multi-colored backgrounds blending into one another.  Although recently, as I was scrolling through, the artwork for Vice caught my eye. Though we are surrounded by great graphic design, one category that consistently disappoints me is movie poster design. The poster for Vice is a glimmer of hope. The high contrast between the black, white, and yellow creates a very strong and eye-catching solution. The design helps deliver the film’s theme of power not only through the bold colors, but also the strong form. The strength of the silhouette in the right half of the poster is asymmetrically balanced by the title positioned vertically on the left side of the poster. The concise title lends itself to a wide range of design options, and I appreciate the final orientation decision. A small detail that adds to the design for me is the careful addition of supplementary color — the grey eyebrow and red and blue tertiary text. Judicious use of these colors, which are complementary to the main palette, draws in the eye without affecting the overall simple and bold design. Hopefully we will see more movie poster design following in the footsteps of Vice. In the meantime, if you want some refreshing unofficial redesigns of movie posters, Peter Majarich made one a day for a whole year. All of the posters are for sale from his company Craft & Graft.

Leveling Up Video Game Box Art

Video game box art is in desperate need of improvement. Almost every new video game released in the past several years has included box art that consists of the same design principles: the main character standing or posing heroically while facing out at the viewer, a plain or blank background, and a title slapped around the top of the box. This derivative arrangement has become so overused and mind-numbingly commonplace that any kind of creative design or illustration (even slightly different) is a welcome change of pace.

Sensing a pattern here…

It is sad to see the packaging for an art form so dear to me become so unengaging and soulless, especially because it is a medium designed to be fun and engaging, to draw in a gamer’s interest upon first sight. Admittedly, the focus of the product is the contents of the game itself and not the packaging’s appearance; a unique, aesthetically pleasing box art encasing a mediocre video game is of no use to anyone. However, seeing the passion poured onto the covers of such games as “The Evil Within,” “Persona 5” and “The Occupation” is a refreshing and accurate reflection of the quality of the games themselves. The covers for these games immediately demand your attention not only because they are beautifully composed and visually pleasing, but also because they pique curiosity in the viewer for what the story and characters of the game hold in store. The standout covers for the three previously mentioned games set an intriguing tone for what is to come. In other words, they do more than just let us know that the protagonist can stand on both feet. More video games need to level up their box art.

Much better.

Illustrations with a Twist

Paper art or digital art? At first glance, I thought Eiko Ojala’s work was a clever blend of paper cut artwork and design, but to my surprise, his illustrations are actually hand-drawn and touched up digitally. He uses a combination of colors, layers, lights, shadows, and textures to create digital illustrations that almost perfectly mimic paper cut art. The majority of his designs are minimal, with some being a bit more complex. He often creates illustrations that move.

Ojala is known for incorporating these kinds of illustrations in his graphic design work. When I looked over his designs I was amazed, especially knowing that they’re created digitally. I believe that people like Eiko Ojala are important for graphic design because through his work, designers are reminded that they can also be artists. As a designer and artist myself, I believe that his work is really inspiring. After looking through his work on Behance I just felt like spending the rest of my day playing around on Illustrator.

Discover a New Trait About Yourself

Who else has seen the new Netflix series, “Tidying Up”? Marie Kondo helps people live without all the clutter in their homes. Her method of “sparking joy” has taken the world by storm, inspiring tons of people to tidy up their homes. When organizing different sections of your living space, design plays an important role in your decision making. Not only are you putting items wherever you want, you are designing a layout for them. For example, when you are cleaning up a messy drawer, organization plays a big factor. You will categorize all of the writing utensils, paper supplies, etc. and put them in your new drawer organizers, however you want to give your drawers an upgrade, right? Learn how you can save money and still make your drawers look great. Your decisions on where to put each item in the drawer are your design skills going to work. Organization and design also come into play when cleaning out your closet. Designing the layout of where all of your clothes will go isn’t just based on whether or not you think it looks good. Your inner designer is guiding you on where to put each item to make your closet much more organized! Now that you have discovered a new trait about yourself, go show it off to the world!

Graphic Design and Illustration: Yes? Or Yes?

Identical twins. They essentially begin as the same person in two different bodies. As they grow, they become two different people. Despite this separation, they’re still connected.

Graphic design and illustration are like fraternal twins, different but related, and they should work together well.

As both a graphic designer and an illustrator, I find the best of both worlds, with each having their distinct differences yet still seem so similar. It makes me wonder, these two MUST fit well together, right?


Or at least I think so.

What’s the difference?

Graphic design is a type of communication art, all tactics and planning, where everything is put together with a purpose. You MUST see everything because the designer WANTS you to see everything.

On the other hand, illustration is a piece of artwork that supports the text that comes with it. Unlike graphic design, an illustration doesn’t exactly require you to see everything; a broad look is fine.

I don’t see why we can’t have them fused together more often, for a designer to incorporate their own illustration and complement it with well-chosen type. Graphic design and illustration go hand in hand; one relates to each other as if bounded by blood, like twins. Sometimes they don’t need each other, evening going off in their own directions, but they always come back because one always complements the other.

But who knows?

Growing a Spine in Design

A client walks in and asks you to come up with a new logo for their brand of lollipops. You are probably thinking, “This will be so easy.” Then in the follow up, you have a bunch of sketches, fonts, and colors but all the client has to say is that none of it is good enough. Being dismissed for your hours of work is not very reassuring in the modern world of constant acceptance, is it?

Frustration by Zellene Guanlao

Being a professional graphic designer can involve hard work that is often disregarded multiple times by clients. You might be constantly critiqued and remolded into what each client desires, leaving you feeling confused about your own creativity. What you fail to realize is that there are benefits to receiving these berating negative critiques of personal work. A client’s difference of opinion allows you to see how non-designers view the world of design without an artistic influence. Gradually, you gain more courage in presenting your work and the responses from clients that used to scare you no longer have negative connotation. While it is nice to be told that your work always exceeds expectations, it is more imperative that you get advice to better yourself in your field by comprehending what others want as well.

Once aspiring designers learn to accept harsh judgment, they can find that the variety of things they create are more than what they express but what the world evokes. Critiques from clients can improve character and allow for a more open mind as a designer in the development of professional design performance.

Learning the Hard Way

In my first year of studying design, I have learned that the art and design industry have a lot of talented people, and it is important to stand out. I changed my major in my second year of college, so I needed to catch up to all the other art students. When I started my design classes, my classmates had experience with programs like Photoshop and InDesign, and it intimidated me, almost to the point where I thought of reconsidering my major. I dreaded my first critique day because I always felt that my design was worse than everyone else’s. Luckily, I had encouraging classmates who helped give me ideas and tips on how I could improve my design. YouTube videos were also helpful when I was stuck on a project and didn’t know how to do something. There are many tricks and tips that I learned from watching tutorials. Eventually, I became more comfortable with each program after every design I made. Practicing and getting feedback from other students made me want to think of bigger and better ideas. Through trial and error, I found things that worked and didn’t work for me. For example, looking at examples of ideas and sketching out layouts of my design helps give me a guideline of what I want my design to be. To improve myself, I had to get out of my head and remind myself that I can do anything I put effort into. There are many great designers, but anyone can become a great designer with hard work and a computer.

If you ever feel stuck on a design and aren’t sure what to do, click here and you can find some tips to help you!